Performing a low impact workout will protect against joint pain and still help you build muscle and burn fat. This is especially important for those of us over the age of 50. However, even when we are younger, there are times when we may have pushed ourselves a bit too far. In those instances, substituting a low impact workout for a few weeks can keep you "in the game" while allowing your joints to recover.
Typically, "low impact" refers to cardiovascular exercise that is performed with one foot always in contact with the ground/the equipment. Walking and step aerobics would be good examples. "High impact" would be exercises like running or jumping rope.
I am bending the term "low impact" a bit with respect to strength training. In the terminology of this site, a high impact exercise is one in which heavy weight is used. While nothing actually makes a physical "impact" during the exercise, the weight exerts pressure/impact to the joints used in the movement. While the weight does strengthen the tissues, it stresses them. That's how our muscles grow. Over time, it takes a toll on our joints.
This page will discuss exercises that stress your muscles but exert a lot lower stress on your joints in order to protect them. As you read on, I think you will get the idea.
There are many choices for strength training exercises that reduce the stress on your joints. Several are pictured above. I will discuss some of my favorites, but there are many more that I won't cover specifically.
In truth, you can make any strength training exercise lower impact just by using slow movements and somewhat lighter weight. As I discussed on a previous page, light weight and higher reps is one of the best ways to go. Medium weight and slow movement is another.
Resistance Bands - Here we perform the same basic strength training exercises as we would with weights. However, we use various rubber bands to provide the resistance. It is like pushing or pulling against another muscle. I use these every week and they have provided a great workout with a significant reduction in the joint pain that I had been experiencing. See the page on this site for more details.
Battle Ropes - Similar to resistance bands, the ropes provide the strength training resistance. However, the exercises are completely unique to the ropes. They really get the heart rate up and give you a good muscle workout, too. Check out the related page on this site.
Swimming - Most people consider swimming to be an aerobic/cardio exercise; and it is. However, push yourself hard and your muscles...both upper and lower body...shift into overdrive. I challenge you to hop in the pool, swim hard as long as you can and tell me you don't feel "the pump." Plus, since the water supports you as you pull yourself through it, swimming is about as low-impact as it gets.
Body-Mass Training - As I allude to on the weight bench page, just using your body mass as resistance is a great way to get started. You won't be throwing a lot of extra weight around to add stress to your joints. Most of your joints are used to supporting your existing body weight already. This is also a good training technique when you encounter joint pain. That's why I consider it a low impact method, too.
Dumb-bells - Using higher reps with lower weight is a great way to protect your joints. This workout tool also allows you to take less rest between sets. Check out the related page on this site.
Other workouts - There are a number of other low impact workouts you can do that build muscle and protect your joints. This website lists several (intermingled with pure cardio exercises), which are also useful.
If you are experiencing joint pain, at any age, change up your workout to use one or more of these techniques. It will add some variety and protect your joints. Plus, it keeps you moving toward your weight loss goal.