8 Low-impact Cardio Moves To Add to Your Workout Routine

This no-jump workout will torch calories while improving your total-body strength.

Your body doesn't have to take a beating to get a great cardio workout. Instead, you can always try doing low-impact cardio workouts that are easier on the body.

But that doesn't mean that low-impact cardio workouts are more accessible than rounds of burpees or box jumps. "People often mistake low impact for low intensity, when in fact, it can be just as effective at elevating the heart rate," said Nora Minno, RD, a NASM-certified trainer for DailyBurn.

Here's more on what you need to know about low-impact cardio and some exercises to try.

Benefits of Low-impact Cardio Workouts

If engaging in low-impact cardio exercises is how you start getting active, you're already headed in the right direction to potentially gain some health benefits. In general, any decrease in inactivity can lead to benefits such as lower risks of:

Another plus of low-impact cardio is that it can help reduce injury risk. Every time you do high-impact moves, like jumping or running, your bones absorb a certain amount of force when you land. But with low-impact cardio, you can reduce the amount of shock that your joints take in.

Also, because low-impact cardio is still cardio, it gets your heart pumping. Doing exercises that increase your heart rate can help make your heart stronger.

People who may be new to working out or haven't worked out in a long time may benefit from low-impact cardio exercises. Also, individuals with certain health conditions or statuses (e.g., osteoporosis, pregnancy) may be recommended low-impact cardio workouts to take it easy on their bodies.

Low-Impact Cardio Exercises To Try

Not sure if a move is a high or low-impact move? If it's the latter, you'll always have at least one foot on the ground. There are different low-impact exercises a person can do that will get their heart pumping, including:

  • Walking
  • Muscle-strengthening exercises (e.g., some yoga poses)
  • Tai chi, an activity that features slow movements and controlled breathing

But you can also consider doing some of the following moves. Feel free to do each exercise in order and repeat the whole set one to two more times. And for a challenge, increase the resistance (via dumbbells, resistance bands, etc.) while doing the moves—if it is safe for you to do so based on healthcare provider guidance.

Lateral Lunge to Reach

Strengthens: glutes, abductor muscles, adductor muscles, and hamstrings

To do this exercise:

  • Stand with feet close together and hands by sides.
  • Keeping the chest lifted, take a big step to the side with your left leg.
  • Send your butt back, keeping the right leg straight, and bend your left knee to form a 90-degree angle. Your feet should be facing forward.
  • Reach your right arm to touch the left foot and raise your left arm straight overhead.
  • Push off left foot to return to starting position.
  • Repeat for 22 seconds, then switch sides.

Sumo Squat Touch-Down to Heel Raise

Strengthens: glutes, abductor muscles, adductor muscles, hamstrings, and calves

To do this exercise:

  • Start standing with feet a little wider than shoulder distance apart and toes turned out slightly.
  • Straighten your arms in front of your hips.
  • Keeping chest lifted, core braced, and back straight, bend both knees, send butt back and down, and touch hands to the floor.
  • Press feet into the ground to stand back up, lifting heels off the ground and arms overhead with legs straight.
  • Repeat for 45 seconds.

Plank Walk-out to Push-up

Strengthens: shoulders, arms, core, back, and chest

To do this exercise:

  • Start standing with feet hip-distance apart and hands by your sides.
  • Fold your torso forward to bring hands to the ground, slightly bending the knees.
  • Walk hands forward into a high plank, with shoulders over wrists.
  • Keeping shoulders back and down and tucking pelvis to brace the core, lower chest toward the ground to do a push-up, bending elbows at 45 degrees.
  • Press hands into the ground to push back up into a high plank.
  • Walk hands back toward feet and roll up to standing.
  • Repeat for 45 seconds.

Repeater

Strengthens: hamstrings, quads, and glutes

To do this exercise:

  • Stand with your right foot forward with a slight bend in the knee and your left foot back on a slight diagonal from your right foot on the ground.
  • Lean torso slightly to the right, hinging forward with a straight spine and braced core to align over the right leg.
  • Raise arms overhead.
  • Simultaneously drive the left knee up and bring hands down to touch (parallel to waist), squeezing abs.
  • Bring your left foot back to the ground behind you, straightening your leg, and raising your arms overhead.
  • Repeat for about 22 seconds, then switch sides.

Front Kick to Touch Back

Strengthens: hamstrings and glutes

To do this exercise:

  • Start standing with feet hip-width apart and hold fists by cheekbones in a guard position.
  • Kick your right leg forward straight out in front of you.
  • Place right foot back down and step left foot back in a low lunge while left-hand touches the ground in front of you and right-hand rest on the back.
  • Repeat for about 22 seconds, then switch sides.

Elevator Plank

Strengthens: shoulders, arms, core, and back

To do this exercise:

  • Start in a high plank with shoulders stacked over wrists and legs extended behind you.
  • Tuck pelvis in to brace core and squeeze glutes and quads.
  • Keeping hips lifted and steady, lower right elbow to the ground, followed by your left elbow to get into a forearm plank.
  • Place your right hand on the ground to straighten your elbow, followed by your left hand to get back into a high plank.
  • Keep your core tight to avoid dipping the hips to one side as you lower down into a forearm plank and come back up into a high plank.
  • Repeat for 45 seconds.

Russian Twist With Punch

Strengthens: abs, obliques, arms, and shoulders

To do this exercise:

  • Sit on the ground with knees bent and feet flat.
  • Lean your torso back about 45 degrees or until you feel abs engaged, then lift your feet off the ground.
  • Without moving your legs, rotate the torso to the right, then punch your left arm to the right.
  • Return to center and rotate torso to the left, then punch right arm to the left.
  • Continue alternating for 45 seconds.

Skier

Strengthens: hamstrings, calves, quads, shoulders, and lats

To do this exercise:

  • Stand with feet together and come up to balls of feet with heels off the ground and arms overhead.
  • Squeeze fists to create tension in the arms and shoulders.
  • Push hips back, bend knees, and hinging your torso forward until it's almost parallel to the ground, keeping the spine straight and bringing heels to the ground.
  • At the same time, swing your arms down and behind you.
  • Then, thrust your hips forward and swing your arms overhead, coming back to your toes.
  • Repeat for 45 seconds.

A Quick Review

Low-impact cardio is a great way to strengthen your heart and get moving—without having to work your body too hard. Exercises and moves that fall under low-impact cardio, like walking, skiers, and repeaters, can help you start being active or get back to an active lifestyle. However, they're also good for people who want or need light exercise.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical activity guidelines for Americans: 2nd edition. 2018.

  2. American Heart Association. American Heart Association recommendations for physical activity in adults and kids.

  3. Szumilewicz A, Dornowski M, Piernicka M, et al. High-low impact exercise program including pelvic floor muscle exercises improves pelvic floor muscle function in healthy pregnant women – a randomized control trialFront Physiol. 2019;9:1867. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.01867

  4. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Tai chi: what you need to know.

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