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10 Best Low-Impact Cardio Exercises for Weight Loss

Blast away the fat without blasting away your joints.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

Many gymgoers have pre-existing injuries and aches such as back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, or all of the above. If they were to perform a high-intensity cardio workout they saw on social media, for instance, it could be a complete and utter disaster. Their bodies won't be able to handle the rigors and impact of those exercises, and it could lead to more pain or injuries that require rehabilitation and downtime. Therefore, if you're looking to get into shape, consider these 10 low-impact cardio exercises for weight loss that'll get you moving and burning calories.

Cardio is important for your heart, endurance, and overall health and well-being. If you're dealing with injuries—or you're in your 40s and older—it's better to prioritize low-impact cardio exercises. These movements are easier on your joints and can even help reduce pain and heal injuries so you can feel better than ever. In this article, we'll delve into 10 of the absolute best low-impact cardio exercises for weight loss that are easy on your body.


mature fit woman putting on goggles by lake, demonstrating cardio exercises to keep your heart young

Not only is swimming easy on your joints because you're weightless underwater, but it also helps build total-body endurance and conditioning.

Go for an easy pace for 20 to 30 minutes, two to three times per week. As you improve your technique, you can increase your speed, try intervals, or use harder swimming strokes.

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mature woman riding bike, concept of tips to stay active as you age

If you have lower-body issues—anywhere from your hips to your feet—you can't go wrong with a bike ride. There's no impact and it's concentric motion (muscles contracting), which has lower chances of injury than eccentric motion (muscles lengthening). You can even use stationary or spin bikes to have control over the intensity.

Go for a bike ride three times a week for 30 to 45 minutes to help boost your conditioning.

Treadmill Hike

woman at gym raising treadmill incline

Walking should be an essential part of your exercise routine. If you aim to improve your conditioning, try a "treadmill hike" where you walk on the treadmill at a 10% to 15% incline. This helps you increase your heart rate more than a regular "walk around the block" and even takes the pressure off your lower back because you'll lean forward.

Try this three times a week for 30 minutes. Also, make sure not to hold on to the handles of the treadmill, which somewhat defeats the purpose of this exercise.

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weighted backpack walk

If you feel like walking outside, try "rucking" where you wear a weighted backpack or vest—called a "ruck"—and go for a long walk outside. It seems counterintuitive, but having a weight actually can help strengthen the muscles in your body to protect your lower back (and turn your walk into a proper workout).

For better comfort, avoid putting weights inside a regular backpack; invest in a proper weight vest or ruck because it will sit better on your shoulders and back. Keep in mind that you should never run with a ruck.

Jump Rope

mature man jumping rope demonstrating working out seven days a week

Skipping rope isn't just for kids. It's an incredible cardio exercise that's also easy on your joints. Sure, you're hopping again and again, but it forces you to maintain great posture and land on the balls of your feet correctly. The instant your posture or technique breaks down, the rope will stop automatically.

Grab a jump rope, and do 15 total minutes while taking necessary breaks in between. As you improve, you can increase the duration and speed, or try harder variations.

Battle Ropes

woman training with battle ropes

Most cardio exercises only target your lower body, but battle ropes are an unbeatable way to increase your endurance for your upper body without any impact! They even have various weights, thicknesses, and lengths so you find something perfect for you.

Do 10 rounds of 30 seconds of intense battle ropes with 30-second breaks. You can also try three straight minutes of very gentle ropes, and repeat that several times.


woman on the elliptical, concept of the best workout machines for weight loss

This is a phenomenal way to improve your cardio while reducing the load that you put on your body. In fact, in a study that compared walking, treadmill walking, treadmill jogging, and the elliptical machine, researchers found that the elliptical machine reduced the amount of weight-bearing the most.

Try a 30 to 40-minute elliptical session two to three times a week. As you improve, you can increase the incline and resistance.

Farmers Carry

close-up farmers walk with dumbbells

The farmers carry is an easy and effective way to boost your cardiovascular health and fitness without lots of impact on your joints. On top of that, this exercise even helps you improve your total-body strength, which can help you inside and outside of the gym.

Grab a dumbbell in both hands, keep your chest up and shoulder blades squeezed, and walk for 20 yards. Switch sides, and repeat.

Sled Pulls

sled pull exercise

For people with knee pain, it might be challenging to do traditional cardio exercises like jogging or strength exercises like squats and lunges. Yet it's still vital to target your legs—even if you have pain—to maintain your muscle strength, joint strength, and bone density.

That's where sled pulls help. They build strong quads and endurance, which can improve knee health. If your gym has a sled and turf, attach a suspension trainer to the sled, and walk backward while keeping your chest up and shoulders back. Use a heavy enough weight so that you have to march slowly backward.

Rowing Machine

mature man doing rowing exercise, concept of strength exercises to stay fit

This is one of the best total-body cardio exercises around; it's a proven way to boost your total-body endurance with zero pounding your body. Rowing machines are quite smooth and gentle so you can just focus on the exercise, not aches.

You can go for an easy 20 to 30-minute row for aerobic conditioning, or you can try high-intensity intervals where you go max speed for a short amount of time, rest, and then repeat.

Anthony J. Yeung, CSCS
Anthony J. Yeung, CSCS, is a fitness expert featured in Esquire, GQ, and Men’s Health and the founder of GroomBuilder, the destination for men who want to transform their bodies for their weddings. Join the free 5-day course to burn fat and build muscle for the big day! Read more about Anthony
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