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Mix Up Your Workout: Low-impact Life-savers

You already know that regular exercise is essential to maintaining a healthy body and a healthy weight. Does “regular exercise” mean you have to run five miles a day? Absolutely not! But it does mean finding a handful of different activities to keep you motivated and moving—ideally, 4–6 times per week. Mixing up your workouts not only keeps things more interesting for you, the added variety reduces the risk of overuse and also keeps your body from getting too accustomed to any one activity, which can lower your overall calorie burn. These three low-impact workouts, in combination with a couple of days of light strength training, will help you challenge virtually every part of your body.

Elliptical Machine. Like the treadmill, the elliptical machine challenges your lower body—hips, quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes—along with your core. In fact, studies show that the health benefits and calorie burn of elliptical exercise are nearly indistinguishable from that of treadmill exercise: about 380 calories an hour for a 160-lb woman at a moderate pace. Better still, the elliptical’s gentle circular motion saves your bones and joints from the potentially harmful jarring of jogging.

Stationary Bike. Going at a moderate pace, the standard stationary bike at your gym burns about 520 calories an hour (for a 160-lb woman) while targeting approximately the same areas. If you’re using an upright bike, you’ll have the added benefit of light toning for your upper arms and shoulders. To increase your calorie burn, try a spinning class; depending on your body weight and the intensity of your pedaling, you’ll burn up to 440 calories in just 40 minutes. Fair warning: spin classes can be intense, with loud music and shouty instructors. If you’re likely to find this more intimidating than motivating, stick to the regular stationary bike.

Rowing Machine. Thanks to its naturally low-impact nature and an adjustable flywheel that enables you to change the intensity of your regimen, this “hidden gym gem” is suitable for all fitness levels. Start slowly until you’re familiar with the machine, then gradually boost the intensity of your workouts until you’re feeling that familiar burn. Start with three minutes of warm-up and six minutes of rowing followed by a minute of stretching (or lunges, if you’re feeling motivated). Then repeat with eight minutes of vigorous rowing and a two-minute stretching cool-down. In just 20 minutes of moderate rowing, a 160-lb woman will burn nearly 180 calories and works virtually every muscle in the body.