Trainers want you to try these low-impact cardio workouts

Low-impact cardio is having a moment right now, thanks to the rise in popularity of workouts designed to be gentler on the joints. The best low-impact cardio exercises help you get a good workout without aggravating existing injuries or sore spots on your body. If they are attractive to you, even better.

It’s important to note that low-impact exercise doesn’t mean you don’t push yourself. Health experts swear you can still improve your fitness without running or jumping.

Meet the experts: Tony Gentilcore, CSCS, co-owner of Core Collective located in Brookline, MA; Trainer certified by the NSCA Alfonso Moretti; Andy Fata-Chan, DPT, a physical therapist based in New York and coach at Moment Physical Therapy & Performance

Here’s what you need to know about low-impact cardio, plus a few exercises to try.

What is Low Impact Cardio?

There are a few things that classify a workout as low impact. The first thing to consider is how far your leg travels from the floor, says Andy Fata-Chan, DPT, a physical therapist and trainer at Moment Physical Therapy & Performance in New York. Low-impact forms of cardio typically have little or no grounding.

Speed ​​is also a factor. You don’t necessarily use your legs more when running compared to walking, but the speed increases, which makes the exercise more impactful, says Fata-Chan.

Ultimately, low-impact cardio is defined as low stress on the joints, says NSCA-certified trainer Alfonso Moretti.

Health benefits of low impact cardio

There are many health benefits to consider when it comes to low-impact cardio. For starters, there’s a lower barrier to entry, says Tony Gentilcore, CSCS, co-owner of Brookline, MA-based Core Collective. But there are even more advantages to consider.

  • There is a lower risk of injury. Compared to high-impact exercises, you’re simply hitting the floor less with low-impact cardio. This reduces the chances of you getting injured when you exercise. Exercise is very safe and injury rates aren’t high to begin with, but low-impact cardio further reduces that risk by removing the forces your body has to endure over time, Fata-Chan says. You can even increase the intensity in most cases without increasing the amount of impact you have to endure.
  • You can tolerate more training. If you’re trying to improve your heart health, one of the biggest factors is total training volume, says Fata-Chan. The benefit of low-impact cardio is that your body can tolerate higher training volumes without putting too much strain on the body. So, depending on how hard you push yourself, you may be able to cycle and swim for longer than you would if you were doing a high-impact workout like running.
  • It is suitable for all levels. High-impact cardio isn’t bad, but the body has to be able to handle that level of pressure, says Fata-Chan. Previous experience with strength and mobility training can help reduce the risk of injury, he says. But low-impact cardio takes that risk out of the equation and is a great entry point for anyone starting out with aerobic exercise, says Fata-Chan. That doesn’t mean you can’t get in a great workout, though: low impact isn’t the same as low intensity.

The best low-impact cardio workouts

There is a wide range of workouts that can be classified as low impact. Each of them has the ability to be more or less challenging, depending on what you’re looking for.

1. Walk

Walking seems basic, but it’s been gaining traction as a form of exercise over the past few years. Rebel Wilson said she relied on walking to lose weight during her Year of Health, and Peloton now has walking routines on its app. Walking is the most accessible form of low-impact cardio, says Fata-Chan. This can be a great starting point, especially for people just starting out. He recommends aiming for 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day, which has been shown to have benefits from a lower risk of early death to improved mental health. To make your walking workout more challenging, try doing things like increasing your pace, adding more distance, or increasing the incline during your treadmill workouts.

2. Swimming

When you swim, the water supports your weight and relieves pressure on your joints. It’s also a form of exercise that makes it easier for you to regulate your body temperature because of the cooling effects of being in the water, says Fata-Chan. This can make longer workouts feel more comfortable, especially during the hottest days of the year. Challenge yourself by increasing the number of laps you do as you go, along with speed intervals.

3. Cycling

Cycling can help improve heart health while improving blood flow and lower-body mobility, says Fata-Chan. You can also increase the intensity of your speed along with the resistance to make the workouts harder and stimulate muscle growth.

4. The elliptical

Using an elliptical machine, along with similar low-impact workouts, is great because they challenge and work the muscular and cardiorespiratory systems at the same time, Moretti says. You can increase muscle strength and mass while improving heart health and doing it without impacting your joints. Consider increasing the resistance of the machines, your speed, and the amount of time you exercise to improve your fitness level over time.

5. Rowing

Rowing is one of the most efficient forms of cardio because it uses about 85 percent of your body’s muscles, says Fata-Chan. It’s very easy to change the resistance and intensity, making it safe for all fitness levels. Row intervals with bursts of speed or do longer resistance sessions for harder workouts.

6. Yoga

There’s a lot to love about yoga, including the fact that it can help with your posture, muscle tone, and stress levels. It’s also an easy practice to pick up: If you don’t want to pay for a class, you can stream something online or use an app.

7. Pilates

Pilates has a reputation for being a tough workout and is also low impact. This form of exercise is a full-body workout that improves muscle tone, flexibility and strength, according to the Cleveland Clinic. You can always challenge yourself more in Pilates by doing extra reps or holding poses for longer periods of time.

8. Climb stairs

Stair climbing is an aerobic exercise that can seriously knock you out. Try doing intervals, increasing your speed and spending more time climbing to challenge yourself. You can also do it on a machine at the gym.

9. Training circuit

Circuit training can be a great way to prevent overuse injuries by combining a variety of different movements, says Fata-Chan. This can be done with a combination of bodyweight movements, cardio equipment and more. Try doing things like 30 seconds of plank followed by 30 seconds of floor slides and a minute of stair climbing. It will raise your heart rate quickly. There’s an unlimited amount of customization to make it work for you, says Fata-Chan.

10. Ropes of battle

Battle ropes can also get your heart rate up quickly and don’t require any lower body hitting. Use them in interval training sessions, trying different arm movements to target new areas.

Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, health and sex, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Mens Health, Womens Health, Self, Glamor and more. He has a master’s degree from American University, lives on the beach and hopes to own a teacup pig and a taco truck one day.

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