For many people, cardio is synonymous with running. Although running is a convenient, inexpensive, and effective cardio workout, it can also be hard on your body. Luckily, there are plenty of low-impact cardio exercises that will still get you sweating.
Replace some – or all – of your running workouts with low-impact cardio workouts like cycling, yoga, and rowing, which all minimize wear and tear on your joints while strengthening your entire cardiorespiratory system, including your heart and lungs.
What is low impact cardio?
Plain and simple, low-impact cardio involves exercises that increase your heart rate and challenge your heart and lungs without inflicting a lot of jarring force on your joints.
The reason running isn’t low impact is because of landing, the orthopedic surgeon explains. Dr. Nick DiNubile, chief medical advisor to American Council on Exercise.
“For every extra kilo you carry, your knee interprets it as five to seven kilos. So you’re talking about strength amplification when you run,” he adds.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean high-impact exercises are bad. If you enjoy running and it doesn’t hurt, there’s no reason to stop.
But if you want to give your joints a break, or just want to try a new approach to increasing cardio, try the following workouts.
Can I lose weight with low impact exercises?
Low impact doesn’t mean low intensity or low results: Tour de France riders, competitive swimmers, and Olympic rowers all practice low-impact training and are among the fittest athletes on the planet.
Low-impact exercise can be as intense or gentle as you want, making it an effective approach for everyone from beginners to MMA athletes.
6 Low-Impact Cardio Workouts
Give your joints a rest and try some of these low-impact cardio workouts.
Swimming is the ultimate low-impact exercise. Water provides resistance in all directions, challenging your muscles in new and beneficial ways without forcing you to hammer your joints.
And unlike most other forms of cardio, swimming focuses on the upper body, providing a great challenge to the muscles of the back, chest, arms, shoulders and core.
Get started with some sample workouts below, or check out a few more here. And if you’re looking to freshen up your freestyle stroke, we’ve got some tips on that too.
Swimming training for beginners
Swim 50 meters. Rest for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat 4 times total to complete a set.
Do up to four sets, resting 1 to 2 minutes between them.
Intermediate/Advanced Swim Training
3×50, 150, 200
Swim 50 meters at a fast pace. Rest 10 to 30 seconds and repeat a total of three times. Rest for 1 to 2 minutes.
Repeat the above swimming sets of 150 meters, then repeat again swimming sets of 200 meters.
For a more advanced workout, repeat steps one and two in reverse order: 3 x 200, 3 x 150 and finally 3 x 50.
2. Cycling (indoor or outdoor)
Whether you’re rolling along a country road, climbing a mountain switchback, or peddling furiously around your apartment, cycling is a fun (and often picturesque) way to get in shape.
It’s also practical: traveling and doing your shopping by bike can save you time in traffic jams and reduce your carbon footprint. The fact that the bike is gentle on your joints is a plus.
Cycling is almost entirely lower-body focused, so be sure to supplement your cycling workout with some upper-body and core work on days when you’re not spinning your wheels.
For the outdoor workouts below, you’ll need a cycling computer — a small investment that will help you track distance, speed, pedaling cadence, and calories burned.
The BODi Bike tracks all of these personalized metrics, along with your heart rate for personalized rides that help you get the most out of all your cycling workouts.
And when you’re ready for a cross workout, the screen rotates so you can switch to floor workouts, which range from HIIT and cardio to recovery and mobility.
Speed cycling workout
3 to 4 x 6 to 8 minutes at 90 rpm
On a flat surface, ride at a low speed, aiming to maintain a high cadence (pedaling speed – we recommend 90 rpm for this workout) for 6 to 8 minutes.
Rest or cycle easily for 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat 3 to 4 times in total.
Electric cycling workout
6 to 8 x 3 to 6 minutes at 65 rpm
On a long, gradual incline, ride in a low to medium gear that brings your cadence down to about one pedal stroke per second (65 rpm).
