HEALTH & WELLNESS

4 joint-friendly low impact HIIT exercises you can do anywhere

High-intensity interval training can be intense, but it doesn’t have to be harsh on your joints. Below is a closer look at HIIT, ways you can enjoy low-impact HIIT, as well as ways you can support your joints.

9 mins to read
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High-Intensity Interval Training, more commonly known as HIIT, has blown up in popularity in the last decade or so. So much so that many A-list celebrities have become die-hard high-intensity fans to better get in shape for their big-screen roles. The prospect of a quick and efficient workout has attracted many to this technique of working out.

HIIT has undoubtedly become a top workout trend in recent years but what many beginners don’t realize going into it is that some aspects of HIIT are truly not for everyone. The main concern when it comes to HIIT is the risk of injury. Certain HIIT exercises like burpees and jumping can be quite difficult on your joints, which can be problematic for some, no matter what your fitness level.

Below is a closer look at some variations of HIIT that can be more welcoming to individuals who may be at a higher risk for developing injuries with standard HIIT. Working out is not a one size fits all approach, and choosing a regime that works best with you and minimizes your chance of injury is the best way to ensure you are able to stay in shape and healthy.

What is HIIT?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a workout philosophy that focuses on short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by short cooldowns of rest or lower intensity exercise. HIIT is an old concept, and while it has entered the spotlight recently, long-distance runners have utilized HIIT to help condition their bodies for endurance runs.

HIIT can apply to nearly any cardio-based exercise where you can easily go from working at a high intensity to low intensity. Activities like rowing, cross-fit, and cycling can all be turned into a routine that incorporates HIIT. The only real requirement for HIIT is that you get your heart rate above 80% of its maximum during high-intensity sessions.

Even though HIIT can be applied to many different types of exercises, the most common form of HIIT workout tends to involve high-intensity variable exercises similar to crossfit. The variability ensures that you get a full-body workout and most exercises utilize your body weight and little to no equipment.

What are the benefits of HIIT?

HIIT carries many of the same benefits you would come to expect from a good heart-pumping cardio routine, while still incorporating familiar exercises like push-ups, the reverse lunge, and lower and upper body strength training. This can help support cardiovascular health, fat burning, weight loss, and endurance.

The main benefit of a HIIT workout plan comes from how it is able to improve these factors in a more efficient manner after a warm up. Specifically, a high-intensity workout is one of the most efficient ways to improve VO2 Max. VO2 Max is a measure of how much oxygen your body is able to use during exercise. A higher VO2 Max is associated with an easier time performing exercise and is also linked with better long-term health outcomes.

HIIT vs. LIIT

While HIIT has quickly become a sensational way of working out, its close relative LIIT has not experienced the same level of excitement from the public. LIIT, also known as Low-Intensity Interval Training, can be thought of as the less intense form of HIIT. Rather than trying to get your heart rate to 80% effort, LIIT focuses on getting your heart rate to about 50% effort.

LIIT is ideal for individuals that may be unable to place the extra stress on their bodies associated with high-intensity exercises like sprinting. LIIT essentially consists of periods of moderate-intensity followed by breaks of low to minimal intensity. Since you are not pushing your body as hard as you would with HIIT, LIIT does not have the same level of benefit when it comes to efficiency and improving VO₂ Max.

Low impact HIIT exercises

HIIT involves periods of elevated intense workouts, but this increase of intensity doesn’t need to be intense on your joints. Your joints have a limited amount of cartilage to protect against bone to bone contact, and repeating high-impact exercises or movements like jumping can be detrimental to your joint health.

Below is a closer look at some low-impact HIIT exercises you can try. Choosing a low-impact HIIT workout can allow you to get all of the benefits of HIIT without needing to sacrifice your joint health.

Cycling

Cycling is a favorite form of cardio for many people. Whether you enjoy cycling in the great outdoors or prefer the air conditioning of a cycling class there is no doubt that this workout can work up a sweat. Incorporating HIIT into cycling is as easy as getting a heart monitor and setting a timer for how long you are hitting your heart rate goal.

