High or Low-Impact Exercise? What These Terms Mean For You and Your Body

Written by Leah Lassche on September 7th, 2017.

In the health and fitness industry it is common to hear the terms high or low-impact when it comes to various forms of exercise. It would be easy to confuse these distinctions with a perceived value of your workout, where you might expect high impact to refer to a particularly intense session designed to shock your body into shape, whereas low impact might be a more pedestrian, gradual form of exercise. While some personal trainers or fitness coaches may use the word ‘impact’ to market their workouts, this is not what the terms typically refer to. Rather, impact is a physiological reference describing the effects of gravity on your body during exercise, and the degree of stress this places on your muscles, bones and joints.

What is High-Impact Exercise?

High-impact exercise can be loosely defined as an activity where both feet leave the ground simultaneously. Examples include running, jumping, skipping, plyometrics and some variations of aerobics. As these activities involve your whole body leaving the ground, and then returning, each time your lower body is subject to the impact of your returning weight. In a standard jumping movement, impact is first encountered by the feet and ankles, then transferred to the knees and through to the hips. In this scenario, the knee joint takes on the job of absorbing the downward force, protecting the upper bones in your legs. High-impact exercise such as running and skipping can be an excellent cardiovascular workout, but the high-impact force involved could also lead to injury if undertaken repetitively without taking measures to dampen the effects. Taking precautions, such as including running on the grass or sand within your regimen, can help lessen the impact effect as the softer ground will absorb some of the force for you. Similarly, a good pair of shoes can be an asset in reducing the stress of high-impact exercise.

Why go for Low-Impact Exercise?

There are various factors that make low-impact exercise an appealing, sustainable fitness option. Though not applicable to everyone immediately, age and health are important reasons to assess the level of impact in your workouts. As we age and our bodies start to show signs of wear and tear, joint and bone health require a bit of extra consideration. Bone density can play a big role in this area particularly in women’s health, but generally speaking a 50-year-old knee will not be able to withstand high impact exercise the same way it once did as a 20-year-old knee. This is where low-impact exercise is an excellent option, removing the additional stress of impact and making things easier on aging bones and joints. Low-impact does not necessarily equate to low intensity, it simply reduces the impact stress of exercise. Exercise on the Concept2 indoor Rower and SkiErg are both considered low-impact, as the body is supported at all times, and never has to bear the stress of its own weight. The result is a workout with ranging variety and intensity options, without adding impact stress to your body.


The Concept2 Indoor Rower and SkiErg machines provide excellent low-impact exercise options

Low-impact exercise is also an excellent option for those who are just beginning a journey towards fitness, or desire to lose some weight before attempting higher-impact exercise. Exercise on the Indoor rower or SkiErg provide the stability to begin exercising, while targeting all major muscle groups as well as the cardiovascular system. This makes these machines a great option for burning fat and accelerating fitness, without having to deal with the stress of impact. Furthermore, low-impact workouts can make for excellent rehabilitation options for those working through impact injuries, enabling maintenance of muscle and cardio fitness without adding to the impact damage.

High and Low-impact exercise are both great fitness options promoting a healthy, active lifestyle. While high-impact exercise may pose limitations for some, low-impact exercise on the Indoor Rower or SkiErg offer a variety of workout options without the limitations of impact.

Read more about the Concept2 Indoor Rower or SkiErg