10 Cardio Alternatives for Non-Runners

Featured Article, Fitness
on March 12, 2015

If you think that smiling couple pictured above is crazy, you’re in the right place. Maybe just the thought of running makes you grimace rather than grin, and we totally get it. But we all know that cardiovascular exercise is extremely important for your health.  It is essential to heart health, a perfect stress manager, can help any weight loss goals and is even good for your brain. We still want you to get your daily cardio in!  So in order to help, we have created the ultimate list of cardio alternatives.


The Basics

The top four alternatives to running are the elliptical, cycling (indoor or outdoor), swimming and rowing. There are good reasons that these exercises always make the list!

Alternatives to Running | SpryLiving.com


1. Elliptical Training

The elliptical is an ideal low-impact alternative to running. With a medium resistance you’ll burn about as many calories as you would at a 6mph pace running (that’s a 10-minute mile), but you can always ramp up the resistance for a larger burn and more toning action. But please remember, you have to have some resistance when using the elliptical in order for it to be effective. If you’re able to peddle really fast and your hips are flailing all over the places, that’s a sign you may need to crank up the resistance. If you can bump up both the incline and the resistance, even better!

2. Cycling

As anyone who has taken a spin class can attest, indoor cycling is a grueling, no-joke workout. Biking is easier on your knees than running and you can easily switch up your workout by changing speed, intensity and stance. Spin classes are said to burn far more calories than regular running would, and if biking outdoors, you can cover far more miles than you could if you were running. Also, the scenery changes are sure to keep you motivated.

3. Swimming

Swimming is the ultimate cure for any joint-related issues. Being in the water relieves the pressure that gravity puts on our bodies at all times. But don’t let the fact that many senior citizens gravitate towards swimming deter you. Lap swimming and aquatic aerobic classes are calorie-shredding workouts that will get your heart pumping in no time. Another perk: Swimming tones your core, arms and shoulders, helping you sculpt a more chiseled bod.

4. Rowing

Use the row machine for a cardiovascular workout that targets your arms, legs and your abs. That’s right! With proper form you can target your triceps, chest muscles, biceps, back and, of course, your abdominals.  All while getting your heart pumping!  If you’ve never used a row machine before, make sure and ask about proper form in order to get the most out of your workout.

Working out should be fun, right?

Right. Who ever said that cardio has to be boring? These next options don’t skip on cardio or on fun.

Alternatives to Running | SpryLiving.com


5. Dance Class

Dancing is no longer reserved for the graceful and coordinated. You may never join the New York City ballet, but that has nothing to do with the joy, calorie-burn and tone achieved by dancing. Dancing is even getting attention from academia as an extremely effective workout. According to the University of Rochester, it is good for stress management, balance, cognitive functioning, weight loss and better overall health.

6. Hiking

Get a group together and go explore! There’s nothing as motivating as camaraderie, beautiful scenery and the freedom of depending solely on where your feet can take you. Hiking is an empowering, community-building way to sneak in a cardio workout.

7. Kickboxing

Are you mad? Stressed? Sad? We promise, kickboxing is the perfect cure. There is no better way to release pent-up emotions or tension than putting all your force behind kicking and punching a bag. And trust us, your heart rate will skyrocket before you know it. Warning: this core-centric exercise can become slightly addictive!


Less traditional, but no less effective. 

These options aren’t the typical, steady cardiovascular workouts, but they’re still effective ways to get your heart pumping!

Alternatives to Running | SpryLiving.com


8. Walking on an Incline

If you don’t like the intensity and joint-strain caused by running, try walking with an incline. The uphill aspect will make your heart pound and increase the cardiovascular aspect of this exercise while toning your glutes. If your incline is high enough (around 10 percent), you can burn just about as many calories as you would if running.

9. Jump Rope

It may be a schoolyard favorite, but jumping rope is no child’s game. You have to keep your core tight, focus on the timing of the rope and prepare for some serious calf-burn. Try mixing up the tempo and throwing in some one-footed jumps to keep it interesting and elevate heart rate.

10. Circuits

Try a combination of Burpees, jumping jacks, jump squats, and high knees to get your heart going and keep your routine fun! To start you can make your own combination of moves, try any of these, or try this one! Circuit training is the go-to workout for cardiovascular training and for toning.