Low-Impact Cardio To Raise Your Heart Rate
Low-impact cardio is great for everyone — whether you work out regularly or you are brand new to working out. Low-impact cardio is much more gentle on your joints than other forms of high-impact cardio (like running, for example). This means low impact exercises are a great form of exercise for those who need to give their joints a rest, but still want to get a workout in.
You can do low-impact cardio at home, in the gym, or outside. If you’re recovering from an injury or unsure about exercising on sore knees or other joints, always make sure to consult your doctor or healthcare professional before doing exercise.
What is low-impact cardio?
Low-impact cardio is a form of exercise that increases your heart rate while minimising the amount of stress or impact you put your joints under. Many typical cardio workouts involve lots of jumping and impact on your joints (think: running or jump squats), whereas low impact exercises avoid this.
Cardio exercise increases your heart rate because your muscles are working harder and require more oxygen, which means breathing faster and deeper to keep up with demand. Low-impact exercise allows you to reap the benefits of cardio without placing stress on your joints.
This shouldn’t be confused with low-intensity exercise. Low-impact cardio workouts can still allow you to break a sweat and elevate your heart rate, just like traditional high-impact cardio. For example a low-impact workout may require one foot to maintain contact with the equipment or ground at all times. This will help reduce the risk of injury, but your heart rate may be no different than it would during high-intensity training.
The benefits of low-impact cardio
Low-impact cardio has numerous benefits, for both your physical and mental health.
Easier on your joints
Low-impact cardio is much more gentle on your joints than higher impact alternatives. This makes it ideal for those with joint injuries or conditions, or when you need a break from high-impact training.
Like all cardio exercise, low-impact cardio can increase the production of endorphins and subsequently improve your mood. While this is often called “runner’s high”, you don’t need to do high-impact cardio to reap the benefits.
Improving your cardio fitness is great for your overall health. Cardio helps improve heart health, which can help protect you against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Keep active on a rest day
Rest days are important for allowing your muscles to recover and for your nervous system to regenerate. A low-impact cardio workout such as walking can be a great way to keep active on a rest day by doing active recovery.
Sustainably build strength and endurance
Low-impact cardio such as yoga or rowing can be a great way to sustainably build muscle without placing extra strain on your joints. Doing low-impact exercises means you’ll be able to elevate your heart rate which will help increase your endurance as well as building muscle over time.
Low-impact cardio workouts
There are many different kinds of low-impact workouts that are considered cardio — even ones you might not have thought of before. Below are some great low-impact cardio workout options that will get your heart rate to assist with improving your cardio fitness.
Walking is a great form of low-intensity, low-impact cardio which is part of all Sweat programs. It's accessible for all fitness levels from beginner to advanced as you can set the pace to the intensity that suits you, and do it almost anywhere you want.
You can up the intensity by taking a more hilly route or speeding up your pace. If you want to make it a social activity, try walking with a workout buddy.
Cycling is a great way to get your heart rate up with virtually no impact on your joints. You can do this with a stationary bike at home or in the gym, or take your bike for a ride outside. You set the pace, so the faster you go or the more hills you climb, the higher your heart rate will get.
Cycling is also an excellent option for adding incidental exercise into your daily routine by using it as a form of transport. You could consider cycling to work instead of driving or taking public transport, or riding to do daily errands or shopping.
Swimming is another option for a low-impact cardio workout. You can do it in a pool, or if you’re lucky enough to live near the ocean, practise your swimming there. Swimming not only gets your heart rate up, but it also helps to strengthen your muscles throughout your entire body.
Ellipticals are stationary exercise machines that are a great form of low-impact exercises because they mimic the movement of running, without the associated impact on your joints. They also offer a full-body workout, as you’re using your arms as well as your legs to keep the machine moving.
Whether you use a rowing machine or an actual boat, rowing is a great form of low-impact cardio. This form of cardio targets your entire body, including your arms, core, and legs.
Rowing offers a really effective low-impact cardio workout and is suitable for all fitness levels, and will help you to build strength and endurance over time.
Depending on the style and pace of the flow, yoga can increase your heart rate with very little strain on your joints. More intense yoga flows, like Vinyasa, are still a low-impact exercise but they can elevate your heart rate and get you sweaty.
Kickstart your workouts with low-impact cardio
If you can’t do high impact cardio, don’t get discouraged. Low-impact cardio is a great way to increase your heart rate with less risk of injuring your joints or worsening existing joint issues.
If you're ready for more joint-friendly training, try Sweat’s new program Low Impact with Kayla Itsines. It includes easy-to-follow low-impact cardio and resistance workouts you can complete in under 30 minutes and can be done at home or in the gym.
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.