Henrik Sorensen / Getty
Some days, a hard run or a set of explosive plyometric exercises is just what you need to push yourself physically. High intensity, high-impact workouts that get your heart pumping definitely have their place. But once in a while, you need to give your body a break and turn the impact down a notch—especially if you’re injured, have joint problems, or have been training non-stop.
“Impact certainly isn’t a bad word, but too much impact too frequently can make our joints angry,” certified personal trainer Rob Sulaver of Bandana Training tells SELF. “Low-impact cardio helps minimize the wear and tear.”
But taking it easy on your joints doesn’t mean you need to skip out on cardio completely—just focus on low-impact activities, says Sulaver. To keep stress off your knees and ankles, for example, choose activities for which at least one foot remains in contact with the ground (or equipment) at all times. Walking, biking, and elliptical training are all good examples, compared with higher-impact running and jumping.
Low-impact doesn’t necessarily mean low-intensity, though, Sulaver adds. Here are some great workouts that will rev your heart rate while still showing your problem spots some TLC. Just remember: Always listen to your body and if something doesn’t feel right, don’t force it—try something else!
1. Get moving with planks.
California-based trainer Ky Evans shares a killer plank series that’s full of movement—think plank jacks and mountain climbers—perfect for strengthening your core and getting your heart rate soaring.
2. Practice your jabs and hooks.
Morning Coffee: Jab -jab – fake right hook – left body shot/uppercut. How do you take your morning coffee? #morningcoffee #mondays #mondaymotivation #snow #spring #boxing #kickboxing #muaythai #fit #workout #nyc #manhattan #downtown #fidi #chelsea #controlkickboxing ##sweatthetechnique #fightforyourfit #roadtonyc
A low-impact version of sparring with a bag, shadowboxing lets you practice your punches while giving your wrists and hands a break. These fast-paced drills from kickboxing instructor Prashant Paul will help you build endurance, too.
3. Turn up the intensity on the elliptical.
We asked trainers for their best tips to burn more calories on an elliptical so that you can make the most out of this no-frills gym staple.
4. Clip into a stationary bike.
Indoor cycling classes (like this Cyc Fitness one pictured above) take the pressure off your joints but still tax your cardiovascular system. If standing out of the saddle strains your knees, stay seated and keep on pedaling.
5. Swim some laps.
The water is an amazing training ground for anyone with joint problems, since you basically float through your workout without ever hitting the ground. You may not look as elegant as Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin when you’re doing it, but swimming laps will get your heart pumping while you sculpt a strong back, shoulders, and arms.
6. Hit the battle ropes.
The battle ropes’ weight provides a good amount of resistance, making every lift and slam challenging—and exhausting. Not only will you work up a sweat almost immediately, you’ll also tone your arms, back, and abs.
7. Give rowing a try.
Rowing works your arms, back, core, and legs—all without ever having to stand up. Claim an empty machine at the gym, or sign up for a group class like this one at CityRow. To challenge yourself even more, add a few all-out sprints to your routine.
8. Try this eight-move cardio workout that will tone your whole body.
If lunges and jack tucks don’t bother your knees, give this do-anywhere workout a try. These moves may not seem like traditional cardio exercises, but trust us: You’ll be short of breath in no time.