5 Low-Impact Resistance Exercises for Weight Loss

By Elizabeth Millard, A.C.E.-certified trainer, RYT-200 yoga teacher |

You don't need to overdo it with an intense workout to lose weight. Here’s a routine that’s kinder on your joints — but still helps you get slimmer.

low-impact resistance exercises for weight loss

Even if you’re able to do high-impact activities like running, jumping jacks or pickleball, there’s a great case to be made for adding some low-impact moves to your exercise mix. Turning down the volume on the intensity of your workouts can help prevent injury — and can still lead to a healthier heart and effective weight loss.

Dialing your exertion back can have other benefits too: One study of older adults in the journal Obesity found that when low-impact exercise is combined with healthy eating, it helps seniors lose weight— plus it improves mobility and makes everyday tasks feel a little easier.

Fortunately, there are plenty of low-impact exercise options to choose from, including SilverSneakers EnerChi, Pilates and SilverSneakers Yoga. So it’s easy to connect with an activity that you’ll enjoy enough to make it a regular habit.

Strength-training exercises can also be low-impact, and they are a proven path toward weight loss. According to the National Institute on Aging, resistance training is the most effective way to build muscle and lose body fat. The more lean muscle you build, the more likely you are to see the scale go down.

With that in mind, here’s a full-body strength-training routine that you can do with either your bodyweight or light hand weights. It’s a great way to get started with a weight-loss-focused workout that also protects your joints from injury.

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How to Do the Low-Impact Workout for Weight Loss

Start by doing a short warmup to prime your muscles. Begin by doing one set of exercises in the order we’ve listed them, using only your bodyweight or light weights. As you get stronger, perform the full circuit up to three times, resting two minutes — or more, if you need it — between rounds. Finish with a brief cooldown.

To make the workout more challenging, either use heavier hand weights or do more reps per exercise. Aim to do the full workout on two nonconsecutive days per week at first, adding a third or fourth day if you feel ready. Just be sure to take a rest day between every workout day.

As always, safety is key. Get your doctor’s OK before beginning a new exercise program. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition (including osteoporosis and arthritis), balance issues, or injuries, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

What you need:

  • Space to move
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Sturdy chair for support
  • Water to sip, as needed
  • Light hand weights (optional)

Exercise #1 Squat

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and toes pointed forward.
  • Keeping your eyes forward, chest up, and heels planted, push your hips back to lower into a squat.
  • Make sure your knees track over your ankles and don’t cave inward — it helps to think about pushing your knees out slightly.
  • Reach your arms straight out from your shoulders to help counterbalance.
  • Once you squat as far as you comfortably can, push through your heels to return to standing.
  • Do 10 reps.

Exercise #2: Wall Pushups

How to do it:

  • Stand facing the wall with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Place your palms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the wall.
  • Bend your elbows and lower your upper body toward the wall, keeping your core tight so your body stays in a line (no dipping in your back).
  • Pause, and then press back to the starting position. That’s one rep.
  • Do 10 reps.

Make it harder: Take a step back so you have to push more bodyweight away from the wall. Still too easy? Perform the pushups on your knees or in a traditional pushup position.

Exercise #3: Hip Hinge (with or without weight)

Hip Hinge

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hands on hips.
  • Brace your core—imagine you’re about to get punched in the stomach.
  • Without changing the position of your knees, bend at your hips and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor (or as far as you can comfortably go without rounding your back).
  • Pause, then lift your torso back to the starting position. Be sure to squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward to lift your torso back to the starting position. This ensures you’re engaging your hip muscles instead of relying on your lower back.
  • Do 10 reps.

Make it harder: Once you can comfortably perform the movement with good form, try it while holding a light weight. Here’s how:

  • Hold a 2- to 5-pound dumbbell with both hands.
  • Keeping your arms down so the weight is in front of your hips, perform the Hip Hinge, as above.

Recommended FREE SilverSneakers On-Demand Workout: 5 Exercises for Seniors to Lose Belly Fat

Exercise #4: Bent Over Row

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How to do it:

  • Hold a light weight in each hand.
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  • Push your hips back and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel with the floor.
  • Let the dumbbells hang at arm’s length from your shoulders, palms facing in.
  • From here, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you bend your elbows and pull the dumbbells up to the sides of your torso.
  • Pause, then slowly lower the dumbbells to return to the starting position. That’s one rep.
  • Do 10 reps.

Exercise #5: Cross Body Chop

How to do it:

  • Stand tall with your chest up, shoulders back and down, and feet planted firmly on the floor.
  • Engage your core and clasp your hands.
  • Gently rotate your torso to one side and bring your hands above your hip.
  • From here, keeping your core engaged, rotate to the other side while bringing your hands above your shoulder.
  • Rotate back to the other side while bringing your hands down to return to starting position. Allow your gaze to follow your movement.
  • Do 10 reps per side.

Make it harder: Once you can comfortably perform the movement with good form, increase your range of motion or add weight — or both. Start with your hands below your hip and bring them up higher over your opposite shoulder. If that feels good, you can do the exercise while holding a light weight with both hands.

Recommended reading: 5 Ways to Do a Chop

See our sources:
Study showing weight-loss benefit of low-impact exercise for seniors: Obesity
Effectiveness of resistance training to build muscle, lose body fat: National Institute on Aging

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