Cardio exercise is one of the best forms of exercise for your heart, but this type of exercise can be difficult for your bones and joints.
And that’s when low-impact cardio makes a great alternative.
Related: Learn How to Take Care of Your Heart
What do we mean by “low-impact”? Low-impact cardio is exercise that gets your blood pumping, but significantly saves your joints, bones, and tendons from hard-hitting stress caused by running (feet pounding the pavement), weight lifting (which puts your elbows and shoulders under stress), or other activities that might cause strain on your joints.
Cardiovascular exercise is an important part of maintaining heart health, strengthening your heart, and managing stress. However, it can cause more harm than good for some individuals.
When you feel as though regular cardio exercise isn’t an option for you because of bone, joint, or tendon injuries, that’s when things get frustrating.
If you already have joint problems, it’s discouraging to think that working out for your heart health could harm another part of your health. But there are solutions you can look for.
Here are a few suggestions for great low-impact workouts that will help you stay in shape, without sacrificing your cartilage.
Why it’s Low-Impact: Whether you’re swimming laps or doing water aerobics, water provides cushion and a sort of weightlessness for your body, while significantly reducing any pressure on impact.
Why It’s A Great Workout: While water cushions you, it also provides natural resistance and will help you get your heart pumping.
It goes without saying that it’s much more difficult to move your body through water, than it is through air.
And, because of the weightlessness, you have to work harder to keep your balance. Consequently, you often end up using more muscle groups when you do workouts in water than you would doing corresponding activities.
Try: Warm up by treading water for 2 minutes. Then, swim four 50-meter laps (If in Olympic-sized pool) alternating intensity or strokes every other lap.
Repeat 3 times, and cool down with 2 slow laps and 1 minute of treading water.
Why It’s Low-Impact: Biking is considered low-impact because you’re using additional leverage to transport your body, but that leverage doesn’t require heavy-hitting movements.
Why It’s A Great Workout: Not only is biking an energy-efficient way to get around and explore new places, it provides an amazing full-body workout.
You’re never just using your legs on a bike — you’re maintaining balance and stability with your arms and core.
Try: Using a stationary bike, or a real bike, try biking for 30 minutes a day. During your ride, mix in 1-minute bursts of speed with 2-minutes of moderately-paced pedaling.
Why It’s Low-Impact: Pilates is a form of exercise that combines strength training, balance, and stretching.
The creator of Pilates specifically designed the workout regimen to alleviate joint, back and neck pain, and increase strength and mobility in the problem areas typically affected by high-impact workouts.
Why It’s A Great Workout: Pilates is about using your own body weight to achieve better balance, limber muscles and joints, all while strengthening everything from head to toe through complex movements that challenge under-worked muscle groups.
Why It’s Low-Impact: Walking requires a more relaxed movement than running, but still allows room for high intensity and fat-burning opportunities.
Why It’s A Great Workout: Much like biking, walking is a low-impact way of getting around, and can easily be used to multi-task, for those of you who feel short on time.
Walk your dog, make phone calls, or head to the grocery store while walking.
If you’re conscious about hitting the hills and speeding up your pace every couple of minutes, walking can also burn some serious calories.
Try: 3 minutes fast-pace walking alternating with 2 minutes moderate pace walking for 45 minutes. For an extra challenge, add hand or ankle weights.
Exercising can cut your risk of heart disease in half. If you’re unable to perform traditional cardiovascular exercise, low-impact cardio makes a great option.