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Low-intensity exercise gently increases the heart rate while reducing stress on the body. They are are an effective way to stay healthy, lowering the risk of disease, and minimizing injuries.

These workouts usually involve a slower, sustained pace and low-impact movements, so they're gentle on the joints and muscles. In recent years, more and more trainers and influencers have focused on ways to make fitness accessible to everyone, and in 2023 we're bound to see a lot of low-intensity workouts that encourage everyone to get on their feet and start moving, regardless of their current fitness, injuries, medical conditions, or age.

Swimming

Swimming is one of the most versatile low-intensity exercises. Move slowly to create a gentle workout; faster strokes and more powerful kicks turn a lap swim into a cardio session. Whatever your speed, the water provides buoyancy, easing the burden on the joints.

In addition to increasing the heart rate, swimming builds strength and works the lungs. It's such an effective exercise that swimmers have a lower risk of death than people who walk or run. Research shows that swimming can also improve mood and reduce depression.

Woman swimming at indoor swimming pool Hero Images/ Getty Images

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Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing is a low-impact exercise that improves cardiovascular fitness. The gliding motions are gentle on the joints, and the constant movement works the lungs.

In addition to the fitness benefits, cross-country skiing provides the opportunity to get outdoors in the winter. Exposure to the sun during this often darker season can reduce the risk of seasonal affective disorder.

group of people cross-country skiing Steve Mason/ Getty Images

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Walking

When it comes to accessible low-intensity workouts, walking tops the list. It's easy to do, regardless of fitness level, and the only gear requirement is a pair of comfortable shoes. Regular, brisk walks can aid weight loss, increase immune function, and reduce the risk of joint pain, and even breast cancer.

One of the best things about walking is how adaptable it is. Walk faster or on an incline to increase your heart rate; for a gentle workout, move slowly and stick to flat ground.

pair of women walking Terry Vine/ Getty Images

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Tai Chi

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese practice that uses controlled, flowing movements. Participants stand while exercising, moving their bodies slowly. Because tai chi involves functional movements and core stability, it can improve balance and help reduce the risk of falls. These benefits make it a popular choice for older adults.

In some cases, tai chi alleviates certain health conditions. For people with osteoarthritis, the practice can have the same benefits as physical therapy.

itness group doing tai chi in park on a sunny day Wavebreakmedia/ Getty Images

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Cycling

The low-impact pedaling motion of cycling makes it easy on the body. The trick to keeping this workout low-intensity is to stay seated and stick to flat ground—standing up on the pedals and climbing hills increases pressure on the joints. Every ride offers cardiovascular, respiratory, and strength-building benefits.

Choose from a variety of cycling options. Outdoor riding involves wind resistance and varied terrain, challenging the body and the mind. Indoor stationary bikes make it easy to work out in any weather, while recumbent bikes provide a stable seat for people with balance issues.

Cycling club on road at countryside Sergey Mironov/ Getty Images

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Elliptical

The elliptical trainer creates a striding motion that's similar to walking or running, but, since the footrests glide, they eliminate impact. The smooth motion eases discomfort for people with joint pain or hip and knee problems.

To customize an elliptical session, change the resistance level. Most machines feature moving handles that allow you to carry your leg's stride through to your arms.

Young active woman training using elliptical cross trainer in gym. urbazon/ Getty Images

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Yoga and Pilates

Yoga and pilates use flowing motions and sustained poses to increase flexibility and strengthen the body. Many styles target the core, improving balance. Choose classes ranging from soothing restorative yoga to fast-paced vinyasa.

Yoga can be an effective part of a holistic health routine. It can reduce stress and anxiety and lower the risk of chronic health conditions.

group in yoga studio sitting on floor with arms above heads, togetherness, strength, vitality, coordination 10'000 Hours/ Getty Images

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Barre

Inspired by ballet, barre workouts incorporate stretching and small, repeated movements. Many variations feature upper-body exercises, providing a full-body workout. Most motions are done from a standing position.

Barre is all about isometric work—contracting individual muscles or muscle groups. These exercises aid strength and improve stability, which helps people with injuries and limited mobility.

 group of young women do barre workout together at modern gym FatCamera/ Getty Images

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Skating

Ice skating, roller skating, and rollerblading are low-intensity exercise options. The gliding motions build strength and balance without putting pressure on the knees. Studies show that skating also boosts coordination and muscle tone.

For people who prefer social workouts, skating is a good choice. It's easy to do indoors or outdoors, in pairs or groups.

A teenage girl and a young woman hold hands as they learn to ice-skate on a frozen lake at a winter holiday resort. Adam and Kev/ Getty Images

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Kayaking

Kayaking primarily works the core and upper body, making it accessible for people with lower-body injuries or balance issues. Adjust the paddling speed to vary the intensity of the workout.

People who kayak experience both aerobic and anaerobic health benefits. The sport can also improve endurance and strengthen the heart.

A young couple are smiling while paddling together on the river in a kayak. Tom Werner/ Getty Images

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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.