This Celebrity Trainer Incorporates ‘Soft Workouts’ Into Her Daily Movement—Here’s Why You Should Too
Workouts don’t have to be push-you-to-the-brink intense in order to be effective. As of late, the idea of a gentler approach to exercise has risen in popularity on social media, on fitness apps, and in boutique fitness classes alike: soft workouts.
Soft workouts comprise of low-impact exercises, like walking, Pilates, and pickleball. While the intent is to move your body in a non-strenuous way, the most important part is to have fun while doing it. If you’re interested in trying soft workouts for yourself, here’s what you need to know.
What are soft workouts?
Soft workouts are low-impact (meaning they’re gentle on your joints) and suitable for people of varying fitness levels or who have certain physical conditions that require modifications. (Always get the green light from your doctor before trying any new form of exercise!)
The goal is “to keep the body moving without putting larger amounts of stress on it—the way that running or intense cardio can do,” says Taylor Bogenschuetz, CPT, personal trainer and director of training and development at Solidcore.
The rise of soft workouts
Four of the top 10 workouts of last year named in ClassPass’s 2023 Look Back Report fall into the “soft” category. Pilates—a soft workout—earned top billing for most popular workout of the year, with a 92 percent increase in bookings from 2022. Meanwhile, low-intensity training slid into the list at number 10, an increase of 176 percent from last year.
According to the 2023 MindBody Wellness Index Report, the top workout motivator was “to live a long healthy life.” This is a notable departure from the 2019 report, which found the biggest motivation was “to lose and control weight.” The change is one Megan Roup, celebrity trainer and founder of The Sculpt Society, has noticed within her followers.
“We have definitely experienced a shift in what our community wants,” she says. “There’s a power in consistent, short workouts, and a lot of our members experience a mindset shift. We find people come for the results and stay for the feeling.”
“I think the more awareness we can bring to support our body each day depending on how we are feeling, the better.” —Megan Roup, founder of The Sculpt Society
The benefits of soft workouts
1. They’re great for beginners
One of the benefits of soft workouts is they lack the intimidation factor many people feel when starting a new routine that might feel intense, like weight training.
“Creating a habit around movement is so important because for a lot of people, it feels overwhelming to move daily or a couple of times a week,” Roup says. “Low-impact workouts are a gentle way for those looking to incorporate a regular movement practice sustainably. Not to mention, they’re easier to start for beginners.”
2. They decrease the risk of injury to joints and tendons
When you do a low-intensity, low-impact workout that involves increased body awareness and gradual progression, your joints and tendons are better protected. “The dynamic movements target specific muscle groups to promote mobility and flexibility,” Bogenschuetz says.
The more supple your joints and tendons, the less likely they are to become injured. Tight and stiff joints, however, are more prone to injury, per Stanford Medicine. Plus, with a slow and steady approach to the movements, you’re less likely to overwork your joints and tendons, which is a main cause of injury.
3. They improve balance and mobility
Your balance and mobility also benefits from soft workouts. That’s because there’s a focus on controlled movements, stability, and increased flexibility—all of which help to improve overall strength and coordination.
When you use a Pilates reformer machine, for instance, your balance and mobility improves as “you’re working your core in a way that forces you to activate your stabilizer muscles [smaller muscles that support a specific movement],” Bogenschuetz says.
4. They can improve your mind-body connection
Alongside the physical benefits of soft workouts, it’s great for the mind-body connection as well. TikTok user Rachel Stahlke recently took to the social media platform to share just how much her life had changed after incorporating soft workouts into her routine.
“I thought that doing HIIT [high-intensity interval training] five times a week was good for my body. Turns out all it was doing was spiking my cortisol and keeping my body super inflamed because it wasn’t happy,” she says in a TikTok video, adding that she would dread doing it and therefore saw it as a punishment.
Bogenschuetz has witnessed this with her clients, too.
“Cortisol is one of the many hormones our body produces to help manage stress, including physical stress,” she says. “When we over-engage in sudden intense levels of activity—like sprinting on a treadmill—this stress on the body may result in an influx in cortisol, which can negatively impact our energy levels, physical strength, mood, sleep patterns, and weaken our immune system.”
Stahlke stopped doing HIIT and turned to Pilates. “Not only did my body love it, my mind loved it—it became 45 to 50 minutes straight of meditation, and it changed the way I viewed fitness.”
Roup recently introduced Sculpt + Sync—a program that helps people with periods adapt their workouts to each phase of their cycle—into The Sculpt Society’s fitness app as a way to encourage people to listen to their bodies while exercising.
“I think the more awareness we can bring to support our body each day depending on how we are feeling, the better,” she says. “I am always adjusting my workouts depending on how I am feeling.”
A sample soft workout to try
Check out Bogenschuetz’s 15-minute core workout below. Take your time, as going slow is key to reaping the physical and mental benefits. Repeat this sequence three to four times through.
20 sit-ups, counting to four on the way down
60-second side plank (right side)
20 tabletop crunches (Tip: Try putting a block or similar object between your inner thighs to make holding a tabletop position easier)
60-second side plank (left side)
20 Russian twists
60-second plank, dipping your hips to one side at a time so you target your obliques, the muscles that run along the sides of your abs
20 bicycle kicks
Soft workouts may be a rising trend, but they’re here to stay. Not only do they offer a gentler and kinder approach to movement, but they also provide numerous physical and mental benefits. While there’s nothing wrong with breaking a sweat, soft workouts may be a missing puzzle piece to your overall fitness—and there’s no harm done by giving them a go.