Low-impact exercises can improve your health and fitness without harming your joints.
Research suggests moderate-intensity, low-impact activity, such as yoga and fast walking, is just as effective as high-impact activity, such as running, in lowering the risk of heart disease.
Here are some popular low-impact activities.
These are ideal if you're not very active but want to improve your health, lift your mood and remain independent. Don't worry if you haven't done much for a while. These exercises are easy and gentle, and can be done indoors.
Walking is by far the most popular low-impact exercise. It works the cardiovascular system and burns calories. To get your heart rate up, walk faster than a stroll. Picking up the pace can increase the intensity of your workouts. Add short bursts of speed or walk up an occasional steep hill.
Find out how to use walking to improve your health.
You could also try the free Active 10 app to help you get into the habit of walking briskly for 10 minutes every day.
One of the best things about dancing is that while you're having fun moving to music and meeting new people, you're getting all the health benefits of a good workout. From Ceroc to the foxtrot, there's a dance style to suit all tastes.
Find out more about dancing for fitness.
Cycling is a low-impact activity. But you can still injure yourself if you have the wrong size bike, or if the saddle and handlebars are at the wrong height. Cycling is an aerobic exercise that works your lower body and cardiovascular system. Start slowly and increase the length of your cycling sessions gradually.
Get tips on cycling for fitness.
Swimming works the whole body. It's a great way to tone up and get trim. Swimming a few lengths involves most of the muscle groups, and you'll get a good aerobic workout if you increase the pace. Swimming can also help you lose weight if you swim at a steady and continuous pace throughout your session.
Read our guide to swimming for beginners.
Nordic walking is a full-body exercise that's easy on the joints and suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Classes range from gentle walks for people with health concerns to workout walks, which are a great way to improve fitness, lose weight and tone the whole body. It's a suitable activity for people with joint conditions or those who may be carrying some extra body weight.
Find out more about getting started with Nordic walking.
Trim trails are outdoor exercise areas equipped with machines specially designed to provide gentle exercise for different parts of the body, such as the hips, legs and torso.
The playgrounds are an affordable alternative to a gym and a great way to enjoy the outdoors. Contact your local authority to find out if there is a trim trail in your area.
Yoga can improve both your physical fitness and your general wellbeing through a series of postures and breathing exercises. Regular yoga practice helps develop strength, balance and flexibility. It can also lift your mood.
Read a guide to yoga.
This ancient Chinese art promotes mental and physical wellbeing. Movements are generally slow and controlled. This means you won't improve your cardiovascular fitness or get a calorie-burning workout, but it does improve strength, flexibility and balance.
Read a guide to tai chi.
Pilates focuses on rebalancing the body and improving posture through slow, controlled movements and exercises. Regular practice can help you improve muscle strength and your overall sense of wellbeing. It can be helpful for people who can't jump around too much.
Read a guide to pilates.
Improve your health and the environment at the same time with the outdoor alternative to the gym. Work up a sweat digging, planting, lopping and path clearing at one of the many free Green Gyms around the country, run by the The Conservation Volunteers. Experienced leaders guide volunteers through a range of practical projects, giving you the opportunity to tackle physical jobs outdoors.
You can enjoy bowls at any age and with no experience. Although not the most energetic of games, bowls is good for posture, flexibility, balance and hand-eye co-ordination.
If you're looking for a chance to keep active and socialise with people in your community, give bowls a go. Most clubs have bar and catering facilities, and you can take part in non-bowling activities as well, such as quiz nights and whist drives.
Search for bowls clubs near you.
Water aerobics is a low-impact activity. It requires a basic swimming ability as it's mostly done in water that's around waist high.
Aqua aerobic workouts use a variety of techniques taken from studio aerobics, including walking or running backwards and forwards, jumping jacks, various arm movements, and moves from cross-country skiing.
Page last reviewed: 24 January 2019
Next review due: 24 January 2022