Top 5 Fat Torching Cardio Workouts That Are Joint Friendly 


I hate doing cardio.  I realize that it’s important for heart, lung health, and longevity but I just can’t stand jogging endlessly on a treadmill.  It feels like a hamster wheel and just isn’t fun for me.  I also have some lingering joint issues that I have to work around in my training.  So to get my cardio work in while eliminating boredom is paramount to me.  Here are my top 5 cardio workouts that are fun, can involve the kids, be made more challenging as you get stronger, involve minimal equipment, and are joint friendly.

Pro Tip #1

Keep your heart rate in the “fat burning zone” during any cardio.

Bonus points if you have some sort of heart rate tracking and can keep it in the “fat burning zone”.  There are few calculators available online but the basic formula I use is:

220 – age = Max Heart Rate

60% x Max Heart Rate = Lower End Of Range

80% x Max Heart Rate = Upper End Of Range

So I’ll be 47(!) in November 2022.

220 – 47 = 173 MHR

60% x 173 = 104 Lower End Range

80% x 173 = 138 Upper End Range

Pro Tip #2

If you don’t have a heart rate tracker a good gauge of whether you’re working hard enough is if you’re breathing hard and not quite able to have a normal conversation.  That’s a good pace.

Workout #1 – Walking

Walking is one of the best fat burning cardio workouts you can do.

As I said earlier, I hate jogging.  I do, however, enjoy walking and exploring the neighborhood we live in.  If the weather is decent enough I strap M into his jogging stroller with his breakfast and walk for about 2 miles or 30 minutes whichever comes first.  Our neighborhood is very walkable with interesting houses and architecture to see and dream about owning one day.  I’ll listen to a podcast and just go in a different direction every time just to see what we can discover.  The walk is pleasant and the gentle  bumping of the wheels will usually lull M to sleep.  

Walking Variations

  • Walking for distance, pace, or time is a great way to start.  
  • Try to vary the route.  
  • Go up and down hills if you have access to them.  
  • Carry a loaded backpack.

Workout #2 – Jumping Rope

Jumping rope builds your endurance and coordination to the next level

Jumping rope is one of the best conditioning / cardio exercises one can do.  Evidence suggests jumping rope for 10 minutes is equivalent to running an 8 minute mile calorie wise.  The benefits are crazy good for this exercise and is one of my favorites.  The low height for skipping rope is essential to keeping the impact on joints to a minimum.  I’ve been jumping rope since 2009 and I’ve never gotten bored of it.  Although I’ve reached my skill ceiling it’s always challenging, fun, and a great workout.  I usually do six 2 minute rounds with 1 minute rest in between.  I vary the jumping in each round between boxer skips, double unders, single legs, criss cross, high knees.  The variations are endless!

Tips for jumping rope

  • Jump just high enough for the rope to pass under.  One inch or less is ideal. 
  • Jump once for each time the rope passes.  I’ve seen a lot of clients and people make the newbie mistake of hopping twice for each rope pass.  
  • Focus on just getting one perfect jump first. Then try to go for two. Then three, Etc.
  • Keep your feet together.
  • Torso upright and back straight.
  • Shoulders are pulled back and relaxed.
  • Arms are straight or elbows slightly bent. 
  • Rotate the wrists to spin the rope.  Try not to swing your arms to move the rope.
  • Start with the rope behind your knees for your first jump.
  • Master the basic jump before trying variations.

Jump Rope Variations

  • Skip for time.  I.E.  30 secs jump 30 secs rest for 10 minutes to start is great.
  • Change your pace. 
  • A light pace is < 100 skips per minute
  • A moderate pace is 100 -120 skips per minute
  • An intense pace is 120 – 160 skips per minute
  • See how fast you can go!

Workout #3 – Loaded Carries

Loaded carries with a kid are fun and challenging

A loaded carry is basically walking a set distance with something heavy attached to you in some way.  It can be a loaded backpack, kettlebell, dumbbell, weight plate, sled, sandbag, one of your kids, etc.  The distance can be as little as 10 yards or as many as 100 depending on your fitness level.  

This requires a bit of equipment but can be used with everyday implements like backpacks, duffle bags, and books.  I also sometimes strap M to me in a harness, grab a kettlebell or dumbbell, and just go walk for 40-yard legs at the local park.  Walk for 20 – 40 yards, catch your breath, and repeat.  Can’t get any simpler than that.  

Loaded Carry Variations

  • Backpack full of books or weight plates if you have access to them.
  • Kettlebell or dumbbells in hands.
  • Attach resistance bands to kettlebells or dumbbells to increase instability forcing your core to be more engaged by keeping your trunk stable.
  • Attach a loaded sled or heavy sandbag to a weight belt and drag it behind you 
  • Carry a loaded duffle bag in your arms or on your shoulders and walk for distance

Workout #4 – HIIT

HIIT is time efficient and burns calories like no other

HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training can be done with no equipment or any equipment of your choice.  It can be done in as little as 4 minutes or as long as 30 minutes.  The intervals can be ratio adjusted to your fitness levels.   It is highly customizable for your own time, equipment, and fitness availability.  There is no excuse not to throw in a HIIT session or two into your workout weeks.  To make HIIT  joint (and downstairs neighbor) friendly, keep the jumping exercise variations to a minimum. 

If you’re new to HIIT start off light with just a couple exercises.  If you’re moving as fast as you can with good form for the duration of the work period your cardio and energy systems will be taxed.  I would recommend a starting ratio of one work period to one rest period.  As your body adapts I would change it to a 2:1 work to rest ratio.  


1:1 work to rest ratio would be 

30 secs work 

30 secs rest 

For 8 minutes.  Choose two exercises to alternate body parts involved  I.E. jumping jacks and half burpees or squats and kettlebell swings.  

Benefits of HIIT

  • Burns a lot of calories in a short amount of time
  • Raises your metabolic rate for hours after exercising
  • Time efficient
  • Improves cardiovascular fitness
  • No equipment needed
  • Can be done anywhere.  Even in your apartment.


  • Pick a work to rest time ratio that is challenging and gets your heart rate in the fat burning zone. 
  • 1:1 – is appropriate for beginners 30 secs work : 30 secs rest x 8 minutes is a good start.
  • 2:1 – is for intermediate athletes that can still be challenging for elite athletes depending on exercise selection.  20 secs work : 10 secs rest x 8 – 16 minutes of all out effort can feel like an eternity in the fires of hell.
  • If you have joint issues, find movements that can be done without aggravating them.  If your knees hurt when doing squats try a half burpee or running while in push up position.
  • If you want to keep it simple select two exercises to alternate between like squats and kettlebell swings or jumping jacks and mountain climbers.  The important thing is just to keep moving.

Workout #5 – Shadow Boxing

Shadow boxing is a fun way to get your heart rate up

I love shadow boxing.  Fighting is hard work and hard work gets results.  You can make it as intense or as light as you want depending on how you’re feeling.  I like Bas Rutten’s timed round workouts.  It’s all audio cues and you follow along as best you can, throwing combos with 100% power.  Super intense.  

Shadow Boxing Variations

  • Boxing
  • Muay Thai or Kickboxing
  • Specific skill drills for rounds


There you have my personal top five cardio workouts that torch body fat and work your cardiovascular system for amazing results.  Time efficient, burns calories, and builds your heart and lungs.  What more can you ask for?  Alternate these workouts with lifting days and you’ll be well on your way of getting rid of the dad bod.