Low Impact Cardio: 10 Joint-Friendly Exercises

Low Impact Cardio: 10 Joint-Friendly Exercises


Are you constantly sidelined by nagging joint issues, or looking for a workout routine that harmonizes with your desire for long-term, sustainable wellness? You're in the right place. 

Here at iwi life, we're all about promoting sustainable wellness that caters to everyone, particularly those seeking heart-healthy solutions that are as gentle on the joints as they are effective. 

Today, we're diving into a list of 10 joint-friendly low-impact cardio workouts that promise to elevate your heart rate without compromising your physical well-being.

What Constitutes a Low-Impact Exercise?

If you're new to the term "low-impact," let's get you acquainted. Don't mistake "low-impact" for "low-intensity" — you can still work up a good sweat and get your heart pumping without resorting to high-impact cardio like running and jumping.

In fact, some forms of low-impact cardio can be adapted into high-intensity interval training (HIIT) formats. Adding low-impact cardio would allow you to get the best of both worlds: strength training and aerobic exercise.

High-impact exercises involve intense movements that lift both your feet off the ground, as seen in activities like jumping jacks, plyometrics, burpees, and sprints. These exercises can be hard on the joints and are often not recommended for people with certain health issues. 

Low-impact exercises generally keep at least one foot on the ground at all times. You can still get all of the heart health benefits of cardio exercises without damaging your joints or hurting yourself in your process.

Is Low-Impact Cardio Good for All Ages?

If you're in your 20s or 30s and think low-impact is only for "older folks," think again. It’s an excellent way to balance out HIIT workouts, giving your joints a break while still keeping you active.

Now, let's talk about the 40+ age group. As we age, our body’s needs change, and we may find ourselves prone to injuries or joint issues. Low-impact cardio can be a godsend, allowing us to maintain a fitness regimen that is both effective and sustainable.

The flexibility of low-impact cardio is its true selling point. Whether you want a light workout or a more challenging one, you can modify low-impact exercises to meet your needs. The possibilities are endless, and your joints will thank you.

Why Is Low-Impact Cardio Important?

What makes low-impact cardio uniquely essential is its kindness to your joints. Anyone who's dealt with the discomfort of aching joints, back pain, or arthritis knows how debilitating these conditions can be. 

Low-impact cardio opens up a door to wellness for people who thought effective workouts were beyond their reach. You’ll have a lower risk of injury while still experiencing all of the benefits of low-impact cardio.

What Are the Best Joint-Friendly, Low-Impact Cardio Exercises?

Embarking on a fitness journey doesn't mean you have to endure high-impact exercises that are tough on your joints. Low-impact cardio can be just as effective in increasing your heart rate and providing you with a comprehensive workout. 

Below is a curated list of 10 joint-friendly, low-impact cardio exercises that cater to various fitness levels and needs.

1. Walking


Walking isn't just a means of getting from point A to point B; it's a versatile exercise that can be tailored to your fitness level. You can walk anywhere — around your neighborhood, on a hiking trail, on a beach, or even in the mall. No gym membership or fancy equipment is required, and you can up the intensity by incorporating uphill paths or increasing your speed intermittently.

2. Elliptical Training

The elliptical machine is more than just a less impactful alternative to running — it offers a multi-dimensional, full-body workout. Your legs glide on pedals that move in an oval-shaped pattern, mimicking a natural gait. Simultaneously, the handlebars allow for a pushing and pulling motion, engaging your upper body. Most machines come with pre-set programs that simulate hill climbing, interval training, or even fat-burning zones.

3. Stationary Biking

Think of a stationary bike as your traditional outdoor bike but optimized for indoor use. Not only can you cycle regardless of the weather conditions, but modern stationary bikes also come equipped with various resistance levels and workout programs. You can emulate everything from a casual ride in the park to a strenuous mountain climb. Many also have built-in monitors to track your speed, heart rate, and calories burned.

4. Swimming

Swimming is a synchronized coordination of arms, legs, and core muscles working together to propel you forward in a fluid motion. The water acts as a resistance force, making your muscles work harder than they would in the air. Whether you opt for freestyle, breaststroke, or backstroke, each has its nuances and engages different muscle groups.

