You don’t have to push your body too hard to reap the fitness and weight-loss rewards.
By choosing low-impact cardio, you can make use of many fitness benefits while ensuring you keep your body in good condition.
What’s the benefit of low-impact cardio? Low-impact cardio exercise is gentle on the joints as compared to high-impact cardio such as running.
This makes it safer for anyone to do. It also increases your heart rate during exercise, helping you to get a good workout without stress being placed on your joints or the risk of injury.
Is Low-Impact Cardio Considered Low-Intensity Exercise?
It’s easy to assume that low-impact cardio and low-intensity exercise are the same thing, but they’re not.
When you engage in low-impact cardio, you can still get your heart rate up and sweat during the workout in the same way that you would when doing regular high-impact cardio.
You can also build muscle and boost your cardiovascular health. So, you’re certainly not taking it easier by choosing low-impact cardio!
What About Losing Weight With Cardio?
If you want to lose weight and do low-impact cardio, you might wonder if this is possible.
The good news is that it is, but you’ll have to workout for longer periods of time in order to burn more calories.
That said, there are some examples of low-impact cardio exercises that burn a lot of calories without you having to put in huge chunks of time to work out, as we’ll see in the next section.
Best Low-Impact Cardio Exercises To Try
If you’re interested in low-impact cardio, you’ll want to know what exercises will enable you to make the most of it.
Here are some of the best low-impact cardio workouts to add to your fitness routine. They’re also great on rest days when you still want to be active without doing anything too intense that puts pressure on your body.
Swimming is a fantastic low-impact cardio workout to try.
This is because of how the water reduces stress being placed on your joints while the movements you make to move through the water engage your upper- and lower-body muscles, such as your quads, triceps, and shoulders. Your core also gets activated during swimming.
What’s great about swimming is that you can burn a lot of calories while doing it. For example, a person who weighs 155 pounds and swims for 30 minutes can burn around 200 calories.
The next time you head to the gym, try the rowing machine. While you might think rowing is all about putting in lots of effort or that it’s a high-intensity workout, this isn’t true.
You can still benefit from the exercise if you do it at a steady state. Best of all, you can burn between 480 and 700 calories per hour if you ensure your stroke rate is kept at around 150 watts.
Rowing is great at working various muscles in your upper and lower body, such as your glutes, quads, lats, core muscles, and deltoids. It’s also easy on the knees because you don’t have to stand up.
Walking at a brisk pace comes with many benefits, such as a boost to your mood, balance, and coordination, as well as reduced blood pressure.
The great thing about walking as a low-impact cardio workout is that you can do it whenever you want, both indoors and outdoors, and even if you’re short on time.
What’s even better about walking is that you can increase the intensity of your walk without having to put pressure on your joints, such as your knees. For example, you could walk uphill, whether outside or on a treadmill.
You can also burn some calories. Someone weighing 130 pounds who walks for an hour will burn 117 calories when walking at a casual pace and 194 calories at a moderate pace, while uphill walking at just over a moderate pace can burn over 300 calories.
If walking isn’t exciting enough for you, you might want to take up hiking. This is an effective way to boost your low-impact exercise while de-stressing after a busy week because you’ll be able to immerse yourself in nature.
You will use your muscles without realizing that you’re getting a good workout because you’ll have lots to see and hear in your surroundings, which is a bonus.
Even better still, you can lose weight while doing it. A person who weighs 160 pounds can burn around 440 calories per hour of hiking.
It might surprise you to hear that there’s other gym equipment (not just the rowing machine) that can help you engage in low-impact cardio while boosting your fitness.
Move over, treadmill – the elliptical is a fantastic way to enjoy low-impact cardio! That’s because of how it puts much less stress on your legs.
You can also customize it if you want to have a bit more of an intense workout, such as by doing HIIT. As for the calories you can burn while using the elliptical machine, you can expect to torch approximately 175 to 225 calories after just 30 minutes of moderate effort.
If you don’t feel like using fitness equipment to give you some low-impact cardio, you should try getting into a dance class.
Ballroom dancing is fun to do with friends while giving you a good workout and it might even help you to lose weight. If you participate in slower-paced dancing, you can expect to burn around 150 to 220 calories per hour, which is pretty good!
You will also work out various muscles in your body when dancing, such as the hip abductors, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and quads, as well as your upper back muscles.
