An easy way to get a better workout without adding stress to your joints or creating a bigger gap between sets is to try low-impact cardio workouts. Doing a cardio workout at a higher intensity will burn more calories and result in greater fat burn, but you are also increasing your risk for injury, and you are putting extra stress on your joints.
Below are my top recommendations for the best low-impact cardio workout for beginners and intermediate exercisers.
The following exercises are an excellent way to improve your cardio health, especially when you are not ready for a full-on cardio workout or training for a specific goal like a marathon.
This is a high-intensity cardio workout with enough high rep intervals to raise your heart rate while not causing too much joint stress. With a challenging cardio workout, you can still perform this workout, regardless of your fitness level and your level of weight loss or gain.
The maximum number of reps per set in this workout is 40, with 60 seconds of high-intensity activity per minute. You should maintain a high heart rate during the entire workout and don’t go above your programmed heart rate for fat burning.
This is a solid high-intensity cardio workout to do while on the bike or stationary bike or not feeling comfortable on the bike on a treadmill.
Cardio workout #2: high-intensity interval jogging
This is another cardio workout that is very similar to the last cardio workout. Jogging at a high intensity can provide more cardio stress than riding a bike.
This will result in a higher heart rate, but you won’t overdo it.
When you are jogging, focus on your form, and lower your heart rate to 120–130 beats per minute, which is lower than when you are riding the bike.
Cardio workout #3: low-intensity interval walking
When jogging, you can’t focus on your form if you are in a higher intensity cardio workout, so a lower intensity workout is better. Walking at a low intensity is still high intensity, but not as much.
You can perform this workout either on the treadmill or on the bike, but remember that your heart rate must be between 85 and 120 beats per minute while maintaining a slow, steady pace for it to be effective.
You will handle lower-intensity cardio exercise if you stay focused on your form and don’t go over your programmed heart rate.
Walking is a good low-intensity cardio workout, as long as you can maintain a slow, steady pace and don’t go over your programmed heart rate.
By walking at a moderate pace, you will burn about 150–200 calories during a 1-hour cardio workout, which is the same amount of calories burned by a 2-mile walk.
Cardio workout #5: low-intensity interval biking
Few activities can provide a cardio workout that is similar to a ride on the bike. The most similar activity to this is riding a stationary bike, but you can also ride a treadmill or even the elliptical.
This is an excellent low-intensity cardio workout, as long as you are familiar with how to ride a bike and don’t do any of the following things:
- Wear a heart rate monitor
- Start too hard and overheat
- Don’t allow your heart rate to get below your programmed heart rate
You should have a heart rate monitor if you want to perform this workout at all because if you don’t, you could be exercising at a higher intensity than you intended and putting unnecessary stress on your joints, muscles, and heart.
Cardio workout #6: low-intensity interval walking
Few activities provide a cardio workout that is similar to a walk. The most similar activity to this is walking, and walking at a slow pace is also an excellent exercise.
You will burn about 200–250 calories during a 1-hour cardio workout by walking, which is the same amount of calories burned by a 2-mile walk.
Cardio workout #7: low-intensity interval walking
This is a low-intensity cardio workout but not as effective as walking. Walking for exercise can burn about 500–700 calories, and by walking at a slow pace, you can burn about 500–700 calories during a 1-hour cardio workout.
This is a great low-intensity cardio workout, but remember to stay focused on your form while exercising and not allow your heart rate to get below your programmed heart rate.
Biking at a low intensity is similar to walking but at a faster pace. A low-intensity cardio workout aims to burn about 200–250 calories during a 1-hour cardio workout, and this is the same amount of calories burned by riding the bike at a moderate pace for 2.5 hours.
When you perform a lower intensity cardio workout, your heart rate will be higher than when you are performing a normal aerobic exercise because your heart will work harder to support the weight of your body while you are exercising.
When you get bored doing a low-intensity cardio workout, it is time to change it up. Do some intervals or sprint intervals, and add some climbing or hill training to mix things up.
Cardio workout #9: high-intensity interval running
Interval training, or interval training, is the fastest-growing segment of the cardiovascular fitness industry. Interval training consists of running or jogging at a low intensity for a specified period of time and then running or jogging at a fast pace for a specified period of time, repeating this cycle for specified periods of time.
The benefits of interval training are amazing, as interval training increases your heart rate, which increases your metabolism, which burns more calories.
While performing an interval training workout, you can include all of the following:
- Sprinting intervals, or sprint intervals
- Sprinting hills, or hill sprint intervals
- Sprinting intervals while climbing stairs, or stairs sprint intervals
An additional benefit to performing interval training workouts is that it makes you more resilient to injury. If you have any weakness in your workout, you can perform intervals to improve your overall cardiovascular fitness.