Cardio workouts can get your heart rate up and help you burn calories, but sometimes it’s tough to figure out which aerobic exercise is right for you. You may love to run, but over time it can become harder on your knees and you may be in search of low-impact exercises or joint-friendly ways to continue training. Cardio without running can be done — and it can be fun.
But what are the best ways to get a good workout using cardio alternatives to running? As your body changes, it may require you to find ways to push your body without hurting yourself. If fitness is a priority as you age, it can often be up to you to tailor your workout to your body.
Cardio without running keeps your heart rate lower while burning calories with interval training, low-impact exercise, and a good workout routine.
Can You Really Do Cardio Without Running And Get A Good Workout?
In a word: yes. If you used to run but have had to give it up for personal reasons like an injury, compromised joint health, or you have trouble finding the time to get outside for a good, healthy run, there are other cardio alternatives you can try.
So many fitness buffs think running is the end-all-be-all when it comes to cardio training. But like anything in life, while it may work well for some, it might not be the best practice for others. Rest assured, though, that there are other efficient ways to get your workout in.
Now, cardiovascular exercise is a staple of healthy living. But it’s possible you have not realized that there are other ways to get your heart rate up. Whether you are looking to get your legs moving, engage your upper body, or simply lose weight, here are some cardio alternatives you may not have thought about:
- Rock climbing
- Mountain climbers
- Speed skater lunges
- Walking in place with high knees
- Crab walk
- Rotational jacks (a low-impact variation of the jumping jack)
- Inchworm crawl
Cardio Training: Good Practices To Ensure
When it comes to cardio training, one of the most important ‘good practice’ habits is warming up and cooling down. No matter which cardio exercise you opt for, warming up should last anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes. Warming up is a good way to get your blood circulating and prep your muscles.
At the end of your workout, don’t forget to cool down either. Just take another 5 to 7 minutes to slow down your workout and bring the intensity level down.
Finally, it won’t take much to hit a workout goal of 30 minutes at least 5 days a week. Talk to a personal trainer about the right types of cardio for your body. Let the trainer know if you’ve suffered an injury or have any type of chronic condition.
Trainers are skilled in knowing how to help you modify a certain exercise to help your body. For instance, take a simple exercise like mountain climbers. You can approach this exercise differently depending on your fitness level or comfort level.
A Word About Modification: Mountain Climbers
Variation and modification are possible no matter what exercise you’re trying to accomplish. Here’s how it works on, for example, mountain climbers:
What is a mountain climber? Essentially, it is a plank. However, instead of staying still, you alternate pulling your knees in toward your chest. Generally, you want to try each move for about 30 seconds. In between moves, you can rest for 30 to 60 seconds.
Variation 1: Running mountain climbers — Continuously shift knee to chest to mimic a run. Do so for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds. Do this 5 times or more.
Variation 2: Back plank mountain climbers — Instead of facing the floor, face the ceiling. Pull your legs up to your chest, alternating sides. Do so for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds. Do this 5 times or more.
Variation 3: Slalom mountain climbers — Instead of alternating legs, keep both legs together. Pull both of your knees toward the right side of your chest, drop back into plank, then pull both knees to the left side of your chest. Do so for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds. Do this 5 times or more.
This is just to show you how many ways there are to approach a single exercise. You can create an entire 30-minute cardio workout utilizing only variations of the mountain climber exercise.
Cardio Exercises Are Great For Legs, Upper Body, And Fat Loss
High-intensity interval training (otherwise known as HIIT) is another great way to work out your legs, upper body, and meet weight loss goals. In fact, in a recent study of HIIT, high-intensity interval training significantly reduced body fat percentage. 1
A HIIT workout is a really good way to maximize a cardiovascular workout if you don’t have a ton of time. How does HIIT work? Basically, you try to carry out each exercise to about 80% of your perceived maximum heart rate.
So you can work out for 60 seconds and then rest (which can include walking, jumping jacks, or jogging) until your heart rate drops back down to about 60% of your perceived maximum heart rate. Then, you raise your heart rate again. And so on and so on.
Furthermore, in several recent random clinical trials, a range of targets including skeletal muscles, risk factors, autonomic function, cardiac function, exercise capacity, quality of life, and other markers showed qualitative improvement. 2
Try Resistance Training, Aerobic Exercise, Kettlebell, And Weight Training To Lose Weight
Resistance training or metabolic workouts are also considered cardio alternatives, however, these exercises include weights (if not the use of body weight as resistance). These workouts are highly intense — they’re really for those who already work out relatively hard.
HIIT is better for those who need the built-in rest time. Metabolic workouts can be shorter. A metabolic workout can last anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes. A metabolic workout can also involve the use of a kettlebell, weights, or resistance bands. But the weights or kettlebell shouldn’t be heavier than 10 or 15 pounds).
Kettlebells are extremely versatile. The design allows you to hold them in many ways and access several ranges of motion. Also, they store easily.
Circuit training is a highly effective way to metabolically train. You choose 5 different types of exercise. Do the first exercise for 30 seconds. Then rest for 30 seconds. Then, you move on to exercise 2. And so on for 5 sets.
When training in this way, you want to work on your form. Keep the movement slow, contained, and try to hold the tension as you push and pull. Go at your own pace. Over time, you can increase the number of exercises per set, or the number of sets per workout.
Cardio Without Running
In the end, the benefits of cardio exercise are tried and true. These exercises are not about bulking up or maxing out, they’re about supporting your body where its at and giving you lots of options in order to do so.
And the best part is you can do them to burn calories anywhere: your home, the gym, your garage, or even at the office. So give it a try and see how quickly you feel better when you adjust your workout to the one you can ask your body to handle repeatedly. Just make sure to get your doctor’s approval before beginning any new exercise regimen.