High-Impact Exercise Pros and Cons

man running up stairs
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When it comes to cardio exercise, there's no shortage of activities to get your heart rate up, from machines to home exercise, from outdoor activities to group fitness classes.

One major thing to consider, when thinking about your cardio workouts, is the impact of your exercises. The amount of impact can have a big effect on how many calories you burn. The impact level of your exercises also directly affects how strong your bones are. High-impact exercise has many advantages, but it isn't for everyone.

There are different levels of impact: 

  • No-impact, where your feet don't leave the ground (like swimming or the elliptical trainer)
  • Low-impact, which involves activities where at least one foot is still on the ground (like walking)
  • High-impact, where both feet are off the ground at the same time (like running or plyometrics)


High-impact exercise is one of the most effective ways to burn more calories since it's easier to get your heart rate up when you're jumping around more. High-impact exercise also strengthens the bones. Experts know that subjecting the bones to stress, like high impact activity, causes them to add mass in response.

Similar in the way that strength training creates more muscle, when you subject your muscles to a resistance they aren't used to, they grow stronger in response. But high-impact exercise isn't for everyone, of course. 

Not everyone enjoys the jarring nature of things like jogging or jumping rope and, of course, not all joints like that kind of thing either. Still, if you can work some high-impact into at least some of your workouts, you'll likely find you get better weight loss results.

Pros and Cons

If you're on the fence, there are some good reasons to add some high-impact exercise to your regular workout routine, even if it's just a bit at a time. But it's not always roses and butterflies. Most people who can't do high-impact exercise know it, but others find out only after giving it a try.

  • Can be painful for people with joint problems or arthritis

  • Can lead to overuse injuries when done without cross-training

  • Causes an impact of about 2.5 times your body weight, which could strain joints, ligaments, or tendons

  • Might be uncomfortable for people who are overweight or obese

Keep in mind that if you've tried high impact but quit due to pain, you can try cross training to build up your muscles first. Strong muscles act like brakes and can help decelerate high impact movements. Strength and muscular contraole can lead to more success during high impact exercise and decrease the chance of of injury or overuse/stress-related injuries.

High-Impact Exercises to Try

You can always try high impact exercises like running, but you can also avoid the constant impact by adding little bursts of high-intensity exercise to a regular, lower impact routine. Try choosing some of the following moves and adding them periodically throughout your workout:

  • Burpees
  • Froggy Jumps
  • Jogging in Place
  • Jumping Rope
  • Jumping Jack
  • Long Jumps
  • Plyojacks
  • Side to Side Jumping Lunges
  • Squat Jumps

High-Impact Workouts

Below are some great high-impact workouts to try:

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Said M, Lamya N, Olfa N, Hamda M. Effects of high-impact aerobics vs. low-impact aerobics and strength training in overweight and obese women. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2017;57(3):278-288. doi:10.23736/S0022-4707.16.05857-X

  2. NIH. Exercise for your bone health.

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."