Cardio Alternatives for People Who Hate Running

Some people naturally love running, others suffer through it, and some people flat out hate it. For that last category, everyone who says “if you do it enough you’ll start to like it” is a liar. When you hate running, no amount of suffering through it makes it an enjoyable experience.

If that’s you, don’t despair, you’re not alone. Instead of giving up on cardio (not a good idea) start exploring alternative cardio exercises until you find one that you actually like.

Why Cardio is Important

Cardio workouts raise your heart rate to your Target Heart Rate Zone, which is based on your age. This zone is the heart rate range you need to maintain in order to burn calories and fat during your cardio workout. Anything below your target zone means you’re not working out effectively or hard enough. A heart rate above your target range could mean you’re pushing yourself too hard.

In general, getting (and sustaining) your heart rate up during your workout will help you lose weight but it also helps increase your stamina and promotes good blood flow and increased lung capacity –necessary components of a strong, healthy workout.

Cardio Alternatives to Running

Since the purpose of cardio is to get your heart rate up, almost any rhythmic activity that pushes you will do. That’s good news for people who hate running because it opens up a world of cardio exercise possibilities.

Between machines and body-weight exercises, you can find plenty of cardio activities at the gym, at the park or at home.

At the Gym

Stop glaring at the treadmill and replace it with a machine you like better for your cardio warm up or workout. Good cardio substitutes for running at the gym include:

  • Elliptical – Yes, this motion is similar to running, but it’s easier on the knees and you might find it more enjoyable. Be sure to work your arms while on this machine to really get your heart rate up.
  • Bike – Whether you take an intense spin class or hop on a stationary bike and go your own speed, this easy exercise could bring back childhood memories of bike riding. Watch a show and peddle away, just make sure the speed and resistance are giving you a workout and helping your hit and maintain your target heart rate.
  • Swimming – Swimming laps is an excellence cardio workout that is super easy on the joints and a lot less sweaty than running.
  • Rowing – If your gym has a rowing machine, hop on. Rowing isn’t only a great cardio workout, it will also work your arms, legs, abs and back. Look up proper technique online or ask a trainer to show you to ensure you’re getting the most out of this multi-functional workout.


You can easily get in your cardio workouts without running and without a gym membership.

  • Biking – Dust off the old bike or invest in a new one and hit the local bike paths. Whether you want to take up street cycling, mountain biking or want to stick to paved paths and trails away from cars, there are plenty of places you can explore on a bike while getting your exercise.
  • Hiking – Find a hiking trail that has an incline and you’ll quickly feel your heart start beating harder. Hiking is good cardio but also helps with balance and ankle strength as you climb a rocky, uneven trail.
  • Join a League – Adult recreational sports are growing in popularity, so bring your competitive spirit and join a local league. You can find plenty of sports that can stand in as cardio workouts, including flag football, basketball, soccer and more. To get the full benefits, choose a league that involves a lot of fast movement and not a lot of standing on the sidelines.
  • Skating – Find a flat, smooth trail (most bike trails will do) and strap on your roller blades or quad skates. This cardio activity is so much fun you might forget you’re working out.

At Home

If you’d rather workout at home or feel anxious about working out in public, there are some simple in-place cardio alternative exercises that will raise your heart rate and make you sweat even if you don’t have a lot of space. You can do most of these in the backyard or in your living room (space permitting).

  • Dancing – If the first thing you do when you get home is turn on some tunes, turn that habit into your workout routine. You can follow dance exercise videos, try Zumba or simply make your own playlist and dance vigorously for 30 minutes.
  • Jumping Jacks – That’s right, this old-school gym class exercise can actually stand in as a cardio work out. Include them in a sequence with other weight or cardio exercises to create your own circuit to keep from getting bored.
  • Jump Rope – Another childhood favorite, what was once a game can be turned into a serious cardio workout. Not only will it get your heart rate up, it will help you with balance and fast feet.

Armed with these running alternatives and a Flipbelt, you’ll be able to get the cardio workouts you need to achieve your fitness and health goals.

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