These 4 Low-Impact Exercises Burn the Most Calories may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story. Learn more about our affiliate and product review process here.
Low-impact exercise doesn't have to mean low-calorie burn.
Image Credit: Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Caiaimage/GettyImages

Don't let the term "low-impact" fool you. Low-impact exercise can give you a major calorie-burning workout — the perfect complement to your weight-loss or cross-training plan.


Not only are low-impact workouts less stressful on your joints compared to high-impact activities like running and jumping rope but they're perfect for beginners and older adults and those who are overweight or pregnant.

Video of the Day

Video of the Day

Here are four of your best options to get you started burning calories without all of the impact on your joints.

A Word on Calorie Counts

All of these calculations are based on a 155-pound person and 30 minutes of activity, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Your caloric burn will depend on your weight, intensity level and duration.

1. Walking

Walking is one of the best low-impact exercises you can do to improve your heart health, keep your blood sugar level normal and reduce stress, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). It doesn't cost a thing to start a walking program, although you might want to invest in a comfortable pair of walking shoes.

On days when inclement weather precludes outdoor activity, hit the treadmill, which has the added benefit of allowing you to control the speed and incline.

Calories Burned Walking:

  • 149 at 3.5 mph
  • 167 at 4 mph
  • 186 at 4.5 mph

Walking Workouts We Love

2. Cycling

Bicycling and stationary cycling are also easy on your joints. Recumbent exercise bikes are better for beginners, as they offer more back support, according to the ACE. As with walking, intensity matters, and the faster you go or the more hills you take on, the more calories you'll burn.


Group cycle classes can be a great source of motivation, but some might be too vigorous for the average beginner. If you're just starting out, cycle at a pace that feels comfortable to you rather than trying to keep up with the rest of the class.

Calories Burned Cycling:

  • 298 at 12 to 13.9 mph
  • 372 for 14 to 15.9 mph
  • 260 for moderate-intensity stationary cycling

Cycling Workouts We Love

3. Elliptical Workouts

Exercising on an elliptical machine gives you a thorough workout and decreases the stress on your hips, knees and back, as both feet remain grounded at all times. Plus, elliptical machines are equipped with handles that resemble ski poles, which work your upper body as well.


Calories Burned on an Elliptical:

  • 335 at a moderate intensity

Elliptical Workouts We Love

4. Swimming and Water Aerobics

Swimming tones your entire body, as you use all your major muscle groups during this activity. To get the most from your workout, keep up a steady pace during the course of your workout. And if you enjoy exercising in a group setting, consider trying out a water aerobics class.

Calories Burned Swimming:

  • 223 for swimming
  • 372 for breaststroke swimming
  • 372 for vigorous swimming
  • 372 for vigorous treading swimming
  • 149 for water aerobics

Swimming and Water Workouts We Love

How to Do Low-Impact Exercise for Weight Loss

If weight loss is your goal, the ACE recommends burning 250 calories a day through physical activity and shaving another 250 from your diet to sustain a slow, steady weight loss of one pound a week.


Low-impact exercises, such as cycling and swimming, are exhausting when performed vigorously, and they may not be appropriate for your current level of physical health. Keep it safe by easing into your new exercise plan until you build up your endurance.

If you're a male over 40, a female over 50 or if you have a medical condition such as heart disease, consult with your physician before you engage in vigorous exercise.