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Low Impact Cardio Workout

An image of a woman on an airdyne bike completing a low impact cardio workout.

If you’re injured or have just been out of action for a while, this low impact cardio workout will help you back into the swing of things. The low impact cardio exercises engage the heart and lungs without overstressing the muscles and joints.

As well as low impact cardio exercises, this workout features low impact body weight and resistance movements. So, in addition to stimulating the heart and lungs and burning fat, this workout also enhances muscular endurance.

Who can benefit from this low impact cardio workout

This workout can meet a wide and diverse range of training requirements. The primary purpose of the workout is to provide an engaging fitness outlet for those carrying an injury or getting back into exercise post-injury.

However, the application of this low impact cardio workout isn’t just limited to the injured. As I have endeavoured to outline below, it can be used as active recovery training, or for those that, for whatever reason, are unable to fully participate in exercise.

Injured or post-injury rehabilitation

Injuries are frustrating for anyone, but arguably more so for those that enjoy exercise and keeping active. But not all injuries prohibit participation. Depending on the severity and location of the injury, it is often possible to continue exercising.

In such cases, the injured person must reduce training intensity and avoid exercises that exacerbate the injured area.

I’m reminded of a Royal Marines poster featuring a recruit with a leg in plaster hanging from a pull-up bar. The headline ran something like: Even with a broken leg, training doesn’t stop.

This workout, with its many modifiable options, has been designed to cater for those suffering from a range of injuries. In addition, it can be adapted to support post-injury rehabilitation.

Active recovery

You don’t have to enforce a complete day of inactivity to allow the body to recover after exercise. Active recovery training has been shown to aid muscle repair while sustaining physical development.

Active rest day

In the highly researched book Serious Cycling, author Edmund Burke Ph.D. stresses the importance of engaging in what he calls ‘active rest’. Elite-level cyclists are encouraged to remain physically active even after a long season of punishing competitions. ‘Total time off the bike is not good,’ and instead of resting ‘Cyclists should gradually reduce their cycling millage’ and engage in ‘low-volume, low-intensity workouts,’ (Serious Cycling – p205)

The purpose of active recovery, as outlined in Physiology of Sport and Exercise, is to ‘provide sufficient stress to the muscles to maintain existing levels of strength while allowing a reduction in intensity, duration, or frequency of training.’

Simply put, active recovery workouts consist of low-intensity, low-impact exercise. The objective of such workouts is to keep the physiological systems ticking over while the body repairs damaged tissue. In addition, active recovery sessions can facilitate the removal of metabolic waste, which attenuates the severity of post-training DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness).

Beginner trainers, the elderly, and those overweight

I hope I haven’t offended anyone by lumping together these three demographics (if beginner trainer constitutes a demographic). However, it’s fair to say that beginners, the elderly, and those carrying excess weight are all at greater risk when exercising.

Watson (1997) tells us that ‘A number of studies have demonstrated that athletes who […] are overweight are more likely to suffer from injury.’ (Physical Fitness & Exercise Performance). He goes on to outline other ‘at-risk’ categories while counselling the need to pay special attention to participating in ‘forms of physical activity that carry lower risk.’

Stay active

But if you do identify yourself with one or more of the three categories, you should still strive to remain active. ‘Individuals with medical problems should not be discouraged from participation in sport’ (Physical Fitness & Exercise Performance). Engaging in exercise, even at a low intensity, is beneficial for health.

Low-intensity, low impact workouts like the one below can provide beginners with a safe way to develop experience. Moreover, low impact workouts enable the elderly and people who are overweight to participate in a safer form of physical exercise.

Low impact cardio workout benefits

  • Stimulates the heart and lungs (cardio-respiratory system)

  • Enhances muscle endurance

  • Provides an alternative training dynamic to conventional training methods

  • Offers a safer exercise outlet for beginners, the elderly, or those overweight

How to do this low impact cardio workout

Before starting the workout ensure to warm-up well first. The warm-up is an integral phase of the training process and should never be omitted. In addition to improving exercise performance and preparing our minds and body for the coming demands, warming up reduces injury risk. For this workout, a warm-up has been provided.

The workout is structured around a low impact cardio exercise. To appeal to a wider audience, three options are available. The process doesn’t differ between options only the exercises.

So, if you don’t have access to an airdyne bike, the low impact exercise of choice for option 1, that’s not a problem. Instead, you can select option 2, which features rowing, or option 3, which features the cross-trainer.

When you’ve selected your preferred option, here’s how to do the workout.

Organised into circular circuits, the objective is to complete one full lap before resting. It’s neither a race nor a competition. Take your time around the circuit and focus on maintaining a methodical output.

It is perfectly acceptable to rest between each station if you feel the need. Remember, as we are treating this workout as rehabilitation or active recovery, the training intensity must remain low.

Related: Best Airdyne Bike for the home gym

Low impact cardio workout key points

  • Warm-up prior to embarking on the circuit.

  • Select the option most suited to your training facility and exercise objectives.

  • Aim to complete one full lap of the circuit without resting.

  • But it’s absolutely fine to rest if you need to.

  • There is no set number of laps. You decide how many laps are suitable for your current level of fitness.

Warm up exercises

  • 5-minutes low impact cardio exercise - airdyne cycling, ergo rower, cross-trainer

  • 1 up to 5 reps air squats into press-ups

  • 3-minutes low impact cardio exercise - airdyne cycling, ergo rower, cross-trainer

  • 1 up to 5 reps air squats into press-ups 2-minutes low impact cardio exercise - airdyne cycling, ergo rower, cross-trainer

  • 1 up to 5 reps air squats into press-ups

Related: Need more Warm-up Exercise Ideas?

Low impact cardio workout

A diagram of the Hungry4Fitness low impact cardio workout.

Low impact cardio workout hints and tips

Organise the equipment needed for the circuit before starting. Spending a few minutes doing this will improve transition time between stations and mitigate the faff of finding kit mid-circuit.

When performing the plank convert the reps into seconds – one rep equals one second.

Any exercise that features in the circuit is replaceable. Not keen on goblet squats? Fine, swap them for dumbbell squats, barbell squats, or Hindu squats.


Enjoyed this low-impact cardio workout?

Get your hands on 70 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 2.

This low impact cardio workout concludes with a featured outline of the Hungry4Fitness book of circuits volume 2. This image shows the Hungry4Fitness book of circuits and workouts volume two. Inside the image it identifies the key features of the book which include: Over 70 fully customisable circuits and workouts suitable for all levels of fitness and ability; 4-Week Functional Fitness Training Programme; How to create your own circuits and workouts including essential training principles; Key exercise explanations and tutorials; A complete guide to fitness testing; The 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge; CrossFit-style training sessions including EMOM, AMRAP, and HIIT workouts; An illustrated, step-by-step guide to stretching.


This blog on the low impact cardio workout concludes with an author bio. In this text box it says: As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance! Blog Author: Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.

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