Running is one of the most efficient form of cardio or aerobic exercise because it’s a total-body, high-impact activity. Within just a few minutes of running or jogging, our heart rate will be significantly elevated in an effort to deliver oxygen to our muscles.
Running is the go-to form of cardio for many of us, but there are plenty of other alternatives to running to give the heart and lungs a great cardio workout. We can add some cardio workouts to our training schedule and cancel a run.
Incorporating different types of cardio into our fitness routine can add the variety our mind needs to prevent stress and keep workouts feeling motivating and engaging, and the variety our body needs to prevent overuse injuries, muscle imbalances, and fitness plateaus. To perform some cardio exercises with low or no impact will be good to combine with running in our training plan.
What Is Cardio?
Cardio which is also called aerobic exercise, is a physical activity that conditions the cardiovascular system and increases our heart rate while still being performed with oxygen.
During cardio, our heart rate and breathing rate increase, but we’re not totally breathless while we perform the cardio workout.
The aerobic exercises zone is 70-80% of our maximum heart rate. For example, if our maximum heart rate is 180 bpm, a cardio workout would ideally put our heart rate in the range of 126-144 bpm.
Benefits Of Cardio
Whether running or doing cardio alternatives to running, aerobic exercise has many health benefits:
Strengthening the heart and lungs
Improving lung function and full volume and reducing symptoms of asthma
Reducing blood pressure
Reducing the risk of lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes, and atherosclerosis
Improving the elasticity and capacity of blood vessels
Increasing vein density in muscle tissue
Burning calories and supporting weight loss
Reducing blood glucose levels and improving insulin sensitivity
Reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
Increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels
Strengthening the immune system
In addition to these benefits of aerobic exercises, low-impact cardio alternatives to running have the added benefit of minimizing stresses on joints.
12 Cardio Alternatives To Running
When we want to switch our usual running routine and try some cross-training, these are some good alternatives to running for our cardio exercise:
Walking is one of the simplest forms of aerobic exercise, but depending on our level of fitness, it can be difficult to get a vigorous cardio workout through walking, and even the most intense walking workouts rarely match the cardio intensity of running.
To increase the cardiovascular demands and the number of calories we burn when we walk, we need to walk at an incline, vigorously pump our arms, and keep a brisk pace.
Wearing a weighted vest, carrying hand weights, or walking backward are also effective options of boosting the metabolic and cardiovascular demands of walking.
We should consider wearing a fitness watch or heart rate monitor for our walks to ensure we’re pushing ourself hard enough to get a decent cardio workout.
Cycling can take on many forms, from mountain biking and outdoor cycling to spinning and stationary bike workouts indoors. No matter how we pedal, cycling is a fantastic low-impact cardio exercise to add to our list of alternatives to running.
It strengthens our heart, lungs, and entire lower body, and we can easily vary our routine, resistance, and cadence to keep our fitness progressing.
Swimming can be as difficult as it is healthful. For the best cardio workout, we should push the pace with our laps while maintaining good form. To try intervals if our endurance in the water isn’t what it is on land.
4. Aqua Jogging
Deepwater running or aqua jogging is one of the top go-to non-impact cross-training activities for injured runners. We can replicate the running motion more closely than most other forms of cardio without the pounding and impact stress of real running.
We can wear a flotation belt or go without, just be sure to keep our torso upright, core engaged, and keep those legs moving. The resistance of the water adds an extra level of difficulty.
5. Elliptical Machine
Elliptical machines are among the most popular equipment of cardio exercise, because they offer many of the fitness benefits of running while minimizing the impact on our joints.
We can adjust the resistance and incline to vary our workouts and challenge our body as our fitness improves. We should use the elliptical machines with movable arms to ensure we’re getting our heart rate up into the aerobic zone and getting a total-body workout.
6. Stair Climbing
We can use and hop on a stair climber exercise machine at our gym or head to a local stadium or tall building, or local outdoor steps to go up real stairs. Stair climbing is a challenging form of cardio.
It will strengthen our glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and core, which can translate to faster sprinting and better hill climbing as a runner.
If we don’t have easy access to paddling boats, kayaking boats or sail boats on a lake, river, or ocean, we can get an excellent cardio workout on an indoor rowing machine. Rowing is said to use 86% of the muscles in your body, so it’s as good of a total-body strengthening workout as it is an aerobic or cardio one.
8. Boxing and Kickboxing
Shadowboxing or punching and kicking a heavy bag is a fantastic cardio workout. We can also add in push-ups, jumping rope, squats, and lunges in between rounds.
Hiking is essentially just walking in a wilderness nature trail, yet it is often even more conducive to cardio workouts because of the natural challenges of the terrain. Wearing a pack can increase the intensity along with the number of calories we will burn on our hike.
10. Cross-Country Skiing- Mountain Skiing
Runners who live in a climate with cold, snowy winters can make nature’s playground their workout space with aerobic snow sports like cross-country or mountain skiing.
Also referred to as Nordic skiing, cross-country skiing is a low-impact, total-body workout since we also rely heavily on our upper body to propel us forward with our ski poles.
11. Circuit Training
Exercises like jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers, high knees, bodyweight squats, and push-ups are excellent ways to increase our heart rate and get our blood pumping for a solid cardio workout.
Performing these circuit exercises, combined with one to the next with minimal rest is the best way to keep our heart rate elevated throughout the duration of the workout.
Just remember that form should be the priority over speed.
12. Jumping Rope
Jumping rope is a fantastic cardio workout. It can be extremely vigorous, so we will gain the bone-building and strengthening benefits of jumping rope along with the cardiovascular benefits of aerobic exercise.
Perform Some Nice Cardio Exercises And Runs, Feel Great, Happy And Enjoy Your Runs Even More!