7 Low-Impact Cardio Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Low-impact activities are relatively easy on joints, which makes them ideal for beginners and people recovering from an injury. (Always get your doctor’s approval before starting any new exercise program.) Want to crank up the intensity? “Exercise for a longer time, increase the load or incline, or pick up the pace,” says Noam Tamir, a certified strength and conditioning coach and the owner of TS Fitness in New York City.

Cycling, walking, and swimming and using an upper-body ergometer are all examples of low-impact cardio exercises. Here, are 7 more:

  1. Step-up

    Stepping onto a raised surface strengthens the muscles of your glutes and legs.

    How to do it:

    • Stand facing a step, platform, or thick book.
    • Place right foot on the step, and then step left foot up beside it.
    • Reverse the motion, stepping back down with right foot, followed by left foot.
    • Repeat, alternating the starting foot each time.
  2. Sidestep

    Your thighs power this move. The deeper your squat, the harder they have to work.

    How to do it:

    • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees as if you’re sitting back in a chair; place hands on hips.
    • Keeping knees bent, take a step to the right with right foot; then immediately step left foot to the right, beside right foot.
    • Next, step to the left with left foot, and then immediately step to the left with right foot.
    • Continue, alternating direction and staying in a squat position.
  3. Marching

    Like step-ups, marching challenges the glutes and legs.

    How to do it:

    • Sit or stand with feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides, elbows bent and hands in fists.
    • Lift right knee in front of you as you bring left arm forward and push right elbow back.
    • Switch sides: Returning right foot to the floor as you lift left knee in front of you, bringing right arm forward and pushing left elbow back.
    • Continue, alternating sides.
  4. Heel tap

    This alternating leg move strengthens your lower body.

    How to do it:

    • Stand or sit with feet hip-width apart and hands on hips.
    • Extend right leg in front of you, tapping right heel on the floor. Return right foot to starting position and repeat with left foot.
    • Continue, alternating feet each time.
  5. Speed bag

    Going a few rounds with an imaginary speed bag strengthens your shoulders, back, and arms.

    How to do it:

    • Stand or sit with feet hip-width apart.
    • Bend elbows, make fists with hands, and raise arms high in front of you. Hold fists at eye height in front of you, left above right and palms facing the floor.
    • Keep upper arms still as you move fists in a forward circular motion around each other, gradually picking up the pace.
  6. Mountain climber

    This is a total-body exercise that challenges every muscle from your shoulders to your ankles.

    How to do it:

    • Get in a crawling position on the floor with arms extended, hands aligned under wrists. Extend legs straight back behind you, balls of feet on the floor, so you’re in plank position (the top position of a push-up.) Your body should form a line from the back of your head to your heels.
    • Bend right knee and bring it toward your chest.
    • Extend right leg back to the starting position; and bend left knee, bringing it toward your chest.
    • Extend left leg to starting position and repeat, alternating legs.
  7. Front kick

    This kickboxing move challenges your balance, while strengthening your core and legs.

    How to do it:

    • Stand or sit with feet hip-width apart and hands on hips.
    • Shift weight to left foot, and in one motion, raise right knee to hip height in front of you and extend right leg straight out.
    • Return to starting position and repeat on opposite side.
    • Continue, alternating legs each time.
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