If you need a low-impact exercise regimen, look no further. We’ve taken the guesswork out of things by creating a 20-minute low-impact cardio circuit that’s great for everyone — bad knees, bad hips, tired body, and all.

Below are six exercises you should do for 1 minute each, jumping right into the next when the minute is up.

After you complete all six exercises back-to-back, rest for 1 minute, and then start the circuit again. Repeat three times through for a butt-kicking low-impact cardio workout.

A good warm-up exercise, low-impact jumping jacks will get your heart pumping and muscles moving. You can exaggerate the arm movements to burn maximum calories.

To get moving:

  1. Start by standing with arms down at your sides.
  2. Step your right foot out, and at the same time bring your arms up above your head. Keep your weight in your right foot throughout this movement.
  3. Return to your starting position.
  4. Immediately step your left foot out. Once again, with your weight on your left foot, bring your arms above your head.

Channel a speed skater when you complete this move. The low-impact version omits the jump but will still make you work.

To get moving:

  1. Start in a curtsy lunge position with both legs bent, your right leg behind and across your body. Your left arm should be straight down and right arm bent comfortably up at your side for balance.
  2. Pushing off the left leg, begin to stand, bringing the right leg forward and swinging your left leg back and across, switching arms as you go. Work quickly, but to maintain the low-impact approach, don’t jump.

A bodyweight squat combined with boxing will have you bobbing and weaving for low-impact greatness.

To get moving:

  1. Start by standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your arms down at your sides.
  2. Squat down, ensuring your chest is up, butt is back, and knees are out.
  3. Stand up, and when your legs are extended, throw a cross-body punch with each arm.
  4. Squat down again, stand up, and punch.

We had to throw in some core work for good measure. Ensure that your core is engaged and the movement is controlled for maximum effect.

To get moving:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms bent, hands on the back of your head and elbows flared out to the side.
  2. To begin the movement, bend to your right side, bringing your elbow down as you simultaneously bring your right knee up to touch.
  3. Return to your starting position. Repeat the same steps on the left side.

Working in both the frontal and sagittal (side-to-side) planes will make your muscular strength more well-rounded.

You want to ensure you’re working both legs equally, so shuffle right for a set amount of space or time, then shuffle left for the same, filling up your 1 minute of working time.

To get moving:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, hips slightly bent so you’re maintaining a forward posture, and your arms comfortably in front of you.
  2. Shift your weight toward your right, pick up your right foot, and push off from your left foot to move your body to the right. Go as quickly as you can during this movement while maintaining your form.
  3. Bring your feet back together, and repeat, continuing to “shuffle” to the right, propelling yourself with your left foot as you go.

You’ll feel the burn with this combo move. We recommend splitting the minute in half, lunging with your right leg for the first 30 seconds, then your left leg for the second 30 seconds.

To get moving:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and your arms bent and held up to your sides at chest level.
  2. To begin, kick your right leg out straight in front of you, and on the way down, step back into a reverse lunge.
  3. Stand up and proceed right into another kick, then another reverse lunge.

It’s a good idea to warm up before you start — walking in place for a few minutes will get the blood flowing.

Because this routine is low impact, you may be able to complete it several times a week without adverse effects. You could even use this as a long warmup to a strength-training routine.

You can adjust this workout based on your fitness level.

If you can’t complete 1 minute of each move without stopping, take breaks as you need them.

If the routine gets too easy, you need to up the ante to continue seeing results. Add a light dumbbell in each hand, or add time to each set to maintain a challenge.

And as always — listen to your body. Stop if something feels wrong.

There are tons of low-impact cardio options hiding all around you. If you’re sick of circuits and are burned out on walking or doing the elliptical, consider one of these low-impact activities:

  • Cycling/bike riding. This non-weight-bearing exercise can provide one of the best high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts around.
  • Rollerblading. Skate along with minimum joint jarring while toning your legs. Bonus? It’s really fun.
  • Rowing. Hop on a rowing machine for cardio and strength training.
  • Swimming. With water’s buoyancy, this total-body workout is perhaps the king of joint-friendly workouts.
  • TRX. You use suspension cables to complete TRX exercises, which takes some of the pressure off your joints — especially with lower-body exercises.

Complete our low-impact cardio circuit several times a week to see improvements in your cardiovascular endurance and strength in just a month or two — no sprints necessary.


Nicole Davis is a Boston-based writer, ACE-certified personal trainer, and health enthusiast who works to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. Her philosophy is to embrace your curves and create your fit — whatever that may be! She was featured in Oxygen magazine’s “Future of Fitness” in the June 2016 issue. Follow her on Instagram.