5. Water Aerobics

Imagine doing jumping jacks, leg lifts, and arm curls in a swimming pool. The water's natural buoyancy reduces the gravitational pull, making you feel lighter and allowing for a greater range of motion. Simultaneously, the water provides resistance in all directions, making the movements more effective yet less jarring on the joints.

6. Rowing

When you sit on a rowing machine, you're not just getting a simple back-and-forth motion. Your legs push off against the footrests while your arms and back pull the handle toward your torso. This multi-joint engagement creates a full-body workout that's more dynamic than it appears, resembling the physical act of rowing a boat through water.

7. Dance Cardio

Whether it's salsa steps, hip-hop moves, or just freestyle grooving, each dance style adds its flavor while ensuring your body goes through a range of motions. The choreography can vary from simple steps to intricate routines, making each session different from the last.

8. Pilates


A pilates session involves more than just lying on a mat and doing a series of movements. It's a methodical series of exercises designed for precise, controlled movements that engage your core and stabilize your spine. The equipment used, such as the Reformer or the Cadillac, further intensifies the exercises by adding resistance and variation.

9. Tai Chi

Tai Chi is often likened to "meditation in motion." However, it’s more than just slow movements and deep breathing. Each posture flows into the next without a pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion. It’s a highly coordinated sequence of movements that require concentration, enhancing not just your physical state but also your mental focus.

10. Yoga

In styles like Vinyasa or power yoga, the poses flow into one another in a sequence that can get your heart rate up. The mat serves as your terrain, and your body moves through a series of postures that can include everything from deep lunges to balance-challenging one-legged stands. Each style of yoga has its unique rhythm, flow, and intensity, offering a wide range of cardiovascular benefits.

How Can You Make Low-Impact Cardio More Effective?

So you're committed to a low-impact cardio routine, but how do you kick it up a notch to achieve those weight loss goals? The answer lies in variety and thoughtful tweaks.

First, let's talk about warm-ups. A good warm-up primes your body for a more effective workout. Consider incorporating easy-to-do exercises like leg swings, arm circles, and waist rotations to get your entire body ready for action — it's all about preparing the muscles you'll be using in your main workout. 

Now, let's talk about adding a few steps to your routine. Lunges, for example, are low-impact and help target your lower body muscles, including your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Adding a few lunges to your low-impact cardio routine can further help exercise these muscles in a safe way. Feel free to throw in a few push-ups every now and then, too, to boost the upper body and core. 

Don't underestimate the potential of dumbbells, too — adding weights to your low-impact workout, be it pilates or water aerobics, can significantly increase calorie burn. Even a light set of dumbbells can add resistance to movements, making your muscles work harder and ensuring a more effective workout.

Can You Still Burn Calories With Low-Impact Cardio?

You might be skeptical, but low-impact cardio can absolutely contribute to weight loss. For instance, walking briskly for an hour can burn upwards of 300 calories, depending on your body weight. 

And remember, low-impact exercises can also fit seamlessly into a HIIT routine if the goal is maximizing calorie burn. Alternating between high-speed elliptical training and slower paces, for example, is a great routine while keeping your feet grounded and your joints safe. 

How Can iwi life Complement Low-Impact Cardio?

Here at iwi life, we're big proponents of holistic wellness, and that includes everything from the foods you eat to the way you move your body. Our algae-derived omega-3 fats, rich in DHA and EPA, contribute to muscle recovery and joint health, making them the perfect ally for anyone engaging in low-impact cardio. Plus, they're sustainably sourced.

The Bottom Line

To sum it up, low-impact cardio is not just an exercise alternative but a lifestyle choice that aligns with sustainable, comprehensive wellness. It is versatile, age-friendly, and can be tailored to fit your unique health goals. Pair it with a nutrient-rich, plant-based diet and iwi life’s joint-supporting omega-3 supplements, and you're well on your way to achieving holistic health.

Ready to take the next step? We invite you to explore our range of omega-3 supplements to find the perfect one for you. Let’s make wellness a way of life!


Is High or Low-Impact Exercise Best? Take this Fitness Test | Today

The (Many) Benefits of a Cardio Workout | Cleveland Clinic

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Warm Up, Cool Down | American Heart Association

How Many Calories Do You Burn Walking for an Hour? | livestrong

The Best Way to Burn More Calories When You Work Out | NBC News

The Major Health Benefits of Lunges and How to Do Them Effectively | Business Insider

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