A Low-Impact Cardio Workout for Older Adults That’s Easy on the Joints

This low-impact cardio workout is easy on your joints but will get your heart rate up.
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Getting older doesn't mean you should be moving less. While physical activity might be more difficult with age-related arthritis and other health issues, you can keep your muscles and joints healthy by sticking to low-impact cardio workouts.

Low-impact workouts provide many of the same benefits as high-impact workouts, but without all the rattling and shaking of your bones, Holly Roser, a certified personal trainer in San Francisco who works with older adults, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

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"Low-impact exercise improves your strength, decreases your blood pressure and is easier on your joints," she says. "They also build your aerobic capacity, and you can still elevate your heart rate to a safe and effective heart rate zone to burn calories while also improving cardiovascular function."

To help you get started, Roser created this low-impact cardio workout for seniors. It's the perfect blend of endurance and strength training all wrapped up into one simple, effective circuit workout.

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A Low-Impact Cardio Workout for Seniors

This low-impact workout follows an interval AMRAP (as many reps as possible) format. It includes four low-impact cardio movements, and you'll perform each movement for 2 minutes followed by 1 minute of rest. Then, you'll start the next movement. You'll do this for a total of 2 rounds, which brings the workout to 24 minutes — perfect for a quick pick-me-up.

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Do 2 rounds of:

  • Squat to toe tap
  • Rest 1 minute
  • Lunge with overhead reach
  • Rest 1 minute
  • Side step
  • Rest 1 minute
  • Marching in place
  • Rest 1 minute

Move 1: Squat to Toe Tap

Time 2 Min
Body Part Butt
  1. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Push your hips back and lower your butt down as if you're going to sit on a chair. Avoid caving your knees toward your midline.
  3. Once you reach your full depth, drive through your heels to stand back up. Make sure you’re stable and your hips are fully extended.
  4. Then, tap your right foot in front of you, followed by your left foot.
  5. Return both feet back to a hip-width distance. This is one rep.
  6. Repeat for 2 minutes.

Tip

This move strengthens your legs, glutes and core while promoting improved balance and coordination. It’s the perfect storm for senior exercisers, who need to focus on maintaining those skills as they get older. Only squat as deep as you can with good form. While it’s always good to work on improving your mobility, it’s important to respect your current range of motion to avoid injuries.

Move 2: Lunge With Overhead Reach

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Time 2 Min
Region Full Body
  1. Start by stepping your left foot back into a lunge, bending your leg to 90 degrees and lowering your knee toward the ground as far as it can comfortably go.
  2. Drive through your left leg to bring it back to the center and stand up fully.
  3. Once you're in the standing position, reach your arms overhead, clasping your hands together at the top, and extend your shoulders and elbows as high as they can go.
  4. Repeat with your right leg.
  5. Alternate legs for 2 minutes.

Tip

This exercise works your whole body, especially your quads and glutes, with an emphasis on overhead shoulder mobility. Like with squats, respect your range of motion when doing a lunge. Only lunge as far as you can without feeling discomfort in your knees or hips. You can also hold onto something to help with balance.

Move 3: Side Step

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Time 2 Min
Region Lower Body
  1. Start with your feet hip-width apart and facing forward.
  2. Hinge at the hips and bend your knees slightly.
  3. Take 10 steps to the right and 10 steps to the left.
  4. Repeat for 2 minutes.

Tip

This move is excellent for strengthening your hips and glute medius. Keep your eyes forward and your chest high. Looking around or letting your torso fall during this exercise could lead to falling. Add a mini resistance band around your knees to make this exercise more challenging.

Move 4: Marching in Place

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Time 2 Min
Region Lower Body
  1. March in place, bringing your knees to hip height if you can.
  2. While you're doing this, add an extra challenge by trying to punch: Make a fist and punch right, left, right, left, in sync with your feet.

Tip

This simple movement builds strength in the core and hip flexors while training your balance and coordination skills. Do this exercise slowly. You’ll be doing this move for 2 minutes straight, so there’s no need to rush through it. Focus on the quality of reps, not quantity.

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