Despite what you may think, you don’t have to be an Olympic-level marathon runner to be healthy. You can absolutely be in shape and smash your wellness goals without running a single mile. We want to eliminate the notion that a healthy person has to fit the cookie-cutter image of a professional athlete. There are so many ways to take care of your body, one of which is physical activity. So before we dive into different cardio ideas, let’s cover why you should be doing cardio.
Why is Cardio Important?
As they say, cardio is hard-io… it makes you sweat! So, what’s the point? Cardio — also known as aerobic exercise — is any activity that raises your heart rate. When you train your heart to work hard during exercise, it strengthens your heart so it doesn’t have to work as hard while at rest. This makes your heart more efficient at pumping blood and delivering oxygen to your body, which supports a healthy cardiovascular system.
Regular physical activity and aerobic exercise can play an important role in managing your weight and decrease your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes.¹ It’s also associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline.¹ Overall, people who have a physically active lifestyle report feeling more energized with a positive sense of well-being and a higher quality of life.¹
Cardio Ideas That Aren’t Running
When you think of cardio, running outside or on a treadmill is probably the first to come to mind. Running is a great workout, is easily accessible (all you need are running shoes!), and is integrated into many different sports like tennis, soccer, basketball, and more. Some seasoned runners get that enviable “runner’s high”, while most of us dread the idea of running. The good news is running isn’t the only form of cardio. There are tons of different options activity into your lifestyle.
Swimming laps is a great aerobic workout that’s easier on your joints than high impact activities like running.
Whether you hit up an intense spin class indoors or a local bike path in your neighborhood, cycling is a great lower body workout that can ramp up your heart rate and help you build muscular endurance.
Rowing is a great cardio workout that, with proper form, works your arms, back, and abs. If you want to stay off your legs, this is a great exercise that focuses more on your upper body than lower.
Just because you don’t want to run doesn’t mean you shy away from a tough workout. Boxing is super intense, and not only gets your heart rate up, but also requires strength, speed, balance, and agility.
Exercise should be fun. Now repeat saying that until it sinks in. Just because you don’t like sports or running doesn’t mean you should avoid all activity. Dancing is a great workout and there are so many different ways you can incorporate this into your exercise routine. Try Zumba at the gym, sign up for salsa, ballroom, or a hip-hop class, or blast some tunes and dance in the privacy of your own home when you get home from work.
If you want to get fit, you don’t need to run a marathon. Or a 5K...or even at all. There are several cardio options that you can do at the gym, outside, or in your own home. Armed with these running alternatives, you’ll be able to get those cardio workouts in to help you achieve your fitness and health goals. What’s your favorite form of exercise?
¹Garber CE. et al. (2011). Med Sci Sports Exerc. Jul;43(7):1334-59. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2011/07000/Quantity_and_Quality_of_Exercise_for_Developing.26.aspx