Recently I received this from a reader:

Exercise is a great stress reliever for me but recently I’ve had some health issues where I haven’t been able to do more than walk, which I know is exercise but doesn’t give me the same sense of accomplishment or endorphin rush. I’d love some tips for how best to deal with not having this outlet!


No matter how fit you already are, there may come a time when something unexpected comes up and you’re not able to move in the way you’re used to. Health issues from the everyday cold to injuries, major surgery, fertility treatments or chronic disease can arise and interrupt your regular routine.

Heck, even positive life events can get in the way at times.

(Oh hey there pregnancy).

This can be so frustrating!

Especially when you’re used to getting that sweaty sense of accomplishment with muscle fatigue, pushing yourself to a new max rep, doing a new challenging arm balance or crossing the finish line in record time.

So how can you add intensity and give a boost to low impact workouts?

When this happens the first and most important thing to do is to give yourself a major dose of compassion + kindness and remember that fitness is not a straight line, it’s a cycle. It’s something that’s always changing according to EVERYTHING else going on in your life. We dive deeply into these essential mindset shifts and practices in my online programs.

(You can get started with this free Self Kindness journal as well!). 

Second, it's important to check with your doctor before you start any exercise program to make sure you know any contraindications with your specific health concern.

Today, though, let’s focus on the physical things you can do to get a sense of accomplishment, new challenge, variety +boost your endorphins from low impact movement. 

17 Ways to Add Intensity and Give Low Your Impact Workouts a Boost




Walking is superb exercise! Let’s just mix it up a bit to target more muscle groups, challenge your coordination, and increase the intensity while keeping it low impact.

Okay, okay, on some of these you might look kinda silly - but hey! It’s in the interest of your health! Get a friend to join you and you won’t be the only one dancing through the park. ;)

1. Hills + Trails

Find a walking route that include some hills so you add an incline/decline to your path (No hills nearby? Find some stairs!).

2. Go Sideways

On flat terrain, turn your body 90 degrees and keep your feet + legs parallel as you walk sideways (this will be slower going pace, but great strengthening for your hip abductors + adductors).

3. Moonwalk

Don’t actually attempt the moonwalk in sneakers, but do try to take regular steps walking backwards! (Also slower pace + you’ll need to make sure you don’t run into anything, but it’s great for your hamstrings and glutes).

4. Grapevine

Aka The Electric Slide. Step one foot to the side, cross the other leg behind, step again to the side, then cross to the front. You’ll challenge your coordination and practice agility.

5. Wear A Hiking Pack

Carry weight on your back (distributed well of course) on your walk to strengthen your bones and force your muscles to work a little harder.

6. Arm T Hold

This challenge works every time! Try to keep your arms straight out to your sides in a T shape (without over stressing your neck/upper trapezius muscles) for 5 min.



Depending on what’s going on for you, you may still be able to lift weights, but you may have to avoid certain body parts. To do this you can separate movements of your upper + lower body.

7. Upper body only

For example, if you aren’t able to put pressure on your ankle, you can sit and do some slow and controlled weight lifting with your upper body.

8. Lower body only

Conversely, if your upper body needs a rest, there are many lower body low impact exercises that can be weighted or not that will still pack a punch! (Think: leg lifts/kicks in all directions, heel lifts, slow + steady squats, lunges).


Many athletes use water therapy to recover from injuries, strengthen and condition without impact.

9. Underwater Ballet Barre

Hold onto the side of the pool in the shallow end and do your best ballerina moves! (Pliés, relevés, passés, developpés, battements, etc).

10. Do actual Water Ballet!

One of my favorite new #JOYworkout’s is synchronized swimming. You’ll get to learn a new skill AND go hard core with the core work! (In Brooklyn? Check out Brooklyn Synchro Club).

11. Flip Your Fins

Grab your favorite floatie and do some swimming drills - you can keep your head above water and power up your swim with your legs.

12. Pool Dips

Get those triceps on fire by doing small dips on the stairs or edge of the pool.

13. Tread Water

See how long you can tread water without having to take a break. That gets seriously tough quickly!


There are so many styles of movement these days that don’t even require you leaving the floor!

14. Mat Pilates

Joseph Pilates himself developed this method to help him heal his own health issues, so it’s a great option for alignment and low impact strength. Teachers often understand injuries and are able to offer helpful modifications.

15. Back to the Basics Yoga

Don’t be fooled, beginner yoga classes aren’t always “easy”. Perhaps you won’t be flowing as quickly as with the sequences you’re used to, but you may reap even more benefits from slowing down your practice and reexamining alignment or holding poses for longer.    



If you’re still craving that endorphin rush after all this, go get a pillow or punching bag. You can do this sitting or standing and release all that energy, angry, frustration!

16. Shadow Box

Face a mirror and start doing your best boxer. Screams and sighs encouraged! Time yourself and keep shadow boxing for 10 minutes, you’ll feel it!

17. Punch Combos

Create a combo (ex: jab, jab, hook, undercut) and repeat it 10x each side. Repeat 4 more combos and then try to put it all together!

*A new full length video addition to the Sparkes Wellness Workout Library this month is a Low Impact Kickboxing Workout! Want to talk with me to find out if this program is right for you? Contact me!

I’d love to hear from you!

Has there been a time in your life when you weren’t able to move in the way you were used to? What did you do to cope?

Which one of this could you try this week?


With love, body kindness, and all types of movement,

xoxo elyse

ES bio.jpg


I'm a personal trainer, fitness coach, and yoga teacher who gets people moving with in-person training and my signature online programs. I want to help people drop the guilt/shame game around exercise and start working out with ease and kindness. When I'm not doing squats and sun salutations, I'm dressed up in vintage lindy hop dancing or gathering other Lovely Lady Entrepreneurs to talk about their careers and living their most passionate lives. Start moving with me today with these FREE stretch breaks you can do to feel more energized and aligned during your day! -


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