You have more choices than going to the gym in order to get a good workout. Although running is a top choice for many, when injury or weather prevent you from running there are several other surprisingly good alternative workouts you can do to stay active and receive great health benefits. These alternative cardio workouts will keep your weight under control, keep your bones and joints strong, give you focus, stave off memory loss and improve your balance. So the next time you get ready to move, consider switching up your routine with one of these surprisingly good alternative cardio workouts.
Tai Chi, which is the abbreviation for T’ai Chi Chuan or "The Supreme Ultimate Boxing System" began as a martial art form. It consists of slow, relaxed movements for the entire being - “for the body it is an exercise, for the mind it is a study in concentration, for the soul, it is a system of spiritual meditation."
Tai Chi can be performed alone or with one other person. It is commonly known as “meditation in motion,” because it is performed with inner stillness; a Harvard study called it “medication in motion” because of the health benefits. That inner stillness is said to improve the flow of qi, which the Chinese believe to be the vital life energy that sustains and improves our health.
The benefits of Tai Chi have been studied over many years and one research study published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal compiled all of the benefits, which are:
- In a study comparing a group of participants practicing Tai Chi and a control group, the& Tai Chi group had 35%less pain, 29% less stiffness, 29% more ability to perform daily tasks; (like climbing stairs), as well as improved abdominal; muscles; and; better; balance
- In another study at the Emory University School of Medicine, older people who participated in; a 15-week Tai Chi program reduced their risk of falling by 47.5%
- Decreased blood pressure
- Improved quality of life
- Increased distance walked in 6 minutes
- Improved physical function, activity tolerance and cardiovascular function, “pain; management, balance and; risk of falls reduction, enhancing immune response, and improving flexibility, strength, and kinesthetic sense"
- Improved sleep
Visit your local YMCA, community center or health club to try a class and see how it feels.
Deep water running
Runners who are injured can benefit greatly from trying deep water running (DWR), which is a form or cardiovascular conditioning for injured athletes because it helps maintain running performance. You don’t need to be injured to enjoy the benefits of DWR, though, as a study in the Military Medical Journal reveals that DWR reduces the stress on tissues and joints and it has advantages when compared to other aerobic exercises in order to maintain land running performance.
Proper DWR technique, according to renowned running coach Joe Puleo and Dr. Patrick Milroy in their book ‘Running Anatomy', is focused on proper body positioning.
- The depth of the water should cover the entire body with only the tops of the shoulder, the neck and the head above the surface of the water.
- Feet should not touch the bottom of the pool
- A flotation device should be worn
- Body position should be similar to dryland running with elbows bent at 90 degrees
Studies on DWR show that although runners were not able to achieve the same heart rates and oxygen consumption levels in the pool as they did on the treadmill, the disparity was similar to that between running and cycling, which means it’s a good alternative. In a New York Times article about DWR, the writer describes the "run" as taking four foot strides, a power walk, three foot strides to simulate running on fat ground, followed by a two-foot step going “uphill” and pumping elbows at the same time. So the next time you’re staring at a snow-laden road, consider visiting your local pool and trying out a DWR class.
You may already be aware that swimming is a good workout, but do you know how good it is? In the U.S., it’s the second most popular sport, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Not only does it have physical benefits, but swimming has been proven to create improved mental states as well.
The physical benefits
Swimming is one of the best alternative cardio workouts possible, because it:
- keeps your heart rate up but takes some of the impact stress off your body
- builds endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness
- helps maintain a healthy weight, healthy heart and lungs
- tones muscles and builds strength
- provides an all-over body workout, as nearly all of your muscles are used during swimming
The mental benefits
A study shows the relationship between swimming and improved mood. Students enrolled in swimming classes reported:
- significantly less tension
- less depression
- less anger
- less confusion
- more vigor
The clincher on all of this is that swimming may prolong your life.
Look at parts of your day that you’re active and see what you’re doing. Do you enjoy doing yard work? You may be getting in a good workout, too. Ballroom dancing, playing with your children and even cleaning the house gets you moving and your heart rate up. It may surprise you that these activities can give you a good workout, but as long as you’re exercising for at least 30 minutes a day and add in strength training or one of the other alternative cardio workouts we’ve mentioned above, you are staying active and giving yourself the benefit of healthy years ahead.