Exercises That Work Just as Well as Traditional Cardio Workouts

Even some of the most dedicated gym goers dread the cardio portion of their workouts. But cardiovascular exercise is just about the best way to keep your ticker strong and, seeing as how heart disease remains the number one killer of men in the U.S., that’s pretty important. It also boosts your stamina and endurance, which is key for just about every physical activity from sex to climbing the stairs in your office building. Without a solid cardio program, you’ll find yourself feeling winded pretty easily.

If you’ve had it with the treadmill, then it’s time for a change. These five exercises will give your heart rate a boost without making you want to rip your hair out.

1. Jumping rope

Man jumping rope

Jumping rope is just as good as running. | iStock.com

Boxers don’t just skip rope as a way to pass the time between rounds. They’ve know for decades that it’s one of the fastest, easiest ways to get their hearts racing to keep them feeling fit and fast in the ring. According to AZCentral, jumping rope for an hour yields about the same calorie burn as running 8 miles in the same amount of time, or roughly 860 calories for a 160-pound person. Cut it down to 20 minutes, and you’re still looking at around 287 calories.

2. Weighted box jumps

people doing box jumps in a gym

Weighted box jumps will test your strength and ability. | iStock.com

Weighted box jumps are a little tricky because you have to make a concentrated effort with every repetition to ensure you land firmly on top of the platform. Muscle & Fitness likes this exercise as a way to develop your fast-twitch muscles, reduce your risk of injury, and boost agility. Adding a weighted vest or dumbbell to the workout boosts these effects even more.

Try to do straight box jumps for 10 minutes. Take a breather, then do one more set.

3. Jumping-jack pyramid

group of three people doing jumping jacks in the park on a beautiful day

Jumping jacks will keep your blood pumping. | iStock.com

Though many think of them as a warm-up drill for elementary school kids during gym, jumping jacks deserve a place in your regimen. They’re a full-body workout, easy to perform, and don’t require any equipment. They’re also an incredibly effective way to get your heart pumping and keep your waist slim. According to Livestrong.com, a 180-pound person will torch 654 calories in an hour. Include them as part of an interval workout, and that number climbs even higher.


4. Hiking

hiking in the mountains

Hiking is great for your heart. | iStock.com

One of the reasons cardio can seem so mind-numbingly boring is because it often involves staring at the same spot for a long time. Getting outside can do wonders for your workout, even if you loathe the idea of running. Instead, lace up your sturdiest shoes to go for a hike. Since you’ll tackle plenty of hills, rocks, and bumps along the way, it also gets your heart pumping pretty effectively. As for the burn, Livestrong.com says a 160-pound person can scorch up to 440 calories in an hour.

Hitting the trails is an undeniably fun way to break a sweat, but it does require a bit of time and advanced planning. Consider this your weekend workout.

5. Rowing

Man using rowing machine

Rowing is tough work. | iStock.com

According to The Huffington Post, this joint-friendly piece of equipment is every bit as effective at elevating your heart rate as the treadmill or elliptical.

Since rowing incorporates resistance, it’s sort of like a combination of cardio and strength training. You may need to play around with the settings a bit to find the correct level of resistance before you jump into a workout. As with just about every other type of aerobic activity, you can boost your results with intervals. Men’s Fitness recommends a workout where you row 250 meters in one minute or less, followed by one minute of rest. Complete 10 sets for the full workout.