When people think of cycling they tend to think about how cycling is exclusively a lower body cardio workout. While traditional bike riding certainly is, many spin classes incorporate the use of free weights and standing cycling to provide a more full body HIIT workout.

Elliptical

Another great way you can do a full-body low impact HIIT exercise is by utilizing an elliptical machine. An elliptical is one machine that utilizes muscles throughout the body all while eliminating the impact that you may experience with a normal walk or treadmill. Simply increase your intensity by increasing the incline or pace during your high-intensity periods and easing up during your breaks.

Ellipticals are particularly helpful for those that need to pay closer attention to their joint health. On an elliptical, the feet never leave the platform which eliminates the impacts experienced across the joint.

Rowing

Rowing is another cardio-inspired joint-friendly workout that could easily incorporate the HIIT methodology. Rowing can be performed out on the open water or it can be enjoyed in the comforts of a gym with a row machine.

Incorporating HIIT principles into your rowing sessions is as easy as increasing your resistance and pace to get your heart rate up for a few minutes and then bringing it back down to a comfortable cadence during your intervening breaks.

Rowing is already an efficient workout because it engages muscle groups throughout the body with each stroke. HIIT is all about increasing the productivity of your workouts, and HIIT rowing exercises can make your workout all the more effective.

At-home workouts

While incorporating HIIT into cardio workout machines is a great way to minimize joint impact, many people prefer a more bare-bones workout that they can do with minimal equipment, that they have the freedom to do at home without the intimidation factor of a personal trainer. With nothing more than some dumbbells and some space, you can attain a HIIT training session all from your home.

Many traditional HIIT exercises are joint-friendly but some can place quite a bit of stress on your joints, especially across the knees. Exercises like squat jumps, burpees, and high knees are popular in many at-home HIIT routines and they all introduce a large amount of impact.

A great way to still enjoy these workouts is to implement an alternative move for when you need to do more jolting moves. You can easily modify burpees by doing an additional squat with your feet hip-width apart rather than a jump. You can replace high-impact exercises with any exercise like a lunge, mountain climbers, or staying in a plank position, which can be just as effective in increasing your heart rate and involves no jumping.

How to support your joints

Your joints are an incredibly important aspect of your health that allows you to maintain your mobility throughout your life. The knees, hips, and spine tend to be the joints that people develop wear and tear in over the years. Avoiding high-impact exercises and activities is a good start to supporting your joint health, but there are many other things you can do to ensure your joints maintain their full range of motion and remain pain-free for years to come.

Below is a closer look at some of the best ways you can support your joint health.

Maintain healthy weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for a number of reasons, including reducing your chances of developing chronic conditions like diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight also lessens the strain that is placed across your joints. Lessening the load your joints have to carry can better enable them to stand the test of time without experiencing premature wear and tear.

Stay active

If you are searching for low-impact HIIT exercises, you are most likely already on a good path when it comes to staying active. Staying active and mobile helps to reduce the chances of developing stiff joints. Moving frequently and getting active helps to lubricate your joints which is essential for maintaining their health.

Joint nutrition

The joints are a unique structure within the body and they have a number of nutritional needs. One important molecule for joints is omega-3 fatty acids which can help to support joint mobility. MitoQ Joint is a supplement that contains a potent source of omega-3 — Green Lip Mussel Extract (GLME), in addition to MitoQ, a more bioavailable form of the powerhouse antioxidant CoQ10. Simply taking MitoQ joint can help your joints receive the nutritional support they deserve.

Conclusion

In summary, HIIT exercises get a bad rep for being hard on your joints. The reality is that there are only a few exercises that can be hard on your joints and those all involve jumping or some level of impact.

If low-impact exercises are something you are looking for to protect your joints, there are plenty of ways you can enjoy HIIT without putting your joints on the line. You can either make alterations to your existing HIIT routine to eliminate jumping, or you can incorporate HIIT into nearly any cardio-based workout routine.

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