Top 10 Proven Cardio Alternatives for People Who Hate it

If you think of a cardio workout as your worst nightmare, you’re not alone. While cardio fitness is not the most favorable form of activity for many of us, it surely is worth including in your exercise routine to boost your cardiovascular health or help you lose weight. But what if you really can’t convince yourself to take up running? Don’t worry. There are plenty of other activities to get your heart rate up and help you shed those extra pounds. Read on and learn about the best 10 alternative cardio workouts that you and your body will love!

What Is a Cardio Workout?

A cardio workout, short for cardiovascular workout, is a type of exercise that focuses on increasing your heart rate and improving the health of your cardiovascular system. This type of workout primarily targets your heart and lungs, aiming to enhance their efficiency in delivering oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and organs.

Cardio workouts can take various forms and can be adapted to suit different fitness levels and preferences. Essentially, everything that increases your heart rate and makes you sweat can be defined as cardio. Some common examples of cardio exercises include:

  1. Running or jogging – Running at a moderate to high intensity can be an effective way to get your heart rate up.
  2. Cycling – Whether on a stationary bike or outdoors, cycling is a low-impact cardio exercise that can be tailored to various intensities.
  3. Swimming – Swimming provides a full-body workout and is easy on the joints due to the buoyancy of water.
  4. Jumping rope – Jumping rope is a simple yet effective way to engage in cardiovascular exercise.
  5. Dancing – Dancing can be both fun and beneficial for your cardiovascular health. Various dance styles, from Zumba to hip-hop, can get your heart pumping.
  6. Aerobic classes – Participating in aerobics classes or high-energy group workouts can help you stay motivated and engaged.
  7. Elliptical training – Using an elliptical machine combines the movements of running, cycling, and stair climbing while minimizing the impact on joints.
  8. Hiking – Hiking on trails with varying terrains can provide a cardiovascular workout while allowing you to connect with nature.
  9. Rowing – Rowing machines provide a low-impact full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups.
  10. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)HIIT workouts involve alternating between short bursts of high-intensity exercises and periods of lower intensity or rest. It’s an efficient way to improve cardiovascular fitness and burn calories.
  11. Stair climbing – Climbing stairs, whether on a stair climber machine or actual stairs, is a great way to challenge your cardiovascular system.
  12. Kickboxing – Kickboxing workouts combine cardio with strength training and can be a fun way to improve fitness.

Why Do Cardio?

Love it or hate it, we all need to fit cardio into our physical activity because it’s one of the best ways to strengthen the most important muscle in our body- the heart.

But it doesn’t end there. Apart from the cardiovascular benefits, the overall role of aerobic exercises, a.k.a. cardio, is to build resistance, endurance, and burn calories. In addition, cardio:

But cardio is super easy to hate because it can become annoying and not enjoyable. Some people hate feeling breathless, or they easily get bored doing the same old exercises for 30+ minutes.

The first thing to do in each case is to find what you hate about it and change it for something you like or at least hate less.

Best Alternative Cardio Workouts

Has it crossed your mind that maybe you gave up cardio before you found the right one for you? If the word “cardio” instantly brings running to your mind, you will be surprised to know that there are PLENTY of excellent aerobic exercises that will also let you feel the proverbial “runner’s high.” Check them out!

  • Cycling

Cycling is an excellent option for cardiovascular exercise that you can easily replace running with. It’s an aerobic exercise that increases your blood flow, elevates your heart health, and helps you build endurance. 

The best part is that it is low impact, so there’s minimal stress on your joints as you cycle – meaning that it minimizes the risk of a physical injury. Your legs do most of the work, and you can vary your resistance levels to make it more challenging. 

Cycling is a great way to burn calories, increase your heart rate, and build core strength and flexibility. What’s more, you can do it indoors on a stationary bike, hop on a road bike outdoors in nature, or even try advanced mountain biking for a high-intensity workout – whatever best suits your lifestyle.

  •  Spinning

Spinning is another one of the best cardio workout alternatives to running. It refers to an indoor cycling workout that is typically done on a stationary exercise bike. It’s a popular form of cardiovascular exercise and fitness training that offers a high-intensity, low-impact workout. A spin class is often led by an instructor who guides participants through various cycling routines, simulating different terrains, intensities, and cycling techniques.

Spin classes offer a rigorous workout that not only works up a sweat but can burn fat and calories quickly. The combination of high and low-intensity intervals makes spin classes extremely effective for raising the heart rate and improving endurance. Not only this, but the fun music, energetic instructors, and team atmosphere that come with spin classes also make them a great way to stay motivated and on track with your fitness goals.

  • Circuit Training

Circuit training is a great alternative for those looking to switch up their cardio routine. Circuit training is a series of exercises done in succession with no rest in between and can be tailored to fit any fitness level or goal. 

It can consist of several bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, burpees, mountain climbers, push-ups, or jumping jacks. You can easily alternate between upper-body and lower-body exercises to ensure all areas of the body are getting a good workout. With the constant movement and work-rest ratio, the heart rate is kept up throughout the exercise, making it a great full-body cardio workout. 

Additionally, as the workouts are typically done in a relatively short timeframe, they are great for those who are short on time or travel often. 

