What is the Best Low Impact Cardio for Fat Loss?

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In this post, we are going to look at some of the best forms of low impact cardio exercise that can aid fat loss. Before contemplating what is the best low impact cardio for fat loss, we must first understand what high impact exercise is, and its risks if done excessively or with bad form. We will then look at why a low impact form of exercise may be more beneficial from a health perspective for some people. We will also give some sample low impact workout routines which also incorporate High Intensity Interval Training in order to really torch that belly fat.

Good examples of high impact types of exercise are running, and activities involving jumping such as trampolining and gymnastics. If you do a lot of these kinds of activities on a regular basis, then your joints can become damaged over time if you are not careful. The knee is the most common problem area when it comes to running especially. These injuries can be very painful and can also put an athlete out of action for a long time while they recover.

So how come some people develop these injuries?

  • Over Training
  • Pushing too Hard Before Your Body Is Conditioned Sufficiently
  • Over Training Whilst Being significantly Overweight
  • Training With Poor Form
  • Wearing Poor Quality Running Shoes, or the Wrong Type of Footwear All Together

For runners, knee problems can be very common. Structures inside and outside the knee joint can result in fractures, dislocations, tears, and sprains. Knee components susceptible to running injuries include:

  • Articular cartilage – This covers the ends of your shin bone, thigh bone and the back of your kneecap (patella).
  • Ligaments – There are four ligaments including your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in your knee that connect your bones together. These can become torn as a result of running injuries.
  • Menisci – two cartilage discs that act as shock absorbers in your knee.
  • Tendons – connect your muscles to your bone.

Now we know what parts of the knee are susceptible to injury, let’s look at the specific injuries themselves. Many of these conditions have what seem like long and almost unpronounceable names, but don’t let this put you off! We will give you the ‘plain english’ definition for each condition, so you understand what is going on in the knee when it suffers an injury.

The main conditions that can arise due to high impact exercise are;

  • Anterior Knee Pain Syndrome: This refers to pain in the front and centre of the knee associated with the softening and breakdown of cartlage on the underside of the kneecap (patella). 
  • Iliotibial Band Syndrome: The Iliotibial band (IT) contects the knee to the hip and provides stability. However the IT can become strained, and inflamed with overuse.  
  • Patellofemoral Malalignment (AKA The Runner’s Knee): This is charactorised by a pain at the front of your knee andaround your kneecap. More commonly known as ‘runner’s knee,’ it is more common in people who participate in sports that involve running and jumping. The condition is often caused by poor kneecap alignment which over time, affects the surface and cartlage behind the kneecap causing severe pain.

Source: Healthline

Source: Mayo Clinic

Source: PhysioWorks

We have not gone into great detail here regarding these individual conditions. However, there is plenty of information online where you can learn more if you so wish. What’s more, if you feel like you are suffering from one of these conditions then we strongly recommend that you make an appointment with your doctor. Nothing can replace professional medical advice when it comes to matters such as this.

runners knee 2

Injuries of the  knee can occur in any runner or other athlete who performs high impact exercise for long periods of time and on a regular basis. Exercise such as running and jumping related activities are the most common culprits. Running and jumping with incorrect form and technique significantly can increase the likelihood of you developing a problem.

Because of this, many people who perform large amounts of exercise  on a regular basis often like to include low impact workouts as a part of the routine in order to give their body a break and to prevent joint damage and injury. Suffering from such an injury could put them out of exercise for a period of time and even cause permanent health issues.

Some examples of low impact cardio exercise are;

  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Cycling/Spinning

It is worth mentioning here that low impact does not mean low intensity, or ‘easy’ exercise. In fact, as we have mentioned in other blog posts, high intensity exercise such as sprint training is actually the most effective method for burning fat because is causes the metabolism to continue to be raised long after the workout has finished.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that you do partake in some form of low intensity cardio for fat burning, but it is also important that the intensity is there as part of the workout. Short bursts of 100% effort with short rests in between is a very effective form of fat burning exercise.   

So, what is the most effective form of low intensity cardo? Well, the ones mentioned above are all very effective, but we do have a favourite here at The Muscle Expert, and for a particular reason which we will now discuss further.

So What is the Best Cardio Workout for Fat Loss Whilst Being Low Impact Compliant?

In short, the answer is swimming.

How Is Swimming Good for Fat Loss, and Why Is It Our Favourite Form of Low Impact Exercise?

swimming artice

Swimming is by far our favourite form of low impact cardio when it comes to  burning fat, and will discuss the reasons why shortly. Needless to say, this particular activity allows you to get a very intensive, full body workout done without risking injuring yourself and damaging your joints.

Swimming has several benefits as well as fat loss. Here are some of the main ones;

Muscle strengthening and toning

Increased core strength

Low impact/reduced risk of injury

Totally body workout = more calories burned


And the main benefits we are concerned with… FAT BURNING!

So we have discussed some of the reasons as to why swimming can burn fat through total body workout and muscular exercise. 

There is however a little known way in which swimming is a superior workout when it comes to burning calories. You may not know this, but due to the fact that swimming takes place in fairly cold water; certainly colder than room temperature, the body has to work harder to keep itself warm. This, of course, produces a larger caloric expenditure and so with swimming you get more bang for your buck when it comes to burning fat.

As we mentioned earlier, low impact does not mean low intensity, and for a substantial caloric burn, short bursts of high intensity exercise. Therefore, we have supplied a perfect sample of a fat burning workout below.

