Swimming is a perfect low intensity workout.

Feeling frazzled over the latest fitness trends? If your Instagram feed is filled with photos of friends logging miles, turning tires and pushing weighted sleds, an evening on the couch could sound very appealing. Before you give up on fitness altogether, it’s important to understand that a low intensity workout, which is even a small amount of activity, at a low level of intensity, can be beneficial. Instead, give up on the idea that fitness has to be grueling, time consuming and boutique-style expensive. If you’re more likely to do it, then it’s definitely a winning workout. 

The difference between low intensity and high intensity 

Still amazed that we’re suggesting low intensity activity? If you’re wondering “what’s the catch?,” there isn’t one. Here are the tried and true facts when it comes to high intensity exercise vs low intensity. Keep in mind, both can be beneficial when done with proper form and for a safe period of time. 

High Intensity workouts might include heavy weight lifting sets and elements of CrossFit.

High intensity generally includes exercises such as sprints, burpees, push-ups and other movements with body weight or equipment (think dumbbells, kettlebells, weighted sleds, pull-up bars, etc). Because they tend to be more dynamic, there can be a higher risk of injury and/or burnout. But as we recently discussed in Forget the handstand push-ups, CrossFit can be for anyone, modifications are readily available in all high intensity workouts to make them accessible to almost anyone.

During low-intensity training, you are likely able to carry on a conversation during the activity. Your body is still able to build muscle and burn fat as you continue challenging yourself (walking more quickly, increasing the duration of your swims) as you become more fit.

The decision 

Look back at the last 10 years of your life. Did you have a fitness program? What did you like about it? What did you dislike? How has your body (and life!) evolved since then? Perhaps getting up at 5 a.m. for a kickboxing class was your daily routine. It came easily, and so did the extra sleep you got on the weekends–before you had kids. Or maybe you enjoyed going to CrossFit every other day, before you gave birth and are still trying to manage that back pain. If you once had a goal of competing in a bodybuilding show, is that still a possibility? While this article isn’t meant to deter you from your goals, it’s meant to help you identify what’s best for YOU by encouraging a realistic routine that will keep you healthy, physically and mentally. It’s time to embrace balance and non-addictive training methods. If you need someone to tell you “it’s ok not to pursue perfection,” you heard it here.

Let’s talk about goals. We’re all familiar with the acronym “S.M.A.R.T.” Take a moment and identify at least one fitness goal you want to accomplish in the next 4 weeks (not 5 years, 10 years….we’re starting small!). Make sure it is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Here’s an example: I want to (spend 20 minutes, 3x/week walking) by (date).


Go low

Forget fitting into those “apple bottom jeans” Flo Rida sang about years ago. A fitness program doesn’t have to manifest booty gains or a six-pack core. By embracing low-intensity moves, you may discover that your new program isn’t only attainable, but it’s sustainable as well.These exercises are also a great place to start if you haven’t worked out in a long time or are recovering from an injury. As if these weren’t enough reasons to add low-intensity activity to your day, you can do the following anywhere and without any equipment! They are also family friendly so have those Crispy Green snacks on hand for afterward!

Walking is a full body workout that builds leg muscles and overall fitness.

Low Intensity exercises

  • Walking. Whether you walk in your neighborhood or at a local trail, all you need is a pair of gym shoes. If the weather is too hot, too cold, too wet. Forget the excuses and head to the mall for some indoor window shopping! This full body workout strengthens the legs and improves heart health too. Here are tips on how to Maximize Your Walking Workout.
  • Swimming. Not a fan of getting in a swimsuit around others? Try swimming laps at the local community center, as we know that and Swimming Isn’t Just For Kids. But even if laps aren’t your thing, you can burn calories and cool off by playing with the kids in the backyard pool. The resistance of the water is sure to help strengthen your legs and is an excellent, low-impact way to improve bone health. 
  • Yoga, barre and Pilates. These training methods rely primarily on body weight resistance to increase core strength and range of motion. As a bonus, you’ll also burn calories and become more self-aware as these practices emphasize the mind-body connection. There are many resources that can help you get started at your local library or on YouTube.

    Burn calories and build hour core strength with planks!

Stay committed

Though fitness trends are constantly evolving, one thing that remains the same should be your commitment to lifelong health. While a youthful appearance and toned physique are appealing, those should come secondary when compared to an improved quality of life and longevity. 

–Megan Meisner

Hi! My name is Megan. I’m a Certified Personal Trainer and mom to my rainbow baby, Clancy. Megan Meisner Fitness emphasizes activity, nutrition and restoration. In a world that overwhelms us with diet plans, new workout routines and the latest “stress-busting, abs-lusting” claims, my fitness community will help you silence the distractions and focus on mindfulness, self awareness and support to reach your goals. The emphasis is on progression, not perfection. Her other stories include 4 Tips for Post-Baby Fitness and Feeling the pinch? 4 easy ways to make money.

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