Cardio Workouts That Won't Strain Your Back Or Shoulders

It might look goofy, but paddle-boating is a great cardio workout -- and a good option for those with arm or shoulder issues. Here are more heart-pumping ideas, even for those dealing with injuries or mobility problems.

I know how painful shoulder injuries can be. After a horrific car accident several years ago, I spent many weeks in a hip-to-collarbone cast. And still, my physical therapist had me doing calf exercises. Why? Because exercise is so important for your heart and for hormonal repair, even if you are unable to use the part of your body that's actually injured or weak.  So even though you might be working your legs or lower half, your whole body benefits.

We covered cardio workouts for those with hip or knee problems in a separate post.  Here's how to get your body moving if you have shoulder or back problems that keep you from using your arms much or doing high-impact workouts. As always, be sure to check with your doctor or physical therapist before trying a new exercise routine.

Walk Like You Mean It

Think walking doesn't count as a vigorous workout? Think again! You can make a walking workout as intense as you like by moving briskly and heading uphill. Or challenge yourself even more by going for a hike – conquering the uneven terrain will leave you feeling accomplished.

Hit The Pool

If your shoulders allow, swimming is some of the gentlest, yet most effective, exercise you can do. If you can't swim full strokes, use a kickboard to support your upper body. Or try water walking and jogging.

Step It Up

If you don't have full use of your shoulders or arms but can tolerate some impact, step aerobics classes are notoriously challenging – and fun. Step aerobics classes are often classified by level so if you're not sure where you fit in, start with a beginner class and work your way up. And remember, you can adjust the step bench's height to suit your current fitness level.

Shall We Dance?

Although some types of dancing use a lot of arm and hand movements, you can do an awful lot with just your lower body (or without lifting your arms above your shoulders). And if you're dancing to a type of music you like, the workout will whiz by before you even realize you've broken a sweat.

Get Outside

You don't have to slave away inside a gym during Phase 1 or any phase at all! If you're not into walking you can still enjoy the outdoors, and satisfy the Phase 1 workout requirement, with activities like cycling, inline skating, or even paddle boating. Get creative!