Healthy Tahoe: Low impact for healthier joints

Barton sports performance coach
Kyler Crouse, CSCS, Barton Performance Coach, demonstrates rowing - a low impact cardio activity.

Exercise provides amazing benefits for your body and mind, including higher self-esteem, better sleep, and improved physical health. Health experts recommend adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, and how you spend those 150 minutes plays a big part in your joint health.

Low impact activities are exercises and movement that do not involve extraneous force or jumping. By reducing the force your body makes in contact with the ground, you reduce the force that your joints, muscles, and bones take on. High-impact exercises remain good in moderation, as they are proven to be helpful in maintaining and building bone density and may be required to perform within your favorite activity or sport.

There are many low impact exercises; and some popular activities include cycling, gentle walking, yoga, swimming, and rowing. Gentle repetitive movements can lubricate your joints and improve your mobility. 

Because of their gentle nature, low impact exercises are accessible; they are great for beginners, people who are recovering from an injury, or those with chronic diseases. Even those who are training toward a specific goal can benefit from low impact activities inserted throughout a rigorous training cycle. 

Low-impact workouts are typically less hard on the body — especially the joints — but that doesn’t mean they are easy. You can still get an amazing workout! Low-impact exercise can be low-, moderate- or high-intensity. Many workouts can be modified to fit the desired intensity by adjusting speed and periods of rest. 

For instance, 30 second cycling sprints combined with a 60 second rest may be considered low intensity because the interval allows for a recovery period that is double the amount of time as the effort. If the effort is 30 seconds and the rest period is 15 seconds, the rest period is half as long as the effort, and you’ve created a high-intensity workout by managing the interval. This concept can be applied to many low-impact activities like rowing, swimming, and walking. 

Strength training with weights is another great exercise that fortifies bone health, and can be modified to be considered low impact. Modifications include the speed of reps and sets. By slowing down the motion and maintaining deep focus on your movement, you’ll not only be engaged in a great low-impact activity, you refine your balance and learn to hold positions with more stability. 

Try swapping out one-two workouts each week with a low impact variation. Instead of Crossfit-type workouts or high intensity cardio five days a week, incorporate a low-impact activity such as yoga, pilates, or a core class. You’ll still get a great workout in, while easing up on your joints.

This article was written by a Barton Performance Coach with the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness. Barton Performance Coaches offer individualized training and exercise programs to the Lake Tahoe community. Sign up for the Performance Athlete Program for customized training programs: 8- and 12-session programs are available. Learn more at, or by calling 530-600-1976. 

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