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.
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 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 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.
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’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.