Low-Impact Sports & Exercise for Joint Health

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You know that exercise can offer many benefits, but it doesn’t just stop at helping you run farther. In addition to supporting stronger muscles and better cardiovascular health, sports and exercise are also excellent tools for promoting healthy joints.

However, it is important to choose the correct exercises to provide support for your joints without overdoing it. Otherwise, you might negatively impact your joint health instead. Incorporating low-impact sports and exercise into your daily routine will allow you to balance the benefits of keeping your joints active without putting them under unnecessary strain.

The Benefits of Exercise on Joint Health

Whether you are looking for relief from your joint pain or want to reduce your risk for future joint pain, low-impact exercise is a valuable tool. Exercise offers several benefits that help you maintain strong joints in the long term.

Some of the benefits of exercise for your joint health include:

  • Strengthening the muscles around your joints
  • Supporting the lubrication of the cartilage in your joint
  • Increasing the flexibility of your joints and reducing stiffness
  • Improving the stability of your joints

By strengthening the muscles around your joints, you increase the amount of support around them. This added support helps reduce the pressure placed on your joints during daily activities and sports. 

The Risks of Sports and Exercise on Joint Health

Exercise has many incredible benefits for the health of your joints, but it is essential to recognize the risks as well. Exercise is risky for anyone but even more so for those with joint pain, as high-impact activities can wear down the cartilage and lubrication in your joints.

Various types of sports and exercise can put a lot of stress on your joints. For example, when you run in sports, you put your knee under pressure each time you step. Or, if you throw a ball, you are putting force into your elbow and shoulder. Over time, these repetitive motions add up, and they can result in joint pain or discomfort as you age.

Still, as with anything, the steps you take in preparation can make a significant difference, allowing you to enjoy both sports and joint health. To reduce your risk of joint pain from exercise, take these steps:

  • Maintain proper form – Improper exercise form puts unnecessary extra strain on your muscles and joints. Whether you prefer to go to the gym or play sports, it’s a good idea to get feedback from a trainer.
  • Wear the proper gear – Having the right footwear matters too. Always wear shoes that provide adequate cushion to reduce pressure on your knees, hips, and back.
  • Listen to your body – The best thing you can do for your joint and overall health is pay attention to how you feel. Stop and rest for a few days if you notice any pain or discomfort.
  • Perform warm-ups and cool-downs – It’s important not to rush into your workouts without preparing your body. Always perform a 5-minute warm-up and cool down to get your muscles and joints warmed up before putting them under strain.
  • Gradually build up intensity – Whether you are first starting to exercise or want to increase your capabilities, take your time. Maintain a program that gradually increases in weight or intensity so you don’t push your joints too hard too early.

Low-Impact Sports & Activity for Your Joints

There are risks for joint health associated with exercise, but when you choose the right exercises, the benefits far outweigh them. With low-impact sports and exercise activities, you can boost your overall health without sacrificing your joint health. In fact, low-impact exercises can even be therapeutic for preexisting joint pain. Try these exercises to support your joints without the unnecessary strain.


Cycling is easy on your joints while simultaneously strengthening your leg and core muscles. The motion of pedaling also helps to reduce stiffness in your knees, hips, and ankles. You can either ride a bicycle along riding trails or jump on the cycling machine at the gym.


Gravity is one of the biggest culprits for joint damage, especially on your knees and hips. As a result, exercising in water is an excellent way to strengthen your muscles and get your heart rate going while reducing the strain on your joints.

In addition to swimming, you can incorporate other exercises in the pool, like water aerobics with weights to build strength without putting extra stress on your joints.

Yoga & Pilates

Yoga and Pilates are two of the best full-body workouts, as they offer wonderful benefits for your physical strength and balance. Both yoga and Pilates allow you to work up to a level that works for you with different poses and exercises. Both of these activities are easy on your joints while they help support your strength, flexibility, posture and overall wellness.

Walking & Hiking

Walking and hiking are two great exercise activities that offer all the benefits of aerobic exercise without the intense impact on your joints—just make sure to have the proper shoes for support. The best part is that you can choose hiking trails and walking routes that fit your ability level and desired intensity, giving you the perfect exercise.

Keep in mind that if you are hiking uphill, on unstable terrain, or with a large backpack, your body will have to work harder, which will put more strain on your muscles and joints. That said, be sure to find a balance.

Sports & Exercises That Can Be Tough on Your Joints

High-intensity, high-impact sports and exercises can improve cardiovascular health and overall strength. However, they can be not so great on your joints, placing excessive pressure with each movement, which can lead to long-term effects. 

If you experience joint pain or are concerned about the long-term health of your joints, you should avoid these high-impact activities: 

  • High-impact aerobics – High-impact aerobics are high-intensity exercises that involve quick movements, like jumping, that can be harsh on your joints. Some examples of high-impact aerobics include jumping jacks, long jumps, burpees, and jump rope.
  • Basketball and volleyball – Basketball and volleyball both require constant running and quick changes in direction, which causes you to put more pressure on your knees and hips. Controlling the ball in both sports can be tough on your wrists as well. See our blog on how to treat knee pain from basketball.
  • Soccer – Soccer can be especially tough on your knee and hip joints as it involves intense running up and down the field. Plus, extending your legs to reach the ball or block can cause you to land awkwardly and put extra stress on your joints.
  • Football and rugby – Football and rugby can put a lot of stress on your joints. From throwing the ball to the risk of getting tackled, football and rugby are tough on all your joints.
  • Weightlifting – Weightlifting can be a great way to build muscle and increase your strength, but it can be a lot of extra strain on your joints to hold and move heavy weights. Weightlifting with lighter weights will strengthen your muscles without overloading your joints.  

While moving away from these sports entirely may be difficult, it’s important to understand the risks. If you do participate in these activities, ensure you take the proper precautions and maintain a healthy lifestyle to promote long-term joint health.

Indications for Surgery

When it comes to joint pain, surgery is a last resort. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider all possible options before deciding to consider joint replacement surgery. Before weighing surgery, try a low-impact exercise program, wear a brace, try injections, and try physical therapy.

If these interventions don’t work, you may start to consider whether surgery is a good option for you. Signs that you may need surgery include:

  • Pain that does not go away over time 
  • Pain or discomfort that doesn’t respond to other treatment methods
  • Consistent irritation and swelling resulting in limited mobility
  • An inability to perform your usual daily tasks and activities

If you have concerns about your joint health or are questioning whether you may need surgery, be sure to consult a medical professional. 

Get the Proper Support for Your Joint Health  

It’s never too early to start thinking about the health of your joints, especially since sports and joint health go hand-in-hand. Choosing the right low-impact sports and exercises will help you support your joints and preserve your long-term joint health, whether you experience joint pain or hope to prevent it.

If you have joint pain and have questions about your joint health, and you are unsure of the proper next steps, you can find the right support at The Joint Replacement Center of Scottsdale.

Schedule a consultation with us today so we can discuss your options with you.