If you’ve ever woken up in the morning to stiff, aching joints that cracked and popped as you began to move, you’re definitely not alone. You don’t have to have been a professional athlete to suffer joint pain — we all become more prone to it as we age. That’s because the cartilage between your bones starts to lose its stretchiness as you get older, which allows bones to scrape together more regularly.
When you’re already aching, it’s hard to imagine hitting the gym for a workout — or even heading out for a walk around the block. Still, getting regular exercise is crucial for your overall good health. In addition to improving cardiovascular health and helping maintain a healthy weight, exercise also boosts brain health and mobility as you grow older.
Low-Impact Exercise to the Rescue
Low-impact exercises are designed to be easier on your joints by reducing the impact they need to absorb while you move. In general, these exercises involve fluid movements instead of jerky ones, and they minimize jumping or repetitive pavement pounding.
Low-impact exercises include activities like yoga, walking, swimming and cycling — all of which take pressure off of the knees and hips. Compare that to running or downhill skiing, which put lots of pressure on those joints.
8 Great Low-Impact Exercises to Try
It’s a good idea to vary your exercise routine to include a variety of workouts, especially ones that incorporate strength training, cardio and stretches for flexibility. Here are great ways to cover all your bases while protecting your joints:
Swimming is the gold standard of low-impact exercise, because floating in water basically eliminates any pressure on your joints.
Alternative: Water aerobics
Yoga is the ideal mind-body workout. These gentle stretches help you build flexibility to maintain your range of motion.
Alternative: Tai chi
Whether you head for the great outdoors or use a treadmill, walking is the perfect way to get your heart pumping without the pressure.
Strapping on some wheels lets you glide, but don’t be fooled: your quads and core will definitely get a workout!
Alternative: Ice skating
You don’t need pro gear to take up cycling — just a two-wheeler and a helmet. This is a great way to run errands or tour nearby towns, too.
Alternative: Stationary Bike
6. Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
This is a great exercise for maintaining and improving balance, and you’ll work out all the little muscles in your legs and feet as well as your arms and core.
7. Rock Climbing
This definitely uses all your muscles, but the smooth, controlled movements protect your joints. Climbing gyms have courses for all abilities.
Alternative: Ropes course
8. Snow Shoeing
This is basically walking, but you’ll use slightly different muscles to break through fresh powder. This is ideal to keep moving in the wintertime.
Alternative: Cross-country skiing
Of course, the best exercises for you are the ones you’ll stick to, so be sure to choose an activity or two that you enjoy. Whether that means pulling up some yoga videos on YouTube, joining a pool, or taking a daily walk with friends, the important thing is keep moving. Your joints — and the rest of your body! — will thank you.