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Low-Impact Cardio Workout for Beginners

Low-Impact Cardio Workout for Beginners

Whether we are genuinely new to exercise, just getting started again after a long break, recovering from an injury, or switching to a new type of exercise, we all find ourselves at the beginning of a fitness journey at some point. Being a beginner can feel daunting, but it is also an amazing opportunity to learn and grow. With the right plan, you won’t feel like a beginner for long.

Whatever has brought you to the beginning of your fitness journey, you may want to consider making low-impact cardio a major part of your routine. Low-impact cardio workouts are great for just about everyone. Low-impact cardio is an effective way to lose weight, increase and improve strength, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and safely recover from injury. 

Low-impact cardio workouts can include walking, cycling, yoga, ellipticals, and more. Plus, one of the best aspects of low-impact cardio workouts is how fun they can be.  As with anything fitness-related that is new to you, you may want to consult with your physician before you start.  

Why Choose A Low-Impact Cardio Workout?

First, what is a low-impact cardio workout? Low-impact cardio workouts refer to the low-impact on your joints and often the low intensity they require. Don’t let the name fool you, though. Just because they call it low-impact doesn’t mean it will have a low-impact on your health or what you can achieve. 

As with all fitness journeys, it is so important to establish your personal goals, and the beauty of low-impact cardio workouts is that they can help virtually everyone reach their goals. They typically require minimal exertion, and they don’t put a lot of pressure on your joints. This more mild regimen usually allows the workouts to be more fun and rejuvenating. So what can low-impact cardio do for you?

Here are some goals that low-impact cardio can help you achieve:

  • Weight loss: Lower intensity can give you the same results as higher intensity, but at a rate of sustainability regardless of fitness level. Most low-impact cardio builds muscle, which can improve your resting metabolic rate. Weight loss is key to so many fitness goals that sustainable workouts that get results are chief among those sought after in the world of fitness.

  • Improved joint health: Low-impact cardio can actually speed up damaged joints’ healing time. In addition, strengthening the muscles surrounding the joints works to provide more support and decrease pain. This is an important goal for those recovering from an injury and those dealing with joint pain from past injuries, arthritis, and generalized pain around overused joints, such as the knee.

  • Improved strength: Surprisingly, most low-impact cardio workouts are also total-body workouts. Total-body workouts are perfect for increasing strength because you address multiple muscle groups simultaneously, and low-impact cardio is also easier to sustain for longer periods of time, which results in more repetitions. 

  • Improved cardiovascular health: Low-impact cardio doesn’t just work to prevent cardiovascular disease. It also helps to treat it. After a cardiac event, exercise is crucial to recovery, but you have to have a doable exercise to avoid overstraining. 

  • Improved mental health: Exercise and good mental health are made to go together. The sustainability of low-impact cardio across all levels of fitness and expertise makes it one of the most effective long-term exercises at improving mental health. Regular exercise, particularly outdoor exercise, works to release the brain chemicals that soothe the mind, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

It’s easy to see why low-cardio workouts can assist almost anyone with almost any fitness goal. With all these benefits, the next step is discerning what low-impact cardio options are right for you and meet your needs. As with anything, it’s important to know your options before choosing. Below are some examples of some of the most popular low-impact cardio workouts to consider.

5 Low-Impact Cardio Workouts

If you’ve decided that low-impact cardio is right for you. You may not know what is considered low-impact cardio, and you may choose something that is low-intensity and not low-impact. Choosing something high-impact may lead to injury or burnout, so it’s best to have some clear options in your mind. While there’s a whole world of low-impact cardio, there are some popular choices to consider. When it comes to exercise, if it’s popular, there’s usually a good reason.

Here Are 5 Low-Impact Cardio Workouts to Consider: 

  1. Walking: Walking is pretty simple and straightforward to understand. It can be just as effective as its counterpart, running, at preventing cardiovascular disease, and it burns roughly 160-170 calories for most people in a given session. It’s also good for stretching muscles, and it isn’t as tough on joints as running or jogging. It is a popular choice because it requires no equipment, can be done solo or socially, and it is something most people already know how to do.

  2. Swimming: Swimming provides a total-body workout, and the weightlessness of being in the water is a relief to painful joints and injuries. It allows most people to burn closer to 300 calories in a session. It is popular because it is pretty fun, can be done solo or socially, and requires very little equipment, but it does require you to keep a fairly steady pace and, of course, a specific location.

  3. Yoga: Yoga is definitely something to consider for joint pain, and once you understand the moves, there’s not a lot of places that you can’t do yoga. It helps improve core strength, focuses on proper breathing, which oxygenates the body, and by its nature, helps to relax participants. It is popular because of its meditative qualities, and again, it can be done solo or socially with very little equipment required.

  4. Rowing: Rowing is low-impact with high results. Rowing allows you to set the pace and burn a lot of calories, but it doesn’t add stress to your joints and gives you control of your movements. Rowing is popular with its fans because it does yield such good results and is a lot more fun than you might assume at first glance.

  5. Elliptical Trainers: Ellipticals are also low-impact with high results and provide a total body workout. Ellipticals allow you to get the aerobic benefits of activities like running without causing knee pain or joint pain, which is important to people who suffer from arthritis. It is widely popular for its results and the ability to just slip into your zone and go. Gyms have had to add more of these machines over the years to meet the high demand. 

Each form of low-impact cardio offers its own appeal to your individual likes and lifestyle. The important thing as a beginner is to just begin so you can start to benefit from these enjoyable activities and start achieving your goals.

Below is an example of a low-impact cardio workout on an elliptical to give you an idea of how to get started.

Low-Impact Elliptical Workout Example 

  • Warm-up: As in any exercise, the warm-up does just what it says. It warms your muscles up and allows your body to prepare for the meat of the workout. In this workout, perform the warm-up at an easy pace where conversation requires hardly any effort for five minutes.

  • Intervals: During this portion of the workout, your efforts will range from two minutes of hard effort to three minutes of moderate effort. During the two minutes of hard effort, a conversation would require a lot of effort. Don’t let this intimidate you as your body will not experience the high-impact on your joints, and it will just be difficult for these short periods of time. After two minutes of hard effort, you will perform three minutes of moderate effort. Conversation during a moderate effort would require some effort, but it will require considerably less effort than the previous rate. 

  • Repeat: Repeat this two-minute push of hard effort, three-minute recovery of moderate effort cycle for two more rounds. 

  •  Cool Down: You will wrap this routine with five minutes of effort identical to the warm-up. This gives your muscles time to cool down from the exertion of the intervals and prepares your body to wrap the workout session. This is a crucial part of any workout to ensure safety.

  • You will find as you complete this routine that your effort levels will quickly adjust, and you will be doing a similar routine at paces you didn’t think were possible when you began this journey. Try it indoors, or increase your fun by taking it outside for the added benefits associated with outdoor exercise.


    Whatever low-impact cardio option you choose, remember to enjoy it. There are so many health benefits to experience through low-impact cardio, and many other forms of exercise would find it hard to compete with its ease. 

    No matter your age, fitness level, injury status, or goals, there is a form of low-impact cardio that’s perfect for you. Like an old friend, their sustainability and fun will likely lead you to keep incorporating low-impact cardio workouts into your regimen for many years to come. 



    1. Cardio 101: Benefits and tips | Mayo Clinic
    2. For the best health, does the intensity of your workout matter? |
    3. Are elliptical machines better than treadmills for basic aerobic workouts? | Mayo Clinic
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