Best Low Impact Cardio for Non-Runners

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Cardio is essential to maintaining a healthy heart. Having a regular cardio regime can help lower blood pressure, improve lung capacity, strengthen your muscles and joints, and much more.

When you think of cardio exercises, your first thought is probably running. Running is the most common cardio exercise that people do to improve their cardiovascular health. Although running is a great way to exercise, it may not be suitable for everyone.

For people who have weakened joints or injuries, running could make your situation worse rather than help you. Finding other forms of cardio exercise that are less harmful to your joints is the way to go. But if running helps strengthen muscles and joints, how can it be harmful at the same time?

How Running Can Be Damaging to Your Joints

Running is considered a high-impact activity. When you run, you are hitting the ground with all your weight on one leg at a time. This motion can be harmful because the force of your foot hitting the ground travels up your leg and is absorbed by your hips, knees, and ankles.

The last thing you want to do is further damage your joints and make yourself less mobile. However, it’s also not a good idea to throw out cardio altogether. Finding activities that have a low impact on your joints and raise your heart rate at the same time is a sweet compromise.

Casual Activities that are Great Cardio Exercises

Not everyone has access to a gym or gym equipment, so finding ways to work out that do not require these things can be very helpful. There are tons of regular daily activities that can be great for cardio. Any physical activity that gets your heart pumping can be considered a cardio exercise.


Swimming is one of the most recommended activities for people looking for a low-impact cardio workout. Swimming is excellent on your joints because you weigh significantly less in water, meaning less strain on your joints.

Simply swimming laps will increase your heart rate and put your whole body to work. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about sweat either!

Bike Riding

Cycling is another great way to get a cardio workout and have fun. The fantastic thing about cycling is how many different options there are. You can use a stationary bike indoors if the weather outside is dodgy. Or you can enjoy some fresh air cycling outside on a sunny day.

Riding a bike has a much lower impact on your joints than running does. The smooth continuous pedaling motion does not require any harsh weight shifts. Not to mention, cycling is a low-cost transportation alternative to driving a car.

Walking/ Speed Walking

Walking can be one of the easiest cardio exercises you can do. You can get a workout while you walk your dog. Or you can enjoy nature while hiking on a trail. If you feel walking is not enough of a workout for you, consider speed walking.

You might be thinking, isn’t waking just a slower version of running? Technically, walking is different from running because walking requires that one foot is on the ground at all times. This makes walking less impactful on your joints than running.


Dancing is such a fun way to get your heart rate going, work up a sweat, and move along to your favorite music. If you are not a natural dancer, try following a dance video workout or joining a dance gym class. Dancing with a partner can be a great excuse for some quality time together.

Yard Work/ Chores

Sometimes doing work around the house makes you work up a sweat. If you don’t have enough time for a designated workout routine, consider making your chore time into your workout time. Mowing the lawn, raking leaves, and chopping wood are 3 outdoor chores that can make for a great low-impact cardio workout.


Yoga is a form of exercise that helps improve your strength, balance, mobility, and mental health. Yoga is not necessarily considered cardio, but it is most definitely low impact since it involves smooth fluid motions. If you are new to Yoga, there are so many Yoga classes and videos available on the internet that can help you get started.

High Impact Exercises to Avoid

If you are wondering what kind of activities are high impact, here we provide three examples of exercises to avoid. These exercises are not necessarily bad, they are actually great cardio workouts, but they can be harmful if you have weak or injured joints or struggle with your knees, hips, or lower back.


Burpees are usually included in most cardio workouts because they exercise different muscle groups while still getting your heart rate up. And while the concept of burpees seems simple enough, you probably did quite a few in high school during PE. If you have any joint, knee, or back issues, this high-intensity workout can cause more pain or even injury.

Jumping Jacks

Jumping Jacks is a popular cardio exercise that can be harmful to your leg joints. To lessen the impact of jumping jacks, you can try modifying them. Modified jumping jacks are slower-paced and involve smaller jumps. You can also consider doing jumping jacks in a shallow pool to make them less damaging.

Jumping Rope

Jumping rope is an enjoyable activity that most kids learn to do in elementary school. Jumping rope is also commonly used as a cardio exercise. Unfortunately, the jumping motion is a very high-impact action. If you love jumping rope and don’t want to give it up, you can try rope skipping instead.


Your cardiovascular health is very important to your overall health, so it is essential to exercise regularly. Some great cardio exercises that don’t involve running include swimming, cycling, dancing, walking, yard work, and yoga. In life, we have to deal with injuries, illness, even aging, but don’t let this stop you from being active.

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