  • HIIT Running Sessions- Personal Record Cardio Alternative

While regular running may be too boring for you, jazzing up your running routine a little may be the key to your overall satisfaction with running as well as improved effectiveness. A good way to push yourself and make your cardio training more entertaining is to turn each workout into a challenge – in speed and time.  

You can choose to run indoors or outdoors. Changing the route of your outdoor running might make it more enjoyable for you. 

Start by measuring your personal record (PR) of running at full speed for an amount of time. (Don’t forget to warm up your body properly beforehand.)

Next, you can create a HIIT routine of running. For example:

  • Run at full speed for 1-3 minutes 
  • Run at a slow pace for 2-6 minutes (twice the time you ran at full speed) 
  • Repeat it 6-8 times. 

HIIT running routine will make you burn twice as many calories as running at a steady pace for twice the time. You will also continue burning calories after the workout due to the EPOC or ‘afterburn’ effect.

This routine is perfect for losing weight and can be done 2-3 times/week. 

  • Light-Weight Cardio Alternative- Supersets & Giant Sets

You can incorporate HIIT into any physical training by adding intensity and speed. Only 30 minutes of HIIT can burn up to 400kcal.

If you enjoy weightlifting, you can combine low-weight supersets and giant sets for each muscle- building endurance and strength. Supersets are two exercises performed back-to-back, while giant sets are 4+ exercises performed back-to-back.

For example, you can perform front lateral raises + side lateral raises + shoulder press with 5-10lb dumbbells for 10-15 reps.

  • EMOM Routines

Have you heard of EMOM? It’s a challenging practice commonly used in CrossFit training, but it can be adapted to every training. EMOM routines are becoming increasingly popular as a cardio alternative. It stands for ‘Every Minute on the Minute,’ and each workout consists of doing an exercise or group of exercises for a certain amount of time or a number of repetitions, then resting for the remainder of the minute. For example, challenge yourself to do as many squats, lunges, burpees, or any of the F45 exercises as you can within one minute – if you feel like you can’t do any more rounds, give yourself a rest until the time is up. Then, start the routine all over again.

The idea of EMOM is to do as many rounds of the exercise as possible before the time is up. It’s not only great for working on stamina but also for HIIT workouts that strengthen your entire body. With EMOM, you can switch up the exercises each round or keep them the same – it’s totally up to you, and the great thing is that you can tailor it to suit your needs, whatever you choose.

  • Dancing 

Dancing is an energetic and exciting form of exercise that serves as a great cardio alternative to more traditional fitness workouts. It gets the heart pumping and the blood flowing, making you break a sweat while having fun. Not only is it an effective way to work your cardiovascular system, but it also helps with coordination, balance, and muscle memory, as well as has a positive impact on your mental health. Plus, the range of options available when it comes to dancing styles allows you to find a type to suit your own taste. From rhythmic Latin styles to slow, sensual ballroom routines, dancing is a great way to get fit while having a good time.

  • Low-Intensity Cardio Alternatives

If you hate feeling breathless and just want to move your body while still scrolling on Instagram, there are tons of things you can do and still work your muscles. Not all aerobic routines have to be fast, speedy, powerful, or dynamic to be effective – you can also take things slow and opt for low-intensity aerobic exercise.

For example, walking 25 minutes on an inclined treadmill or stair climber at a moderate pace will keep your heart rate up and leave you sweaty. On days when you don’t feel like doing anything, wear comfy clothes and dedicate 25-40 minutes to your cardio machine of choice. One of the best cardio machines worth trying out is a rowing machine, as rowing exercises target every muscle group and help you burn a lot of calories. Don’t skip on elliptical machines, too – they are great for getting your body moving in a running-like motion.

  • Team Sports

If you’re looking for an alternative to running or biking to get your cardio in, why not try out some team sports? Working together with a team in sports like basketball, soccer, or even flag football can be an awesome way to get your blood pumping and have some competitive, energizing fun. 

Teams often have a great sense of camaraderie, and the spirit of friendly competition can make for an even more enjoyable experience. They also give you an extra hit of adrenaline since you’ll be playing in a team that will drive your competitive spirit and help you stay accountable. Maybe playing by the rules and keeping score is what you’ve been missing all along? Join a sports team of your choice and see for yourself!

  • Hire a Personal Trainer

Lastly, if you don’t want to think about any of the above alternatives, you can leave it in the hands of a personal trainer. Let your trainer know about your fitness level, preferences, and goals, and you will surely work together to find something right up your alley. Hiring a qualified PT will guarantee you get the most out of your workouts and keep you accountable.

With quality personal training designed to your needs, you will find it easier to push yourself through the difficulties, the pain, breathlessness, and boredom – all these will grow you physically and mentally, and eventually, you’ll be ready for the next level.

The Bottom Line

A great cardio workout doesn’t have to only be associated with exhaustive marathon-like running escapades – there are multiple activities you can do to get your heart rate up and blood flowing. Jump rope, hop on a bike, play soccer, or dance – whatever suits your fitness taste best. This way, you will stop seeing your cardio workout as torture and turn it into a hobby that will keep you motivated and consistent. 

Do you need professional help in reaching your fitness goals and getting that dream body you’ve always wanted? Contact Lucas James, a celebrity personal trainer, for an individualized workout plan designed to your personal preferences and expectations. With a suitable exercise routine and meal plan, you will become the fittest and healthiest you’ve ever been in no time!

About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

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