4 Low-Impact Cardio Alternatives When You Need A Break From HIIT


High-intensity interval training is all the rage because it helps burn calories fast. But when you HI(I)T it too hard, your joints can suffer. The good news: Your workout doesn't have to be fast to be effective. You don't need to stop HIIT workouts altogether, but try incorporating low-impact cardio options for a safer, more sustainable fitness routine. Check out these sweat-worthy options to make the most of your training without leaving you on the sidelines.  


When it comes to burning calories, steps add up. Walking at an average of 3.5 miles per hour, roughly a 17-minute mile, can add up to 149 calories burned in 30 minutes for a 155-pound person. Just make sure not to sacrifice form for speed. When walking, focus your gaze straight ahead and keep your neck neutral (in alignment with your spine) to prevent any strain. Press your shoulders down and back (fighting the tendency for them to creep up towards your ears), and keep your core tight. 


If your knees and lower back ache, hop in the water. While the calorie burn is weight dependent, a 155-pound person freestyle swimming at an average pace for an hour can burn about 600 calories. Looking to crank up (or lower) the intensity? Try different strokes, like butterfly for intense calorie burning, or backstroke for a less-taxing option. Always remember to double check your form. 

Elliptical Training 

For a low-impact cardio session at the gym, nix the treadmill. In addition to recruiting leg muscles, get your upper body involved by grabbing the handles to target your arms and chest. Thirty minutes can burn about 335 caloriesfor a 155-pound person.

MORE: The 8 Best Elliptical Machines That Will Leave You Winded—but Not Underwhelmed

Step Climber

Make moveable stairs work for you. Using a step climber is a great way to increase your calorie burn. The focus on quads, hamstrings, glutes and core means you target some of the biggest muscles in your body. The result: You'll torch more calories in less time. Increasing your muscle mass (and strengthening those heavy hitters) also helps boost your resting metabolism

The low-impact nature of the step climber is especially good for athletes with aching backs during running or spin classes. According to a study in the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, glute activation on the stair stepper has been found to help relieve pressure on your back. The most important form tip: making sure your posture is tall and your core is engaged. Resist the urge to slump forward or rest your entire upper body on the handlebars.

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