Low impact abdominal exercises are less of a pain in the neck than your traditional crunches and sit-ups. Unlike the rocking and bicycle-type motions of common ab exercises, low impact exercises place less stress on your joints and muscles, so you're more likely to stick to your ab toning routine for the long haul. Always consult a doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have a pre-existing condition that limits the type of exercises you can do.
One Leg Balance
Balancing on one leg is such an easy abdominal exercise that it can be done while getting ready in the morning. Stand tall with your feet 3 inches apart while tightening your belly muscles to help keep your spine straight. Slowly lift your left foot off the ground by bending your knee and moving your thigh towards the ceiling until it's parallel with the floor. Hold your balance for 15 seconds while keeping your abdominals tight. Switch to your right leg and be sure to do three repetitions on both sides. Because the location of your arms is not important, position your arms where it's easiest for you to keep your balance.
Front planks target your abdominal muscles and require very little body movement. To do a front plank, lie on your stomach and extend your legs so the entire front of your body is on the floor. Bring your elbows under your shoulders and lace your fingers under your chin. Your forearms and elbows do not leave the floor during this exercise. Raise your body off the floor, so your weight balances between your forearms and tippy-toes. From the top of your head to the heels of your feet, make a straight line with your backside, so keep your butt out of the air. Tighten your abs and hold this position for 10 seconds and then slowly lower your body to the floor. Repeat two more front planks. If this is beyond your fitness level, you can put your knees on the floor during the exercise. If you want to increase the difficulty, raise one foot off the ground.
Dumbbell Side Bends
Low impact doesn't mean you can't use equipment, so grab a dumbbell size that you're comfortable lifting. You only need one dumbbell. Hold the dumbbell in your right hand and allow the dumbbell to hang to the outer side of your thigh while placing your left hand on your hip. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Using slow and controlled motions, bend to the right using only your waist and lower the dumbbell towards your knee. Hold this position for 2 seconds. Slowly return to a standing position and then bend to the left side while continuing to hold the dumbbell in your right hand. Hold this position for 2 seconds and then return to your standing position. Complete 12 repetitions and then switch the dumbbell to your left hand and perform another 12 repetitions.
Suck in the Belly
The easiest and most convenient abdominal exercise is sucking in your stomach. You can do it while walking the dog, standing on the elevator, driving to work, or arguing with the boss. Suck your stomach in by inhaling and moving your belly button towards your spine. Exhale, but keep your stomach muscles contracted. Now take another deep breath and pull your belly button even closer to your spine. Hold this position for as long as possible while breathing normally. The best part about this exercise is it gives you a thinner middle, if only for a few moments.
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.