No Running Required: Cardio Workouts That Are Way More Enjoyable

You may love the idea of running — the open road, the calorie burn, and above all the fact that, unlike a $20 spin class, it’s completely free and available 24 hours a day. What you may not love so much is running’s harsh impact on your body, or the monotony of the treadmill. While you may not be sold on running, there’s no denying the results that cardio provides. It keeps your body tight and fit, and most importantly helps prevent a whole host of illnesses like diabetes, stroke, cancer, and heart disease. Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise is defined as repetitive motion with little to no added resistance. In cardio, multiple muscle groups get worked, and as they do, your body burns calories and increases your aerobic capacity.

According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, adults gain some serious health benefits from just two and a half hours of moderate aerobic exercise a week. Whether you’re a gym devotee or not, there are plenty of non-running cardio exercises that will keep you in tip-top shape year-round.

1. Circuit training

man doing push ups at a beach

Push ups are a form of cardio. | iStock.com

If you want to work up a sweat, burn a hefty dose of calories, and still be done with your workout in just 10 to 20 minutes, circuit training may be your perfect cardio match. Circuit training works by mixing aerobic moves with strengthening ones with minimal rest time in between. The key here is to master your rest and recovery period, which can be as little as 15 seconds between exercises. This form of cardio works because it gets your heart rate up and keeps it up throughout the workout. The fat burning potential is huge and you’ll find yourself doing plenty of body-weight exercises like plank leg lifts, bicycle sit-ups, squats, and burpees.

2. Rowing

man doing cardio on rowing machine

Rowing will tire you out relatively quickly. | iStock.com

If you’re a gym-goer who is bored of the elliptical and stationary bike, this cardio exercises is for you. Rowing is truly a full body workout that gives you a healthy does of cardio but doesn’t neglect your upper body in the process. Your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, back, and biceps will feel the burn. You can get in the zone and keep a steady pace with some good music or take it up a notch by doing some high-intensity interval training where you row for one minute (aim for 250 meters) and then rest for one minute, completing a total of 10 rounds.

3. Swimming

man swimming in an indoor pool

Swimming is great if you also suffer from joint pain. | iStock.com

Ever envied the back of a swimmer? Wondered how they glide so effortlessly through the water? Swimming is one of those cardio exercises most people forget about, but if you have an injury, weak joints, or just want a killer workout that is easy on your body, swimming shouldn’t be overlooked. It allows you to build your back, arm, and leg muscles with no harsh impact on your joints or muscles. Unlike running, your body will love this low-impact exercise, and as a bonus, you’ll learn to breathe more efficiently and can cool off in the heat of the summer.

4. Cycling

man cycling in a triathlon

Give it a go on the bike! | iStock.com

Ever wonder how those brightly spandex-clad guys on bikes make it up those steep mountain roads? It’s as impressive as it looks. Cycling requires a high fitness level and plenty of practice. Whether done indoors on a stationary bike or outside on the road, biking is a cardio workout that allows you to move your body while forgoing the high impact of running. Biking works out your quads as you push down on the pedals and your glutes and hamstrings as you pull the pedal back up. This great lower body workout works with momentum and resistance to get you moving.

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