Keeping regular cardio-based workout sessions in your schedule is fantastic for your overall health and well-being. However, if you’ve ever experienced a knee injury, have arthritis, or if your knee joints are simply suffering from overuse, then you’ll know that running and jogging, the activities most commonly associated with cardio, often But, don’t worry, there are alternatives! Here are five other cardio exercises that will allow you to reap all the benefits of running but are gentler on the joints.
Walking is a great option that requires little preparation or equipment. Just throw on comfy workout gear and a pair of sneakers and you’re ready to go. Plus, power walking helps improve aerobic fitness and elevates your heart rate. According to ACE-certified trainer Stephanie Thomas, CPT, “It is very similar to running but it’s less impact on your joints.”
When you’re on an elliptical, your feet remain on the pedals, so there’s no lifting or pounding against a hard surface. This decreases your chances of a knee injury while providing similar cardiovascular benefits to running. NASM-certified trainer Jason Williams, CPT suggests increasing the resistance on the elliptical, which will elevate your heart rate, burn more calories, and tone muscle.
Though skipping isn’t the gentlest alternative on this list, when compared to running “one could argue that jumping rope is better for your joints because it takes them through a smaller range of motion,” says fitness trainer BB Arrington, NASM-CPT. If you’re in a hurry, consider jumping rope if you want to get the same lung, heart, and calorie-burning benefits of running in a shorter amount of time.
Swimming is considered one of the best exercises for managing heart disease, and according to Williams, it puts the “least amount of stress on the joints, gets the heart rate up, and applies a little bit of resistance. If you have access to a pool, jump into your bathing suit and dive in for a highly effective yet gentle cardio workout.
Rowing is similar to the elliptical because it requires you to bend your knees but is less weight-bearing than running. Rowing also offers you a full-body workout, because it incorporates the arms and back muscles as well as your legs.
Don’t forget to stretch!
Lots of people admit to skipping the cooldown and stretch part of their workout, but stretching should be considered just as important as the rest of the exercise session. Stretching supports strength and mobility which will ultimately protect your joints. “I highly recommend spending at least five minutes each day doing basic stretches that target the quads, calves, and hamstrings,” says Thomas. Check out this article we wrote for some yoga poses that will improve your flexibility overall.