Intense workouts are without question one of the most effective and efficient ways to burn fat and improve your aerobic capacity. But intense workouts don’t have to be high-impact.
If you want to avoid jarring exercises that irritate your ankles, knees, hips and back (or if you want to avoid future injuries), there are a number of low-impact exercises that can give you the same the fat-burning, metabolism-boosting benefits of a high-intensity workout.
The great thing about all of these exercises is that the risk of injury doesn’t increase with the intensity. Which means you can push yourself a little bit harder and know that you’re risking nothing but more calories.
1. Swimming The resistance of the water challenges your muscles to work hard, while simultaneously reducing the impact on your joints. But that’s not the best part: swimming involves your entire body, so while improving your levels of aerobic fitness, you’ll also be building muscle from head to toe. Increase the intensity by challenging yourself to use a variety of strokes.
2. Cycling Riding a bike—indoors or out—is one of the best low-impact cardiovascular workouts you can do. If you’re short on time, you can increase the intensity by using a varied selection of intervals. For example, try pedaling as hard as you can for 40 seconds in an all-out effort, followed by 20 seconds of gentle pedaling; repeat for 6 to 8 rounds. Alternatively you can look for hills to race up before returning to the bottom and going again.
3. Rowing Either in a boat or using a machine, rowing is a powerful and fun way to workout your arms, back, legs, and core muscles. It’s easy to let your form deteriorate as you get tired, so make sure you are pushing with your legs first and allowing your arms and back to follow—not the other way around. Not only will this ensure you stay safe, it’s more efficient and will result in a bigger calorie burn.
4. Yoga When you think of burning calories, yoga might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Perhaps it should be, though, as it’s an amazingly effective, low-impact way to stay strong and lean. Yoga offers a total-body workout that builds strength, flexibility, and overall fitness. It’s so effective because it uses your entire body, as opposed to isolating small muscles groups, which leads to a huge calorie burn. To ensure you’re always challenging yourself, slightly increase the depth of each pose, add time to your workout, or try new, more advanced poses.
5. Stair Climbing Finding a set of stairs can make for a great workout. The motion strengthens the same muscles used for lunges and squats, and taxes your lungs and heart as you power your way to the top. A quick, challenging workout to try: Find a set of stairs that takes 30 seconds to ascend, run (or walk briskly) up each step, and then walk back down to the bottom. Repeat 6 to 8 times.