4 Low-Impact Cardio Workouts That Are Easy on Your Joints

Bri Hand
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Whether you’re a workout beginner or a full-on fitness enthusiast, low-impact workouts are worthwhile to incorporate into a workout routine.

These workouts are gentler on the body, allowing you to build strength, stability, and flexibility with less strain. Low-impact workouts are known for being perfect for recovery days, people with mobility limitations, or any athlete looking for a break from intense, high-impact exercise.

Looking to learn more about incorporating low-impact cardio exercises into your workout routine? This low-impact cardio guide covers all the basics, including what low-impact workouts are, the benefits of incorporating them into your fitness routine, and our four recommendations for the best low-impact cardio workouts. 

Let’s dive in!

What is a low-impact workout?

A low-impact workout is a type of exercise routine that minimizes stress on the body while still providing an effective workout. 

High-impact exercises like running and jumping involve forceful actions that cause strain on the body. Low-impact workouts, on the other hand, involve less strain and are much more gentle, making them suitable for individuals with joint issues or injuries or those just seeking a less strenuous workout. These exercises are designed to be accessible to people of all fitness levels and ages, making them ideal for anyone.

Low-impact workouts typically include walking, swimming, cycling, rowing, and low-impact aerobics. These exercises involve continuous, rhythmic movements that typically keep your feet on the ground, reducing bodily impact and risk of injury. 

The benefits of low-impact cardio workouts

Why should you try a low-impact cardio workout? Let’s explore some of the key benefits:

Lower risk of injury

One of the biggest benefits of a low-impact cardio workout is the reduced risk of injury compared to more intense and strenuous exercises. 

As low-impact workouts lead to less stress on the joints, bones and muscles, the likelihood of injury is also greatly reduced. This makes these exercises an ideal choice for beginners, those recovering from injury, and even experienced fitness enthusiasts looking for more safe, lower-intensity workout options in their routine.

Improve stability and balance

Many low-impact workouts focus on improving one's stability and balance, elements of fitness that are crucial in maintaining physical fitness at any age. 

Low-impact workouts such as yoga, water exercises, and rowing-based workouts encourage participants to engage their core muscles. This can improve overall balance and stability, aiding individuals in other areas throughout their fitness journey. 

Build strength

Despite their gentle nature, low-impact workouts are still an effective way to build strength. Less strain on joints does not equate to less muscle engagement. For example, rowing is a great way to build muscle.  

This is one of the reasons why so many fitness enthusiasts like low-impact exercises like rowing — it’s a great way to work on your gains without overburdening the body. 

Improve mood

Another great benefit to low-impact cardio workouts is the ways they can work to positively impact one's mental health and overall mood.

According to The Harvard Gazette, any type of moderate exercise, including low-impact cardio workouts, has been proven to help improve symptoms like anxiety and depression. 

Plus, low-impact workouts like yoga are often accompanied by meditative elements, promoting mindfulness, relaxation of the body, and stress reduction. In this way, exercise can greatly help improve both physical health and your emotional well-being.

Low-impact cardio workouts: Our recommendations 

If you’re ready to explore low-impact cardio workouts, look no further. Below we will dive into our top recommendations for the most effective low-impact workouts, including: 

  1. Rowing machines

  2. Aquatic exercises

  3. Yoga

  4. Elliptical machines

Let’s dig in more: 

1. Rowing machines

If you’re looking for a fantastic full-body cardio workout that is surprisingly low-impact, a rowing machine workout is what you have been looking for. These machines offer a great workout that is both low-impact and full-body, loved by everyone from professional rowing athletes to average gym users.

How do they work? An indoor rower simulates the motions of rowing a boat all from the comfort of the indoors. Users sit on the machine seat while holding the handle, engaging their legs to drive in a smooth gliding motion to simulate the feel of rowing on water. 

While this exercise engages multiple muscle groups and is great for cardiovascular fitness, it has a surprisingly low impact on joints. This makes the rowing machine ideal fitness equipment for those with joint issues or those recovering from injury. 

We highly recommend them to individuals looking to get the most out of a low-impact workout routine.

2. Aquatic exercises

Aquatic exercises are another great option for a low-impact workout.

The buoyancy of water significantly reduces the impact on joints during movement, making it an excellent choice for individuals with arthritis or joint pain. Constant movement in the water can get the heart pumping, improving cardiovascular health. Water also provides natural resistance during your exercise, helping tone muscles and improve endurance while still being gentle. 

If you are interested in aquatic exercise, there are a number of enjoyable and effective aquatic exercises to try. Water walking, aqua aerobics, swimming, and water-based yoga are all great low-impact workouts.

3. Yoga

Yoga is a very versatile low-impact workout, with the benefit of focusing on both the body and mind. 

Yoga can increase flexibility and strength through a series of gentle poses, stretches, and breathing exercises. The slow and controlled movements are a great workout and have a reduced risk of injury due to the nature of the exercise.

Besides the physical health benefits, yoga's meditative nature can help reduce stress and improve your overall mental well-being. There are many different styles of yoga to suit different preferences and fitness goals, making it an accessible workout option that caters to a wide range of individuals.

Want to try yoga? See our beginner-friendly routine from the team at Hydrow: 

4. Elliptical machines 

Elliptical machines are another low-impact piece of equipment that provides users an effective full-body workout. 

These work by simulating movements similar to walking and running. However, unlike running on hard ground, the elliptical's smooth, fluid motion minimizes stress on the joints while in use while still engaging both the upper and lower body. 

This makes ellipticals a great option for individuals with joint pain, arthritis, or those recovering from injuries. They can also be used in varying resistance levels and incline options, allowing users to tailor their workout to their fitness needs.

Try low-impact cardio exercise with Hydrow’s rowing machines

If you want to make low-impact workouts a part of your fitness routine, we highly recommend a rowing machine like Hydrow. Indoor rowers offer an immersive and efficient total-body workout, targeting 86% of your muscle groups in each rowing stroke. And, because rowing is both a cardio and strength workout, all you need is just 20 minutes to torch calories and build strength. 

Hydrow rowing machines also come with an extensive library of workout content led by our team of world-class Athletes and filmed in gorgeous locations around the world. Our rowing, yoga, Pilates, and circuit training workouts will transport you to stunning global destinations and keep you motivated to come back again and again. 

Learn more about the benefits of rowing and a Hydrow rowing machine today! 

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Hydrow's Content Marketing Manager and enjoys writing, singing, kayaking, and Zumba!