Low Impact Cardio Exercises

1
Front Kick Plank

Front Kick Plank
Front Kick Plank. Paige Waehner

If you're looking for a low impact, whole body move that gets your heart rate up, the front kick with planks is a great choice. You work on balance and core strength while raising your heart rate without straining the joints. This exercise requires quite a bit of balance, so take your time and hold onto a chair or wall for balance if needed.

  1. Begin with feet together and the arms up in a defensive position.
  2. Bring the right knee up and kick the leg out, avoiding hyperextension of the knee.
  3. Balancing on the left leg, bring the right leg back behind you, hands to the floor in a runner's stretch.
  4. Bring the left foot next to the right into a plank, holding briefly.
  5. Step the left foot forward into a runner's lunge, stand up and again kick with the right leg, continuing with your front kick planks on the same leg.
  6. Repeat the series on the other side, repeating for 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps.

2
Sit and Stand

Sit and Stand. Paige Waehner

This exercise may not look like much, but it's actually a great way to get the heart rate up without impact. This low impact move takes you down to a step or platform and then back up again, for a whole body exercise with a focus on cardio.

  1. Stand in front of a step or platform and sit down, placing your hands next to the hips.
  2. Lean back as you extend the legs out in front of you.
  3. Bring the feet back in and stand up, using your hands to help you up if needed.
  4. Add intensity by taking the hands away and/or adding a jump at the end of the movement.
  5. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.

3
Side to Side Lunge with Punches

Paige Waehner

Nothing gets the heart rate up more than kickboxing and this lunge-punch combo is the perfect high intensity, low impact exercise. 

  1. Begin facing forward and pivot to the right, stepping the left foot straight back as you bend the front knee into a lunge.
  2. At the same time, punch the left arm straight out, but avoid hyperextending the elbow.
  3. Step back to the middle and turn to the left, taking the right leg back and the right arm forward in a punch.
  4. Continue alternating sides, moving as quickly as you can to get the heart rate up.
  5. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.
  6. To make the move harder, lunge deeper and really use the upper body.  You can also add a jump in the middle of you prefer more impact.

4
Wide Side Steps - Puddlejumpers

Paige Waehner

Wide side steps (aka, Puddlejumpers) are one of my favorite cardio exercises if you want low impact, but high intensity.  It's a simple move - taking big, wide steps from side to side (like you're jumping over a puddle), but you're in charge of the intensity.  Go fast and add big arm movements to crank up the heart rate.

  1. Push off the right foot as you step out with the left foot as wide as you can (as though you're trying to avoid a puddle), taking the arms wide.
  2. Land on the left foot, touch the right foot to the floor and now push off the left foot to take a wide step in the other direction.
  3. Make this a dynamic exercise, rather than just a plain old step touch.  Push off each time (without jumping - unless you want to) and make the arm movements big to increase the heart rate.
  4. Increase your speed for even more intensity and see how wide you can step without jumping.
  5. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.

5
Low Impact Jumping Jacks

Paige Waehner

If you can't do traditional jumping jacks, don't worry.  These low impact jumping jacks are perfect for getting the heart rate up without having to jump up and down.

  1. Step the right foot out to the side as you swing the right arm up and overhead, reaching as high as you can.
  2. Step the foot back in and then step to the other side with the left foot, swinging the left arm overhead.
  3. Continue alternating sides, moving as quickly as you can, without jumping, and swinging the arms to increase the heart rate. 
  4. To make it harder, deepen the lunge, speed it up and add more arm movement.
  5. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.

6
Low Impact Jumping Jacks Rainbow arms

Paige Waehner

If you're looking for low impact, high intensity, take your low impact jumping jacks to the next level by adding bigger, stronger arms.  In this version you're circling both arms overhead as you lunge from side to side to really get your heart rate up.

  1. Step the right foot out to the side as take both arms straight up.
  2. Step the foot back in and then step to the other side with the left foot, circling the arms overhead and then bringing them down as you lunge to the other side.
  3. Continue alternating sides, moving as quickly as you can, without jumping, and circling the arms, almost like you're making a rainbow.
  4. To make it harder, deepen the lunge, speed it up and add more arm movement.
  5. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.

7
Straight Leg Kicks for Cardio

Paige Waehner

Straight leg kicks may not seem like much of an exercise but, once you try them, you'll see that they really get your heart rate up while challenging your flexibility and your balance.  The key is to keep the torso upright the entire time and try bringing the leg as high as you can.  Making the arms big will also add intensity and, if you want more, try jumping from side to side as you lift the legs.

  1. Begin with feet together, both hands straight out to the sides.
  2. Lift the right leg, keeping a slight bend in the knee if you need to, to hip level or higher.
  3. At the same time circle the right arm around and down, as though you're trying to touch the right toe (you probably won't...that's okay).
  4. Lower and now lift the left leg to hip level, touching the toe with the right hand.
  5. Continue, going as fast as you can, adding a jump for more intensity if desired.
  6. Complete 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

8
Side to Side Lunge with Band Chest Presses

Paige Waehner

Adding resistance band chest presses to side to side lunges can raise the heart rate while working the upper body at the same time.  Adjust the tension as needed to get more or less work in the chest, shoulders and arms.

  1. Wrap a resistance band or tube around the upper back, bringing it under the arm pits and holding onto each side.
  2. Begin facing forward and turn to the right, stepping the left foot straight back as you bend the front knee into a lunge.
  3. At the same time, punch the left arm up at a diagonal.
  4. Step back to the middle and turn to the left, taking the right leg back and the right arm up in a punch.
  5. Continue alternating sides, either moving quickly to get the heart rate up or moving slowly and deepening the lunge to target more glutes and thighs..
  6. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.
  7. To make the move harder add a jump in the middle.

Continue Reading