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Low Impact Cardio Exercises

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Low Impact Cardio Exercises
Friends walking in a park Photo Credit: tyler olson/iStock/Getty Images

Low-impact cardio exercises, which cause less pounding on your joints because your feet don’t leave the exercise surface, or do so only gently, pave the way for you to burn calories and challenge your cardiovascular system. Participate in at least 150 minutes of moderately-intense cardio activities every week to enjoy the health benefits of regular exercise.

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A woman taking a brisk walk
A woman taking a brisk walk Photo Credit: Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images

Walking is one of the most natural forms of exercise. While there is some impact, because your feet must leave and then re-contact the surface you’re walking on, it is slight. While walking may not be intense enough to challenge a very fit individual, a sustained brisk walk will eventually cause most people to break a sweat and breathe hard, which qualifies it as moderate-intensity exercise.

Elliptical Trainer

Women and a man working out on Elliptical trainers
Women and a man working out on Elliptical trainers Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Elliptical trainers produce less impact than walking, because your feet never leave the pedals. Better yet, elliptical trainers let you pedal as fast as you like against the machine’s resistance. You can even break into a full run while still enjoying a low-impact workout. The only real problem with elliptical trainers is finding a machine with a stride length and pattern that suits your body; some elliptical trainers offer adjustable stride lengths to make this easier.

Rowing Machine

Woman on a rowing maching
Woman on a rowing maching Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Rowing is also a low-impact workout, because, again, your feet never leave the foot platform. You control the intensity of your rowing workout by either adjusting a lever on the rowing machine or by adjusting your rowing intensity; the harder you row, the more resistance the machine offers, just as if you were moving an actual oar through water. Rowing offers a much more intense upper-body workout than most other cardio machines.


People taking an indoor cycling class
People taking an indoor cycling class Photo Credit: kzenon/iStock/Getty Images

Cycling comes naturally to most people, so riding a gym bike is a natural low-impact cardio exercise. The downsides of cycling are that it’s not weight-bearing, so it doesn’t help you improve your bone health the way walking or pedaling an elliptical does, and exercise bikes almost never have attachments for working your upper body.

Water Aerobics

A woman swimming in a pool
A woman swimming in a pool Photo Credit: Iñigo Quintanilla Gomez/iStock/Getty Images

Water’s buoyancy can reduce the stress on your weight-bearing joints, bones and muscles by about 90 percent, according to the American Council on Exercise. This makes it the ultimate low-impact exercise. While the reduced impact may make it seem that you’re not working out hard, and might reduce your odds of coming out of the pool with sore muscles, a well-done water workout can be every bit as intense as a land workout.

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