What You Need to Know About Low-Impact Activities | Advanced Orthopaedic Specialists | Fayetteville, AR | Rogers, AR
Advanced Orthopaedic Specialists

February 10, 2020

| Zac Snow, DPT

What You Need to Know About Low-Impact Activities

Low-impact activities are defined as any type of exercise which promotes physical fitness but does not stress the musculoskeletal tissues, bones or joints. Conversely, high-impact activities are the opposite in which they place a significant strain on the musculoskeletal system due to their high velocity and ballistic nature. Low-impact activities can be thought of as “joint sparing” since they apply little to no strain on the bones and joints of the body. These activities can be further broken down into low-impact exercise and low-impact sports.

Low-Impact Exercises

Exercise is an essential element of leading a healthy lifestyle. There are many options to explore when looking for low-impact options. The most accessible form of low-impact exercise is simply walking. This can be done indoors or outdoors, day or night, fast or slow, uphill or downhill. It is easily manipulated to increase the time, distance, or pace to further benefit the person. Other forms of low-impact exercise include: 

  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Swimming
  • Aqua aerobics
  • Hiking
  • Row machine
  • Indoor cycling
  • Strength training: weights, bands, body weight
  • Elliptical
  • StairMaster®


Low-Impact Sports

In addition to low-impact exercise, there are low-impact sports. These can be either individual or team sports. These will not target specific body areas like exercise will, but they are an excellent way to remain active while minimizing the risk of joint damage. These exercises include:

  • Swimming
  • Horseback riding
  • Cycling
  • Rowing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Water polo
  • Kayaking
  • Golf
  • Ballroom dancing


Benefits of Low-Impact Activities

There are numerous benefits of low-impact activities with the most obvious being that there is a relatively low risk of bone, joint or muscle injury. Due to the fact that low-impact activities place a less intense demand on the body, they can typically be sustained for long durations or performed daily without risk of injury. There are also certain populations where low-impact activities are preferred. Individuals diagnosed with osteoporosis, osteopenia, osteoarthritis, and women who are pregnant.

Low-impact activities can come in the form of open-chain or closed-chain activities. That is to say that the extremity being used is free to move or is fixed, respectively. A squat would be an example of a closed-chain exercise while a seated knee extension would be an example of an open-chain exercise. Those diagnosed with osteoporosis and osteopenia benefit most from closed-chain, low-impact activities due to the bone-stimulating effect induced by weight-bearing. Those diagnosed with osteoarthritis will also benefit from closed-chain, low-impact activity. The caveat being that the load and/or range of motion needs to be monitored closely to prevent initiating a painful inflammatory process in the joint.


Low-impact activities are one of the many modes of treatment utilized in physical therapy. This mode of exercise allows for loading of painful, sensitive tissues without the risk of injury or increasing pain. If you are unsure of how to properly execute a low-impact exercise regimen or if a low-impact sport is safe for you, a physical therapist can help. Physical therapists are experts in human movement and the effect exercise has on the body while accounting for age, gender, and medical history. Advanced Orthopaedic Specialists has a staff of highly trained physical therapists and would love to help you get moving again. Schedule an appointment today!