Cardio is essential for keeping your heart healthy, and regular cardio exercise – along with resistance training – can help reduce your risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes and also prevent weight gain.
That said, joint pain can sometimes make it tricky for some people to get the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week.
The impact of ground reaction forces created by activities like running, on- or off-road cycling, and high-impact land aerobic exercise may aggravate joint pain so you may want to add these low-impact options to your routine:
Whether you choose to swim laps, take a water aerobics class or try an underwater treadmill, you’ll get a great cardio (and resistance) workout without stressing your joints as the water offsets some of your body weight on the joints, while the drag forces add difficulty.
You can expect to burn roughly 210–311 calories during a 30-minute moderate-intensity session on a stationary bike without the jolting pain of changing terrains. If pedalling on a stationary bike seems boring, consider taking a group cycling class.
Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is a great cardio option if you live near open water. It involves strenuous upper-body work, which may raise the heart rate quicker and keep it in cardiovascular ranges longer. Plus, SUP builds balance, coordination and core strength.
Heavy bag boxing is a great way to get the heart rate elevated and tone and strengthen the arms and it may also help with coordination, upper-body power and strength, and reaction time if done with coaching.
Look for boxing clubs in your area and check with the instructor to make sure classes are appropriate for people with joint discomfort and pain.
Whether indoor or outdoor, rowing gives you a great cardio workout without joint pain. Plus, if you keep your effort vigorous, you can burn 255–377 calories in 30 minutes – that’s more than you’d burn by running at a pace of 5 miles per hour for the same length of time.
Like stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking involves significant upper-body work, and you’ll likely find your heart rate stays elevated for the duration of your session.
A classic gym machine for a reason, the elliptical offers a low-impact cardio workout that burns serious calories. Depending on your pace and how much you weigh, you may burn 270–400 calories during a 30-minute session. That’s equivalent to the burn from running at a pace of 5.2 miles per hour for the same length of time.