HIIT Swimming Workout

– Warm up for 10mins of steady state swimming –


Sprint 1 length and active recovery 1 length


Sprint 2 lengths, active recovery 1 length


Sprint 4 lengths, active recovery 2 lengths

Recovery 3 minutes very slow pace

Repeate above workout 1-2 times

5 minute Cool Down Steady State Swimming

If You need an overview on how to effectively perform the front crawl stroke so you can begin this workout, then take a look at the short video below for a detailed overview.

Let’s move on to our second favourite low impact cardo exercise that is perfect for torching that body fat. The exercise that comes in 2nd place is;


How Is Rowing Good For Fat Loss? 

rowing article

However, as mentioned, most of the power comes from the legs. Now, the legs are the largest muscles in the body so this is a good thing. We burn far more calories when we work the whole of our legs in a workout.

Rowing is also great for the core muscles. It is really important to have correct posture when rowing. This means a straight back, not hunched over. See the video below for instruction on the perfect rowing posture.

Just like swimming, rowing is great for burning a large amount of calories due to the full body nature of the workout. However, with rowing at least 70% of the power comes from the legs, and the remaining 30% comes from the back and arms. This means that rowing actually works the legs more than the upper body. When most people think of rowing, they think that it is the arms that are doing most of the work, probably because visually, it looks that way when you see someone row.

rowing machine article

The idea of rowing stroke sequence with proper posture is to make sure that you provide the power to drive the boat forward using mostly your legs. This is a lot more effective than overworking your back or arms which would not provide as much thrust, would tire you out quicker and even possibly cause you an injury. It is important to Also remember to keep a straight back as you row. Yes you bend at the hips, but try to keep your back straight. This is easier said than done when your core muscles are burning during an intense workout!

We recommend that you join a rowing club in order to learn properly. Most guys and gals you see in the gym using the rowing machines are doing it completely wrong…. FACT! Correct rowing technique is not about going as fast as possible with poor technique and rushing the stroke like you see so often in said gym. After watching the video above, you now know more than most people when it comes to rowing correctly.

We would say that swimming is more suitable if you have a current injury, or if you are worried about getting one due to incorrect technique. However, rowing is still very low impact.

Just like if you swim incorrectly, you may drown. If you row incorrectly, you may get  bad back!

Again, we recommend a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) style routine for maximum fat burning potential. See the table below for a sample workout;

Rowing HIIT Workout







So there you go. Rowing comes 2nd place in our list of 3 top low impact cardiovascular exercises. We love rowing, but we didn’t give it 1st place due to the fact that whilst rowing is a full body workout, as already mentioned, most of the work is actually done by the legs. Now this is a good thing, but we wouldn’t want  you to think that is is a perfectly balanced full body exercise. Also, we believe there to be a slightly higher risk of injury in the long term if you do not learn the proper form and technique from the beginning.   

So, our 3rd and final favourite rowing exercise is;


How Is Cycling Good for Fat Loss?

cycling low impact 1

Cycling is a great form of low impact cardio exercise which again, if combined with sufficient intensity, has the ability to burn a large number of calories with a relatively short workout. Very much like rowing, cycling is great for working the legs and lower body in general which as already mentioned, are very large muscle groups as well.

Cycling however, came in 3rd and final place as far as effective low impact exercise goes.

“WHY?” we hear you ask…

Well, cycling only really works the legs. The upper body is doing practically nothing and likewise, even the core muscles get a bit of a rest seeing as you don’t really have to support your form and posture in the same way as you do with swimming and rowing. Therefore, cycling cannot theoretically be classes as a total body exercise, which we are a big fan of here at TheMuscleExpert.com. (Link to HP)

Now, if you are not a fan of getting yourself into that skin tight lycra while cycling out in public then you could always join a gym and use a static bike or spinning machine. Many gyms also hold spinning classes which often incorporate sprints and HIIT into the workout too.

You could also read our IN DEPTH REVIEW of the best Elliptical machines HERE on The Muscle Expert, so you can do all your impact free workouts at home!

The followning cycle workout is designed to be completed on a static/spinning bike in the gym as you will need to kow what levels of intensity to ajust the bike to. This of course, doesn’t stop you from enjoying a sprint session on your road bike, but you will have to use intuition more and give 100% effort on the bursts of high intensity exercise. 

Here is the workout for you to enjoy…

HIIT Static Bike Workout

– Warm up for 5 minutes – steady state at level 3-4 –

10 minutes best effort at level 8

4 minutes steady state recovery at level 5-6

10 minutes best effort at level 8

5 Minutes steady state cooldown at level 3-4

read our exclusive review of 5 QUALITY under desk elliptical machines!

If you want to try the above cycling workout whilst sat in the comfort and privacy of your own home, or whilst sat at your desk at work, then you MUST check out these amazing elliptical leg machines! We loved them so much that we wrote an in depth review on all of them! We truly think that these are the top 5 elliptical training machines online!

What is the Best Low Impact Cardio For Fat Loss


In summary, swimming, rowing and cycling are all great low impact forms of exercise for burning fat, with a much lesser risk of injury and strain on the body. You will have noticed that we ordered the exercises in order of favourite to our least favorite, however they are all great in their own right and it really is a matter of preference as to which one you choose to do. Just remember to take our points in mind and seek help and advice from relevant experienced people within those three disciplines.

We hope that this post has helped you understand a bit more about why low impact exercise is so effective and why you should consider taking up at least one of the three activities mentioned in this article.

Happy Injury Free Fat Burning!


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