Low impact cardiovascular exercise increases the heart rate for a substantial period of time without the impact of more vigorous exercise, which may do more harm than good for those not accustomed to it. Low impact cardio exercises are designed for people who either cannot do more intense exercises or those who are just beginning an exercise routine. Don’t let the phrase “low impact” fool you, you can still lose weight and burn calories with a low impact cardio workout.

Reasons to Choose Low Impact Cardio Exercises


High intensity workout routines certainly have their place. Yet, low impact workouts focusing on the cardiovascular system can be just as beneficial. The target heart rate range for burning enough calories to lose weight is from 65 to 85% of your maximum heart rate. This means you are burning enough calories to lose weight, as long as you don’t consume more calories than you burn. High intensity workouts just aren’t an option for some people. Reasons to opt for low impact cardio exercises include:

  • New to exercise
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic issues such as arthritis
  • Recovering from surgery or dealing with an ongoing medical situation
  • Joint and bone issues

You can still get the same benefits with low impact cardio exercises. A little more effort is required to make up the difference, but the trade-off allows you to exercise without the risks associated with high impact exercises, especially if you’re not used to an intense workout. In fact, jumping into a high impact workout without any real previous experience with such an exercise routine could be dangerous. Low impact cardio reduces risks and retains the benefits of exercise.

Low Impact Cardio Exercises

There are several options when it comes to low impact cardio. Like any type of exercise, you can stop any time you feel any pain or discomfort. Exercises can be targeted to just about any age range or skill level. Low impact cardio exercises include:

Walking – You need to walk at a brisk pace to get your heart rate up to the level needed to do you any good. If you’re just starting, set a specific distance to walk each day while maintaining the same pace. Once you master that, add short bursts of speed and take on obstacles such as hills and steep streets. A treadmill is suitable substitute when it’s too hot or rainy. Use your arms, whether you are swinging them at your side or holding weights. This slightly increases the impact.

Stair Climbing – Stair climbing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while getting in a solid low impact workout. If you’re just getting started, take a few climbs up and down. You don’t want to push yourself too hard to start. You’ll find similar devices at the gym that will give you the same impact. In a pinch, you can use your steps at home. Get into the habit of moving your arms as you climb and descend the stairs. If you need to hold on to the rail, that’s fine. You can move your free arm in a steady rhythm as you work your way up and down the stairs. Stair climbing is a good way to get warmed up before your workout.

Hiking – You can find plenty of hiking trails, often nestled in very picturesque locations. Trails are often marked by degree of difficulty. If you’re just starting out, you’ll find plenty of hills that aren’t too challenging. You can always work your way up to more vigorous hikes as your skill level and endurance increases. Throw in a backpack and you’re burning some more calories. The great thing about hiking is that you can take a rest anytime and enjoy an amazing view and fresh air at the same time.

Step Aerobics – If you prefer choreographed exercises, step aerobics is a great low impact choice. You use your arms and legs to increase the intensity of the workout. You can do this as part of a class or use a DVD to get the music and instruction you need. You can also do it on your own, but this tends to be a better exercise to do with a friend or as part of a group. You can increase the intensity as you get used to the routine or even change up the routine with different music and steps.

The key to exercise is to continue to find motivation. If walking is the only form of low impact cardio you do, for example, consider mixing it up with stair climbing or step aerobics on alternating days to keep things interesting. If you get bored, you won’t stick with it. Swimming, skating and jogging are other forms of low-impact cardio that will produce similar results. Sticking with any form of exercise is about finding a routine that fits you and keeps you motivated.

Bio: Tom Demers writes for Assisted Living Today, a leading source of information on senior care, allowing you to find assisted living locations by city and state.