Whether you take your bike outside or work out in the comfort of a gym or your home, getting on a bike is a great way to enjoy low-impact exercise. This is because even on an intense bike, such as a spin bike, you’re putting less pressure on your joints.
Cycling offers less risk of injury and strains than high-impact cardio workouts, but you just have to make sure you use the correct form and that you take the time before your cycling session to set up your bike so that its seat is at the right height to prevent strain being put on your knees.
Since cycling is a form of low-impact exercise, it’s also great for you if you have a health condition, such as arthritis, or if you’re recovering from a recent injury.
There are different types of bikes you can choose, which also gives you more options to make this workout even less strenuous. For example, a recumbent bike allows you to recline while you work out, which makes it one of the gentlest bikes for your joints.
Cycling is great if you want to burn lots of calories. By spending 45 minutes on your bike, you can burn between 350 to over 600 calories!
While you might not think of Pilates as being low impact or safe enough for your knees, it can be both as long as you do it correctly. It comes with other benefits, too, such as improving your posture, balance, joint mobility, muscle tone, and relieving stress.
To make it even safer for you if you have a painful knee, just make sure that you avoid any Pilates exercises that require you to balance on the leg that’s experiencing pain.
While you will burn more calories during Pilates when you boost your heart rate, you can still burn a decent amount of calories at a lower intensity. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and take a 50-minute class at beginner level, you can burn around 170 calories. A more advanced class will burn around 250 calories.
Quick Low-Impact Cardio Exercises You Can Do At Home
The options for low-impact cardio are endless! When working out at home, here are some quick and easy routines you can try.
Run on the spot
The key when doing this is to ensure your feet hit the ground softly, so you don’t want to do anything too intense.
You want to pace yourself while getting your heart rate up. You can also run and jump in place during this exercise.
While they might seem quite intense, you can do jumping jacks as a low-cardio exercise. Here’s how:
Stand with your arms at your sides, then step out with your right foot to the right. Simultaneously, bring your arms above your head. Ensure you maintain your weight on the right foot, then go back to your starting position.
Step out with your left foot. While keeping your weight on your left foot, step out to the left while you bring your arms above your head. Go back to the starting position.
Repeat the above steps, getting into a good rhythm.
There are also some low-impact squats you can do that combine boxing moves. Here’s how to do them:
Start with your feet placed a bit wider than your shoulders. Keep your arms at your sides.
Squat your body down. Your chest should be up and your butt back, while your knees out.
Stand up and extend your legs, then throw a cross-body punch with each arm.
Squat down again, then stand up, and punch.
Do front kicks and lunges.
Another low-impact cardio exercise you can do at home involves bringing your right knee up and extending your leg so that you kick in front of you, then putting that same leg back into a straight-leg lunge while one of your hands touches the floor.
You should repeat this for one minute before doing it on the other side for the same amount of time.
Tip: You can do a variety of low-impact cardio exercises in the same workout routine, such as those we’ve mentioned above, to maximize their efforts and get your blood pumping. These workouts are also easy to do anywhere you are, without the need for fitness equipment.
Can you do low-impact cardio every day?
A low-impact cardio session of 30 minutes daily is safe enough for most people to do, but if you have a chronic health condition or injury you might have to do a bit less than that. It’s good to listen to your body!
Is jumping rope considered low-impact exercise?
While jumping rope is low impact, you have to ensure that you don’t land on hard surfaces, such as concrete, as that will be tough on your joints and could result in pain or injury.
Does outdoor cycling help you burn more calories than indoor cycling?
Outdoor cycling is said to give you the opportunity to burn more calories than cycling indoors as a result of differences in terrain that increase the resistance. However, cycling in general has high calorie-burning potential.
If you want to add some low-impact cardio to your exercise routine, whether you need to reduce the intensity of your workout or you’re recovering from a knee injury, after reading the article you now know what are some of the best types of low-impact exercises.
We’ve included exercises that you can do indoors, such as at the gym, and outdoors, such as when it comes to getting into nature to add stress relief to your workout.
Billy Hughes is a fitness trainer based out of New York. She has registered success in training clients at multiple fitness centers and thus aims to establish her module relevant to the post-pandemic era. Her space, Cerevellum.com, is an attempt towards encouraging and educating more people on the scope of indoor fitness. She believes the power of fitness can transform attitude, personality, and way of living. She also finds it rewarding to help people achieve their goals and make their lives better.