Low Impact Sports Easy on the Joints

While playing sports offers plenty of physical benefits, it can also have a detrimental effect on the body. Certain sports that are high-impact can be hard on the joints through prolonged wear and tear. The study Sports, Joint Injury, and Posttraumatic Osteoarthritis published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy notes, “Participation in sports that subject joints to high levels of impact and torsional loading increases the risk of joint injury and subsequent joint degeneration.”

The same study also points out that sports participation, in general, can cause a variety of joint-related injuries due to repetitive loading on and/or twisting movements of the joints. However, the risk of getting joint-related injuries increases significantly if playing high impact sports such as basketball, baseball, American football, and volleyball.

Playing high impact sports increases one’s susceptibility to acute joint-related injuries, the most common of which are dislocations, sprains, and bursitis. Those who injure a joint are 40% more likely to experience osteoarthritis, according to a study on post-traumatic osteoarthritis published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The study classifies osteoarthritis as the most common joint disease, and notes that it can cause long-time excruciating pain.

Anyone who has ever played sports knows that getting injured is an inherent risk. For those who want to continue playing sports while safeguarding their joints, there are several popular sports and physical activities that can be enjoyed.


The Arthritis Foundation classifies swimming as a zero impact sport that is ideal for people with arthritis. Swimming allows people with joint problems, like arthritis, to perform a strenuous cardiovascular exercise without the risk of injury. As the water carries the weight of the body, those with injuries can exercise much harder without the fear of agitating the injured joint. It is for this reason that those who suffer from injuries, at any age, are usually directed to exercise in a pool as part of their rehab.

Despite being low impact, swimming offers many of the same health benefits that most high impact sports give. Medical data from Health IQ shows the many benefits of swimming including reducing the risk of cardiovascular mortality by 41% and decreasing all-cause mortality risk by 53%. If you are carrying an injury or are worried about future injuries, swimming is the safest exercise to stay fit and healthy.


While cycling may not be as impact-free as swimming, it is a relatively low impact exercise compared to popular sports like basketball and football. The reason? The bike helps keep the joints from getting the pounding that they would usually endure from running. It is also a great way to exercise outside and explore the unchartered areas. Here on Family Chiropractic Plus, we recommend the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve Bike Tour in St. Petersburg. You will get to exercise while limiting the damage to your joints, and as a bonus see some of Florida’s best scenery.


Those ferocious, high-torque tee shots and drives aside, golf is comparatively low impact compared to competitive running, squash, or tennis. Golfers spend a bulk of their time walking—sometimes briskly, other times leisurely—on a course where the surface is comparatively softer and more padded than concrete or hardwood. As for those tee shots and drives, it is crucial that they are practiced beforehand and executed properly, with textbook form and proper technique to protect the wrist and ankle joints from injury.


One of the country’s most popular pastimes is also one of the best sports for those with joint problems. Bowling is a low impact and joint friendly sport, with Sports Knee recommending it for those coming back from a knee injury. For players carrying an injury the site recommends dropping the weight of the bowling ball. As bowlers spend the majority of the time sitting, the joints are not overburdened during play.

No sport is risk-free, but that doesn’t mean one should stop playing. Ultimately, though, the rewards of playing sports almost always outweigh the risks.

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