Low Impact Cardio Exercises for Bariatric Patients: Building Strength Safely

Low Impact Cardio Exercises for Bariatric Patients: Building Strength Safely

Bariatric Fitness; Low Impact Cardio


In our previous bariatric fitness blog, we offered some advice for overweight individuals who want to get started on a fitness routine and where to begin. We emphasized the importance of not overdoing it, mixing cardio with light weight lifting, stretching, not being intimidated, making and plan and setting goals, making lifestyle changes, and starting with low impact exercises. Today we are going to expand on the topic of low impact cardiovascular exercises for bariatric patients to assist with weight loss.

Low impact exercises are workouts that do not have a lot of jarring activity that can be painful for the joints. This is especially important for people carrying excess weight as combining exercises that put stress on the joints with all that weight can cause damage and injury. The biggest culprit of them all is running, especially outdoors on pavement. The action of running causes a lot of up and down motion and is hard on the knees, hips, ankles, feet, and back when carrying too much weight. Any motion that involves hopping, skipping, jumping, etc. should be avoided at first. Eventually, when you are at a healthy weight, you can start to incorporate some of those activities into your routine because they can burn calories and build muscle faster. You should start with low impact workouts to help you on your way to a healthy weight.

Here are a few excellent low impact cardio exercises to help you get started. The amount of reps or length of time for each exercise is completely dependent on each individuals ability. Remember to push yourself but don’t overdo it!:

Water Workouts-

For overweight people who have difficulty standing or walking for an excessive amount of time, a great way to get the body moving again is to start with water workouts. The buoyancy and resistance of the water allows you to move and function without the harsh effects of gravity on an overweight body. For balance, a buoyancy belt can be utilized. Many gyms offer water aerobics classes with a teacher who can show you some great workouts. If that is unavailable to you, you can try these workouts on your own.

1.      High Knees – Standing in place, bring one knee up quickly and as high as you can go. When that knee is on it’s way back down, bring the other knee up. Continue this motion as quickly as you can while maintaining balance with your arms.

2.      Sideways Steps – Start with your feet together and step sideways with your right foot just past shoulder distance. Bring your left foot to meet your right foot. If you have a long lap pool, you can continue in the same direction and do sideways steps back and forth in the pool (face the same direction the whole time so each leg is utilized). If you do not have a lap pool you can do sideways steps in place by switching the moving foot each time.

3.      Water Jog – You will need a lap pool for this exercise. Speed walk as quick as you can to each side of the pool. You can use your arms to assist with balance and speed (it is great to utilize your arms to start building muscle and burn more calories).

4.      Swimming – Swimming is one of the best workouts you can do in general. Swimming uses nearly every muscle group and is an amazing low impact cardiovascular exercise. For those carrying extra weight, you can modify the motion of swimming by using floaties and buoyancy devises.   

There are many more workouts you can do in the pool that will help you build strength and improve your cardiovascular system.

Aerobic Activities:

For those capable, outdoor aerobic activities utilizing the effects of gravity and the varying elevations of the ground can be great for low impact cardio exercising. The simple act of going for a 20 minute walk around the neighborhood or on an easy trail offers excellent benefits for building the cardiovascular system up and improving muscle strength and mobility. You can also do high knees, sideways steps, squats (without weight), and much more. If you are unable to do these activities outdoors, you can go for a walk on a treadmill and do the other activities in an indoor basketball court.

Elliptical Machine:

One of the best low impact machines at the gym is the elliptical machine. This machine offers the same motion of walking/ running without the impact. You can set the resistance level higher or lower to increase muscle building along with improving cardio. You can also reverse the motion of the machine and go backwards to exercise different muscle groups. This machine utilizes your arms which allows you to strengthen your upper body as well.


Bicycling is another great low impact activity that you can do outdoors or at the gym. Outdoor bicycling with small hills or the indoor bicycle machine with added resistance will build leg muscles and improve your cardio. Many gyms offer bicycling classes with a trainer (make sure it is a beginner class, some of the classes will kick your butt!).

There are many other low impact cardio exercises out there that are great for those starting their physical fitness journey. Start with exercises that feel comfortable for you and work your way up from there. Vita4Life wants to remind you that the combination of proper dieting, supplementing, and exercising is the best way for bariatric patients to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle. Stick with it and you will see the results and feel amazing!


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