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Low Impact Cardio Exercises at Home. Cardio Without Running.

I trained to improve my endurance so I could bike to provincial parks and beaches. Long distance biking is one of my hobbies.

High Impact vs Low Impact

High impact exercises like running and jumping are good for burning calories and building muscle but they are hard on your body. You may need to quit early and it can take a long time to recover. When I tried running while I was watching TV it started to hurt. I had to quit before I was tired and it still hurt the next day.

Low impact exercises like biking are easier on your body. The workout can tire me out but my body does not take a pounding. So I can last longer and it takes less time to recover. Punching a punching bag full or air can tire me out. It is a low impact exercise. Punching a heavy punching bag is high impact. It can hurt my wrist.

High impact activities can help you toughen up. If you are careful you might be able to build up a tolerance and do the exercise without injuring yourself but you still need to limit the intensity and the duration. Low impact exercises are better if you want to exercise frequently or do long workouts.

Doing calf raises as part of a circuit workout.

Doing calf raises as part of a circuit workout.

Low Impact Exercise Machines

I like to use an elliptical trainer while exercising at home because it is a low impact exercise. When I use my elliptical I often call it running for lack of a better term but it is not. The leg motion while using an elliptical is like a cross between running up stairs and cycling. You can also workout your upper body a bit by moving the arms.

Elliptical trainers, exercise bikes, and rowing machines are popular because they can provide you with a great workout without placing a lot of stress on your joints. You could probably get a good home fitness machine for under $300 or get a gym membership. It is worth buying one if you are going to use it. When getting an exercise machine it is important to make sure that it is not going to be too loud. Watch videos about it with the sound on and read reviews first.

High impact exercises are good in moderation. They can toughen you up and increase your bone density. The main problem with running is that people often run on concrete and asphalt. Softer surfaces slow you down but they are easier on your joints. If you run then try to avoid really hard surfaces, wear good shoes and limit the amount of running you do.

One of the advantages of using exercise machines is that they allow you to change the resistance. I also like that they keep track of speed, distance, duration and calories. It is easy to keep track of my progress. Using an elliptical is just as good for losing weight and getting fit as using a treadmill or going for a run outside.

Elliptical trainer.

Elliptical trainer.

Cardio Boxing

Get a good upper body cardio workout by punching the air or an inflatable punching bag. Shadow box or use a light bag for a low impact cardio boxing workout. For better results hit hard like you are going to punch a heavy bag then stop yourself. You don't need a bag. Shadow boxing can give you a great workout. Cardio boxing is a good way to burn calories while improving your cardiovascular endurance.

If you use an inflatable bag then make sure it is intended for adults and don't try to use it like a heavy bag. Do shadow boxing workouts with it. There is very little resistance. So the light bag is mostly for feedback. It gives me a target to hit and when I hit the bag hard enough it makes a unique noise from the air moving inside it. Punching without a heavy bag can give me a good workout but mentally it is harder than using a heavy bag. It requires more focus and concentration.

People often have trouble getting themselves to punch hard when they don't have something heavy to hit. Be mindful of your movements so you keep punching with strength, speed and control. Put a lot of effort into it and work up a sweat. If you have trouble staying focused then I recommend using exercise DVDs or YouTube videos. My punching bag came with some Tae Bo workout DVDs.

My inflatable punching bag.

My inflatable punching bag.

Circuit Workouts

While exercising a circuit refers to do a set of exercises. You switch exercises after a set amount of time or when you get too tired or weak to finish. After doing all the exercises you can start the circuit over again. Circuits are good for turning a strength workout into a cardio workout. They key is to quickly switch from one exercise to another. Limit the amount of rest between sets.

While doing push ups and other weighted bodyweight exercises for strength I noticed my heart was racing and I was breathing like I was jogging up a hill. Quickly moving from one exercise to the next did not give me a chance to rest between sets so my heart rate increased. To do it as cardio use your body weight and light or moderate weights so you can go at a good pace. Really heavy weights could slow you down too much and shorten your workout.

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You can use these exercises as part of a cardio circuit workout.

calf raises

push ups

pull ups


renegade row

animal walks


seated row

plank to side plank

step ups

exercise band row

medicine ball throws

bicycle maneuver

mountain climbers

walking up stairs


Motion controlled games can not replace traditional forms of exercise like cycling. You are not going to build a lot of muscle or burn a lot of calories. They are good for fun moderately intense exercises that focus on your arms. The games get you to move and if you put some effort into it you can get a good workout. I will spend 30 minutes playing games like tennis, baseball, boxing and sword fighting as a fitness circuit.

People can lose weight playing motion controlled videos games like Wii Sports. Besides being fun the games are not hard on your body. They are good for people that just started exercising, people that want a break from more intense forms of exercise and people that are overweight. I recommend motion games because they can add some variety to your routine.

The effort required and number of calories burned while playing motion games can be similar to hiking or walking at a fast pace.

You Should Be Sweating

I associate sweating a lot with doing a good cardio workout at home. If it is long or intense then I sweat a lot. If you are sweating a lot more than you were before you started exercising then sweating can be a sign that it was a good cardiovascular workout. It usually means you put a lot of effort into it. Some other signs are increased heart rate, heavy breathing and muscle fatigue.

While using my elliptical trainer in a cold room in the winter I sweat a lot, my heart rate increased, I was breathing heavy and I started to experience muscle fatigue. You might not sweat as much if you are dehydrated, exercising near a fan or you sweat less than most people. Sweating is good for you and being hot while exercising inside makes it easier to be active outside in the summer. It helps your body adapt to the heat.

Exercising indoors can be hotter than exercising outside because of the lack of wind. If you plan on being active outside during the summer then I recommend exercising inside first.

My elliptical trainer display. After burning 999 calories it stops counting them.

My elliptical trainer display. After burning 999 calories it stops counting them.


When I was younger I did a lot of running. Now that I am older I replaced running with biking, using an elliptical trainer and walking. With low impact workouts I can last longer and it takes less time to recover. That means I can exercise more and I am less likely to injure myself. I lost fat, gained a lot of muscle, increased my endurance and got in really good shape.

Biking and using an elliptical trainer is not the best way to get better at running outside because running is harder on your joints. I could use an elliptical trainer, exercise bike or road bike for hours but I could not run very far on a hard surface because my body was not used to the impact. Being able to do 12 miles on an elliptical trainer does not mean you can run that far outside or on a treadmill.

Exercising inside can get boring and you need a good reason to be active at home. Cycling, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, roller skating, hiking and swimming are some good low impact outdoor activities. The workouts I did at home help me get in shape so I could do things outside. I could go for long hard bike rides when it was hot outside. It is easier for me to stay motivated if I am getting ready to do something outside like bike to a beach.

Doing low impact workouts gave me better results because I could last longer and go farther.

After doing low impact cardio at home I was ready for beach season.

After doing low impact cardio at home I was ready for beach season.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Michael H

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