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Best Cardio Alternatives to Running

Are you tired from the same old cardio routine? Is the treadmill starting to annoy you? If the answer is yes, there is a chance you’ll get stuck in a rut, hit a plateau and see limited results.

You know that cardio training is important, and you want to include it in your routine, however no one is looking forward to spending 30 minutes running. No need to worry, there are plenty of alternatives that will increase your heart rate, endurance, and burn some calories.

Continue reading and learn about the best cardio exercises you can try in 2021!


HIIT or “High Intensity-Interval Training” isn’t really an exercise, but rather a workout type that includes bursts of intense physical activity with short periods of rest. By incorporating HIIT into your workout routine you will save a lot of time since this form of training only requires 10-20 minutes. Not only that, but you’ll burn more calories and fat without losing any muscle.

Here are example HIIT workouts you can copy:

30 sec. squats, 30 sec. plank, 30 sec. rock climbers (1 minute of slow walking). Repeat cycle 3-5 times.

30 sec. military push-ups, 30 sec. jump lunges, 30 sec. burpees, 10-30 sec. plank (2 minutes of slow walking). Repeat cycle 3-5 times.

30 sec. standing toe touches, 30 sec. side lunges, 30 sec. slow arm circles, 30 sec. cross toe touches (1 minute of slow walking.) Repeat cycle 3-5 minutes.

2. Swimming

Swimming is one the best cardio exercises, especially for beginners. Water sports are proven to have a less injury rate, they are fun to do, and most importantly they burn calories and build up your arms, shoulders, and core strength.

Get a pool membership and try lap swimming, diving, and other aquatic classes.

3. Kettlebell Cardio

Although kettlebell exercises aren’t really considered as cardio, they still can increase heart rate and burn equally as much calories as typical aerobic exercises.

Kettlebell workouts can help you burn 20 calories per minute, while doing aerobic and anaerobic movements all at once! So, basically you’re burning 500 calories in 30 minutes, and you are also building muscle.

Aim to choose a kettlebell weight you’re comfortable doing, allowing you to perform at least 20 reps. Do each exercise for 30 seconds and rest 20 seconds.

Great kettlebell exercises include hand swings, lateral lunges, narrow squats, clean squat jack, kettlebell jerk, squat bicep curls, and others.

4. Stair Climbers

Using the Stairmaster machine or climbing real stairs is a great way to work out the quads, calves, hamstrings, and whole cardiovascular system. Go two steps ahead, side-steps, kick-backs, mix your stair climber workout and target different areas of your legs.

You can also combine HIIT and stair climbing, this will challenge things a bit, adding intensity.

5. Rope Jumping

It may be popular among the kids, but don’t be fooled, jumping rope is no child’s game. This cardio exercise is easy and affordable, it improves foot speed, shoulder strength, coordination, and of course it burns a lot of calories.

But not only that, rope jumping boosts endurance if you practice it for a long period of time. That explains why jump roping is so popular among boxers, it helps them maintain their power throughout a fight.

6. Jumping Jacks

If you’re looking for the simplest cardio exercise, then jumping jacks are for you. No experience or fitness level is needed, anyone can do jumping jacks! There is also no equipment involved, you just jump into the air with your legs apart and arms out and over your head. Repeat.

Jumping jacks are a quick tool to burn overall fat and lots of calories. If you want to make these more intense, add ankle and wrist weights.

7. Hiking

Indoor cardio can get repetitive and boring, so grab your friends and go outside! Explore the beautiful and wild nature with solely depending on your feet for transportation.

Hiking is an empowering, community-building and fun way to get some cardio in. The sun will also refuel your vitamin D stores!

8. Plyometrics

Plyometric training is a combination of cardio and strength-building exercises done in a short period of time. Popular plyometric exercises include bodyweight burpees, mountain climbers, box jumps, and other fast feet movements. These explosive exercises are responsible for great cardio because of their metabolic conditioning and impact on stamina.

Follow a high-intensity theme, try creating your own circuit of plyometrics, with 30 seconds of exercise followed by 30 seconds of rest till the next circuit.

9. Kickboxing

Are you stressed? Is something or someone making you mad? I promise you, kickboxing is the ultimate cure. Overtime a lot of emotion and tension builds up, and you have to release it somehow. Focus and put all of your force behind kicking and punching the bag. And trust me, your heart rate will go up before you know it.

10. Jump Squats

The last but definitely not least, cardio alternative are jump squats. Many people overtrain their upper body, but I don’t know one person that overtrained their legs.

So here is a great exercise you can use to build muscular quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Not to mention the amazing cardiovascular benefits you’ll also get by doing these. Simply stand with feet shoulder width apart, bend your knees and do a full squat position, jump in the air afterwards. Control the landing with your feet and descend into the squat again, repeat.


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