Non-Running Cardio Ideas

Non-Running Cardio Ideas

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Head out on your bike for a non-impact cardio session.

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You need at least 75 minutes of a vigorous-intensity cardiovascular activity, such as running, each week for good health, according to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Running 9-minute miles for 30 minutes helps a 155-pound person sizzle about 409 calories. But, running can be hard on people who have joint issues or are overweight. You may be perfectly capable of sustaining the impact of running, but simply find it boring. Ultimately, you have to find an activity that you enjoy so you make exercise a regular part of your life.

At the Gym

Multiple options for cardio that rival running's calorie burn and cardio impact exist at the gym. Ride an exercise bicycle at 14 to 16 mph to burn about 372 calories in 30 minutes. This non-impact exercise can be a good choice for people who are 50 pounds or more overweight, says the Cleveland Clinic. An elliptical trainer, which consists of pedals affixed to gliding rails, mimics the movement of running without the impact. If you work at a perceived exertion equivalent while pedaling the elliptical that is equal to what you reach during a run, you'll experience a similar calorie burn and cardiovascular benefit, reported a study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" in June 2010. Vigorous stationary rowing burns fewer calories in 30 minutes -- just 316 -- but is also an effective way to fit in cardio without running. Join a fitness dance class or step aerobics to also sizzle calories and keep your heart rate elevated for a sustained period of time like you do during a run.

At Home

If gym machines are out of reach or too mundane for you, fit in a workout at home. A vigorous calisthenics routine that includes jumping jacks, squat jumps and walking lunges burns about 298 calories in 30 minutes. You can do a circuit of these exercises, performing each for about a minute before moving to the next, to reduce monotony. Jumping rope comes close to running's calorie burn, with 372 calories sizzled in 30 minutes, and can be done just about anywhere with an inexpensive piece of equipment. Work at an intensity level when you do calisthenics and jump rope to significantly raise your heart rate so that speaking in complete sentences feels challenging.


Bicycling vigorously outdoors has a cadence similar to running, while working the leg muscles in a slightly different way. This can add balance to your exercise routine, notes Neil Cook, manager of the New York City sports center called Asphalt Green, in a 2009 "New York Times" article. On a warm, sunny day, you could also head to the pool to swim laps and burn 372 calories in 30 minutes. Strap on a pair of inline skates and hit a local park to work your legs without impact and burn 442 calories in 30 minutes for a vigorous effort. Rock climbing burns 409 calories per half hour and gets you into the great outdoors without having to hoof it along the trail.

Lower Intensity

You can also fulfill your weekly exercise needs with less intense activity. The CDC says that 150 minutes weekly of moderate-intensity activity improves your aerobic capacity. Moderate-intensity activity includes brisk walking, a game of doubles tennis or even heavy gardening that includes pushing a mower and weeding. As long as you get yourself breathing heavier and your heart pumping harder for at least 10 minutes at a time, you help your cardiovascular system get stronger.


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