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By Laura Schwecherl

Every now and then, we have to give the body a break from excessive pounding (read: running, sumo wrestling and other contact sports). Luckily, low-impact workouts are typically less hard on the body, especially our joints, and can be a great way to get in a heart-pumping workout while reducing the risk of injury. Most trainers define low-impact exercises as motions where one foot stays on the ground at all times. But rather than doing single-leg deadlifts until keeling over, we figured it'd be best to round up 21 low- (or no!) impact exercises to keep things varied and full o' fun.

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Get Low (Impact) -- Your Action Plan
1. Walking: These boots are made for walking, so perhaps we should listen up. Walking is a stress-free way to stay movin'. And tweaking that walking routine can really heat things up: Hit the hills, add dumbbells or weighted ankle or wrist straps to really get that heart rate up.

2. Rowing machine: Spice up the cardio routine and bring the water sports to the gym? Yes, please. The rowing machine (impact not included) is an intense and fun way to workout those arms, back, legs and core. Score!

3. Kayaking: Want to actually hit the water? Grab a kayak and jump on in! Kayaking works the arms and core (no crunches necessary) and can burn up to 400 calories an hour while seeing some stellar sights.

4. Strength training: Most strength training exercises are low-impact and still work up a sweat. (Keep in mind those monster box jumps wearing a weighted vest doesn't exactly qualify.) Try squats, lunges or supermans!

5. Swimming: Skip the pool floats and start doing laps. Swimming is a great low-impact exercise with a boatload of benefits, from strengthening the shoulders to improving lung function.

6. Water aerobics: If laps in the pool get repetitive, bring the aerobics class to the water and start treading or doing the pike scull. Some gyms even offer treadmills in the pool to really keep things interesting. (We may want to rethink calling them "dreadmills.")

7. Yoga: It's no tackle football, but the NFL pros are doing it. So ease up and add some spinal twists and half moons to that fitness routine. Or try aerial yoga to really lift the stress off the ground.

8. Elliptical: Sorry treadmill, elliptical takes the cake when it comes to putting less stress on those legs. Try spicing up the routine with these workout ideas, while getting in a sneaky arm workout, too.

9. Stairmaster: Not all gyms have staircases, but they probably have a Stairmaster. (Which is obviously way more exciting than a treadmill.) No gym nearby? No problem. Hit the real stairs.

10. Cycling: Thank mom and dad for teaching us to take off the training wheels. Hopping on the bike is a fun way to fit in some exercise, with a lower chance of damaging the joints. Once the wheels start turning, you'll be talking like a pro.

11. Step aerobics: For a good cardio workout without all the poundage, research suggests pulling out the step platform. Some say an hour of step aerobics could be equivalent to a mid-distance run.

12. Tai Chi: Try some meditation in motion to give those bones a break. This gentle, fluid movement may also help ward off headaches, helping to improve flexibility, too. (Whether that includes a hangover headache is unclear.)

13. Hiking: Another way to spice up a walk is to add some hiking terrain (opt for flatter areas, though, to keep impact to a minimum). Ready to strap on the boots and hit the woods? Just make sure to stay in-the-know about hiking do's and don'ts.

14. Cross country skiing: This flat-terrain travel keeps things heated -- even in the snow. So strap on the skis and start pumping those poles. You'll keep the pressure light (as snow) on the body.

15. Rock climbing: To take off some stress, head to the nearest wall (err, rock wall, that is!). Climbing movements are typically slow and controlled, which works the muscles without the added strain.

16. Pilates: High-impact sports won't magically give us six-pack abs, that we know. The potential solution? Just roll out the mat for a quick Pilates session to strengthen the core and help increase flexibility.

17. Golf: Now, now -- golf isn't just for the pros (or the retired). Take a trip to the fairway and get that swing on. Bonus points for skipping the golf cart and walking the course!

18. TRX: Also known as "Total Body Resistance Exercise," TRX is a strap suspension system (say that three times fast) that's easy on the joints but a challenge on the body. Head to the nearest gym to learn the ropes.

19. Snowshoeing: For a different kind of walk in the park, snowshoeing is the way to go. Working against the resistance of the snow will expend more energy than walking on dry land, while staying tame on the body.

20. Ballroom dancing: Take a tip from “Dancing With the Stars.” Not only is dancing super sexy, it's often easy on the body and a guaranteed great workout. So go grab a partner and give those dips, twirls and whirls a spin!

21. Rollerblading: Let's take a trip back to the '90s and strap on some skates. Gliding on pavement won't fail to burn calories while putting less stress on limbs. Now, if only stopping was that easy…

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Flickr photo by SheilaTostes

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