Endurance Cycling Training
4 to 6 x 4 minutes at 60 rpm, 2 minutes at 100 rpm
Choose a high gear and pedal at a low cadence for 4 minutes, then downshift and pedal at a higher cadence for 2 minutes.
Repeat the cycle 4 to 6 times in total.
It’s easy to see why elliptical trainers are among the most popular cardio machines in gyms.
By combining upper and lower body movements, elliptical trainers can provide a more comprehensive workout than running and can help. burn a decent amount of calories to boot.
In addition to adjusting the incline and resistance, you can also choose to pedal backwards, an option that uses different muscles compared to pedaling back and forth.
Most elliptical trainers have built-in workout options: enter some simple data (age, gender, weight), type in “HIIT” or “MOUNTAIN” and you’re ready to go.
Otherwise, you can put the machine in manual mode and work with one of these options:
HIIT Elliptical Workout
After a 5-minute warm-up at an easy pace, cycle for one minute at an effort level of 8 or 9 out of 10.
Go down to level 5 for 2 minutes.
Perform 5 to 7 rounds, alternating cycles of high and low effort.
Finish with 3 minutes of easy pedaling.
Strength-endurance elliptical training
After a 5-minute warm-up at an easy pace, pedal for 10 to 15 seconds at a total effort level of 10.
Go down to level three for 45 to 50 seconds.
Perform up to 10 rounds, alternating between high and low effort cycles.
Finish with 3 minutes of easy pedaling.
Cardio-endurance elliptical workout
After a 5-minute warm-up at an easy pace, cycle for 20 to 60 minutes at an effort level of 6 to 7 out of 10.
Finish with 3 minutes of easy pedaling.
Indoor rowing allows you to work the entire body, especially the legs and back, with very little impact. Rowing emphasizes spinal extension—a boon for desk jockeys whose 9 to 5 forces their backs to bend.
The rower is a great machine to tackle when you want to go into beast mode, but there is a certain technique to rowing.
Remember this sequence: legs, torso, arms, arms, torso, legs. This is the order in which your body parts should move.
To master proper technique, consult an online guide or (better yet) a trainer, then dive into this low-impact cardio workout.
Power rowing workout
For this one, you’ll need to enter your information into the machine so you can track how many calories you burn each minute in real time.
For the first minute, row until you burn one calorie, then rest for the rest of the minute.
The second minute, rest after burning two calories.
The third minute, rest after burning three calories, and so on, continuing until you cannot reach the calorie consumption goal during that minute (try to reach 20 minutes if you can). can). Note how long you were able to last and try to beat it next time!
Endurance Rowing Training
3 to 5 x 1,500 m
Row 1500m at a challenging but manageable pace.
Rest 1 to 2 minutes and repeat 3 to 5 times in total, trying to maintain or beat your previous time with each effort.
5 to 10 x 500 m
Row 500 meters at a challenging pace.
Rest 1 minute and repeat a total of 5 to 10 times, trying to maintain or beat your previous time with each effort.
Originally conceived as a way to make long periods of still meditation more comfortable, yoga has evolved in the West to become a one-stop shop for fitness.
Advanced poses can train your flexibility, balance, and overall body control. Power poses such as warrior and Chaturanga variations can build strength and muscles.
Restful poses can improve recovery and leave you feeling refreshed.
Not all yoga will give you a cardio burn, but certain practices—like vinyasa flow—will definitely increase your heart rate. By performing the most difficult poses faster and more dynamically, you can create a cardiovascular challenge that places minimal stress on your joints.
Yoga workouts at home
Check out the many yoga classes offered at Yoga52 and Beachbody Yoga Studio on BODi to start transforming your body from the comfort of your home!
To try it yourself, locate Rough Around the Edges on BODi. This MMA-inspired workout routine is led by six Hollywood stuntwomen who can help you challenge your entire body, get lean, and feel powerful without killing your joints.
If you want to punch and kick your way to a shredded core, check out Core Strength on BODi. Combining boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai, these workouts will build endurance and cardio strength while improving mobility and flexibility.
With no equipment required, this program gives you everything you need for a stronger, leaner physique.