Low-Impact Cardiovascular Training: Exercises and Recommendations

Low-impact cardiovascular training has important health benefits. In addition, it's ideal for people with physical limitations or who are unable to do more strenuous activities.
Low-Impact Cardiovascular Training: Exercises and Recommendations

Last update: 19 July, 2021

Many people associate cardiovascular exercise with high-impact physical activities, such as running or jumping. However, it’s possible to do low-impact cardiovascular training, through exercises such as walking, cycling, swimming, among others.

The advantage of these types of exercises is that they don’t cause additional stress on the joints thanks to the lack of impact. Therefore, they’re ideal for people with physical limitations or those who are recovering from injuries. What should you know about them? Discover some exercises and recommendations.

What are the benefits of low-impact cardio training?

Low-impact cardiovascular training offers almost the same health benefits as more demanding activities. In fact, for some people, they’re even better. What are the main effects?

Cardiovascular health

Like any form of physical exercise, low-impact cardio training contributes to cardiovascular health care. Its regular practice reduces the risk of conditions such as high blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia, heart attack, stroke, among others.

In any case, if you have a previous diagnosis of heart disease, it’s essential that you consult your doctor or a specialist. The professional will be the one to determine which activities are most suitable for you and at what level of intensity.

A digital image of the heart.
Low-impact cardiovascular exercise promotes cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of disease.

Weight loss

In conjunction with a healthy and balanced diet, this form of cardiovascular training contributes to maintaining a healthy and balanced weight. Although the intensity and time spent exercising affects calorie burn, low-impact activities prevent the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

Brain health

According to a publication in the journal Neurology, low-impact cardiovascular training benefits brain health and reduces the risk of dementia. It also provides the following benefits:

  • Increases blood flow
  • Decreases the chances of stroke
  • Improves memory
  • Optimizes thinking capacity

At the same time, it also combats the decline in brain function with age and helps protect against the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Chronic back pain

Low-impact cardiovascular training helps reduce chronic back pain, especially activities such as swimming and water aerobics. The movement promotes blood flow and helps to care for and improve posture, in addition to promoting muscle elasticity and muscle work.

Low-impact cardiovascular exercises

A low-impact cardio workout encompasses various exercises. Their advantage is that they’re suitable for all groups of people, from children to older adults. They’re even recommended for people with physical difficulties. Of course, it’s always best to consult a professional before starting to practice them.

Cycling: indoor and outdoor

Cycling’s an excellent cardiovascular exercise, whether you practice outdoors or indoors. One thing that makes this type of training stand out, especially indoor cycling (spinning), is that the intensity can be regulated. This way, you can perform workouts of varying intensity, depending on the needs and conditions of each individual.

Elliptical training

Along with indoor cycling came a type of training called indoor walking, which is performed on an elliptical machine. This training follows the same structure as indoor cycling classes. It can be regulated in intensity and is much gentler for the knees, besides involving more of the upper body in the workouts.

Swimming

A study published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation shows the health benefits of swimming. Not only does it help you take care of your cardiovascular health, but it also improves muscle strength and helps prevent ailments. Of course, it’s suitable for everyone, as you can regulate the intensity adapts it to almost all needs.

A swimmer resting her arm on the edge of the pool.
Swimming’s one of the low-impact cardiovascular exercises and is suitable for everyone.

Yoga

You may not realize it, but yoga also falls within the context of cardiovascular training, as it’s usually oriented towards working on flexibility and strength. However, there are disciplines within yoga that include low-impact aerobic work, such as vinyasa flow.

Walking

Finally, walking’s a complete cardiovascular exercise in all its facets, from a simple walk to the Olympic discipline of power walking. That said, for true cardiovascular conditioning to take place, you must walk at a good pace for a long period of time.

What should you remember about low-impact cardiovascular training?

In order for true low-impact cardiovascular training to take place, the first thing to keep in mind is intensity. So, if the exercise is low intensity, the benefits will be lower and the workout will require more time to really feel the benefits.

Even so, in certain conditions, this type of training is preferable to a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, it’s a good way to actively rest during intense training programs.

In that regard, a good way to monitor intensity is to use a heart rate monitor and work in a range between 65 and 80% of the maximum heart rate. This will let you know if the level of intensity or effort you’re making is sufficient in order to achieve benefits.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that, in case of pre-existing health problems, it’s best to consult a specialist first. A prior evaluation can contribute to a safe and effective form of training.

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