This summer in Texas has been particularly brutal when it comes to heat. While I often spend my summers exercising outside, in triple-digit temperatures, anything that involves excessive movement is pretty much off the table. Over the past few months, I’ve been on a mission to find the best way to stay in shape, not overheat, and stay connected to nature. The result? A new love for low-impact exercise.
While you can always take a yoga, bar, or indoor cycling class to beat the heat, if you’re looking for exercises you can do at home without approaching heat exhaustion, we’ve got you covered. Jordan Hana, Certified Yoga Teacher and Yoga Sculpture Instructor, walked us through the benefits of keeping movement low-impact, the best exercises to incorporate into your weekly routine, and how to do it all safely in the heat.
Featured image from our interview with Megan Roup by Michelle Nash.
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What Makes Exercise Low Impact
Low impact is just that: light (little or no) impact on the joints and at least one foot (if not both) connected to the ground. Low-impact exercises raise your heart rate slowly, have a more fluid motion, and are gentler on the body. Some low-impact exercises include walking, yoga, Pilates, barre, and swimming.
How low-impact exercise benefits the body
Low impact exercise is amazing for anyone and everyone. It is generally safer and reduces the risk of injury compared to high-impact movement. Low-impact exercises tend to focus on flexibility, which is great for stability, alignment, and balance, and can be used as a form of active recovery on days when you don’t want to rest but don’t want to overdo it.
I’m a BIG fan of low-impact workouts 5 times a week, but I know many of us crave a quick, high-intensity workout. Personally, I love the three days of low impact, two days of high impact, and two days off. If, on a lazy day, you want more, a low-impact walk is a perfect form of active recovery!
I’m not a doctor, but I really believe that low impact exercises help with overall mental health – move slowly, connect with your breath and enjoy the exercise – even a simple walk can do this!
How to incorporate low-impact exercise into your weekly training plan
If you’re looking to incorporate low-impact exercise into your weekly training regimen, Hana’s Typical Weekly Training Schedule might just get you on your way.
Tuesday: HIIT (a treadmill training class)
Thursday: HIIT (Cycling class)
Hana also typically adds a walk to her weekly training schedule, usually 2-3 days a week. She helps her out and takes her two adorable puppies for a walk. Time outdoors is key, not only for physical health, but also for improving our mental well-being. Even just a 10-minute walk can do wonders. And if you’re avoiding the heat, try incorporating an early morning or evening walk into your routine.
Hana’s top note: Tune in to your body and start listening to what it’s telling you. Pain, injury, and great discomfort tell her that something is up and that she may need to take a step back from high-intensity training. If you’re new to the world of fitness and aren’t sure where to start, low-impact workouts are definitely the way to go. And if you’re going the group fitness route, always let the instructor know you’re new! They love supporting beginners and helping them get the most out of their training.
Get in tune with your body and start listening to what it tells you.
The best equipment for low impact exercises
In truth, the great thing about low-impact workouts is that you really don’t need much. Your body weight is without a doubt the best tool for low-impact exercises.
If you’re looking to expand your repertoire of fitness equipment, a yoga mat is perfect for supporting your body so you’re not directly on grass or concrete. I always like to incorporate hand weights (for a barre or Pilates class, I suggest 3-5 pound dumbbells), a Pilates exercise ball (small, about six inches), and an exercise band. The addition of free weights, a Pilates ball, and exercise bands allows you to expand and build more muscle, but moving slowly within these exercises ensures proper form and reduced risk of injury. Always the option of having a sweat towel, music for good vibes and water to hydrate, definitely a MUST HAVE!
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Tips for exercising in the heat
Adding heat (whether outdoors or indoors) increases the stress it places on your body, which means your body temperature rises. It also dehydrates your body as you lose more fluids during these workouts, which basically means you can fatigue faster. Your body can’t cool down as quickly either, so make sure you’re breathing enough and prioritize recovery and hydration to help support your body through these workouts.
My Tip #1: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: This is the key to working out in the heat. Adding an electrolyte supplement to your water is also a great way to replenish the minerals you lose through sweating!
Other tips to think about:
- Wear the right clothes. Light-colored, sweat-resistant and breathable materials
- Know where you are. If you’re new to exercising outside (or in the heat), start slowly and build up gradually. Know your limits and don’t push them if you don’t have to.
- Wear outdoor sunscreen. Another essential!
9 Low-Impact Exercises A Trainer Loves
- Take a walk for 30 to 45 minutes. This is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and work up a sweat without doing anything too strenuous.
- Yoga—Flow through some Sun A’s. One of the fundamentals of vinyasa yoga is salutations to the sun. Sun Salutation A is a series of nine movements that are synchronized with the breath to help develop balance and strength in a subtle way.
Squat + Oblique Twist
Also known as the “pop twist squat,” this exercise targets the glutes, quads, and obliques. While it can be done without any equipment, you can add an exercise band around your upper calf to increase tension and engage your glutes during the squat.
Donkey kicks are a very glute-focused exercise that also activates the hamstrings and core. This exercise can be done alone or by squeezing an exercise ball between your knee and hamstring.
While we all dread planks, they target your core and shoulders and are a quick way to build upper body strength. If the plank isn’t enough for you, add slow mountain climbers to your stance.
Overhead Shoulder Press Bicep Curl
Your biceps and shoulders will feel it with this exercise. This is a great opportunity to use your hand weights (start with a lower weight and work your way up) or find a water bottle or heavier object lying around the house.
Lunge + Overhead Triceps Extension
Lunges with triceps extensions do it all: they target the glutes, quads, and triceps. Complete all repetitions on your right side before moving to your left and incorporate hand weights into this exercise.
This exercise is performed by extending your arm forward on all fours and then extending the opposite leg, drawing both limbs in toward your stomach to target your core, obliques, and glutes.
When I think of pilates, this is the first thing that comes to mind. Addressing her core, she extends her legs diagonally as she lies on her back on a mat. She stretches her arms out to the sides with her palms facing down. She moves her arms vigorously, but doesn’t raise them higher than her hips. While moving your arms, inhale for five counts and exhale for five counts to complete one exercise. When this is done 10 times with five inhalations and five exhalations, it equals 100.
One of the central movements of vinyasa yoga is the cobra/locust pose. This exercise engages your back and gluteal muscles, squeezing both muscles to lift your body slightly off the ground.