Cardio Workouts That Aren’t Running

If you have been reading this blog for a while you will know that I like to dream about becoming a runner. There are only two problems; my left knee tendinitis, my shin splints and I don’t enjoy running. Ok, three problems. I don’t know if you can relate but I still need to keep my cardio workouts going when I can’t run.

Ages ago when I was younger and in shape, I played a lot of basketball. Cardio was never a problem that I had to worry about. I could easily run with my friends for several miles but I never enjoyed it. As I’ve gotten older I have stopped playing much basketball and also started working in an office, sitting or standing for long hours. As a result, my cardio has really suffered.

I’m not giving up on my dream and someday I WILL become a runner. My goal of completing a 5k before I turn 45 is still alive and well. However, because of knee pain and shin splints, I have needed to find ways to increase my cardio without running.

Jumping Rope Cardio Workouts

Back in grade school, I was the Jump Rope For Heart champ. Now, not so much. Still, jump rope is a wonderful cardio workout even if has somehow gotten a lot harder in the last 30 years. Of everything on my list, this is my go-to because it is super effective, cheap, and doesn’t require much space.

The only equipment needed is a jump rope and those typically sell for under $20. Make sure that the rope is the correct length by standing on the middle with both feet and pulling up. The ends should be just long enough to reach your armpits. Most jump ropes can be adjusted.

If you haven’t jumped rope since grade school start slow and get a feel for the rhythm. Keep your jumps low and under control. Jumping rope does add stress to your lower joints so keep your legs bent to absorb impacts. Don’t be surprised if it is much harder than you remember and keep trying. Here is a great video to get you excited about jumping rope 🙂


This is a go-to for our whole family. Since moving to New Mexico we practically have a mountain in our back yard. When the weather is nice we try and go on a good hike every weekend.

Hikes are great cardio workouts and depending on the trail and your load it can be an excellent strength workout for your legs and core as well. For an added upper-body workout use hiking poles to propel yourself forward. They will also help your balance and make it easier when dealing with poor footing.

For us, those benefits are secondary to the experience of being out in nature. There is something so powerful about getting on a mountain and away from the city for a while. Even if you can’t get out in nature you can still get most of the benefits from taking a long walk. It won’t be as hard on your body as running but will still provide a lot of cardio benefits.

Swimming Cardio Workouts

Swimming is normally considered to be a better exercise all around than running. It requires a lot more effort to swim a mile than run a mile. This means that you will burn more calories, build more strength, and get a better cardio boost from swimming than running. It is also much easier on your joints. All of these make swimming a wonderful cardio workout.

The only downside to swimming is having access to a pool. Swimming was my favorite way to get my cardio in on gym days before we moved. New Mexico has a lot fewer public pools though so I haven’t been able to swim in a while. If you have access to a pool, swimming is one of the best full body workouts available and is great for cardio.


Either on the road or on a cycling machine this is an excellent cardio workout about on par with swimming. When I go to the gym this is my favorite way to do my cardio work. I have a much easier time keeping my heart rate in the optimal range on a cycling machine than the treadmill or stairclimber.

The best thing about cycling machines is that they are affordable and can be set up easily to work out at home. I have been trying to convince Summer that I really need one for some time.

So far no luck but when I change her mind these are the best I’ve found. I like the recumbent exercise bikes better. They seem easier on my knee for some reason. The other one isn’t as good for exercising but I love the idea of getting in a light workout while I work.

Stair Climber / Rowing Machine / etc

If you’re at the gym, or you have access to one (or real stairs), these machines both provide wonderful alternatives to running for cardio. It doesn’t hurt that they are great workouts as well. The rowing machine is a personal favorite of mine but I worry about anyone who actually likes the stairclimber.

These machines will give you a great workout while keeping your heart rate up. If your gym has a Jacobs Ladder or Versaclimber even better. Those will give you a full body workout and are a lot of fun. The first time I tried a jacobs ladder I was surprised at how intense the workout is.


There are quite a few plyometric exercises but they all involve exerting maximum effort for short periods of time. These are often used by athletes to increase their strength, speed, and jumping ability. In addition to these benefits, plyometrics are great at raising your heart rate giving you a strong cardio workout.

You might be shying away from this option if you aren’t an athlete but Plyometrics can be helpful for anyone. Each exercise will challenge multiple muscle groups together increasing your coordination and agility. The video below does a pretty good job of introducing you to plyometrics.

Cardio Workout Videos

This is something Summer and I have done a lot in the past. When we need a good workout but dont want to (or can’t) run we pop in an exercise video. These never fail to leave us tired and sweaty and wondering how we could be in such bad shape.

They are also a whole lot of fun and are a great cardio workout. Neither of us are really excited about the idea of looking fat and out of shape in front of a class but these videos cant judge. There are several in our living room that still get drug out from time to time.

Below I have collected a bunch of the better ones in case you need help choosing. Each of these workout videos are a great way to get in a cardio workout and burn some fat.


I saved this one for last because I can’t dance and I don’t enjoy trying. Still dancing can be an excellent cardio workout. If you aren’t feeling any of the other options cranking up the music and dancing may be exactly what you need. Whether you use a workout or just follow your feet dancing is a very good cardio workout.

Dancing is a good enough exercise that there are entire workouts that are based on dancing (I’m talking about you Zumba). No matter what kind of music you like there is a workout built perfectly for you. I’m sure your familiar with at least a couple of these but here is one that I remember from my childhood. You are welcome.

What’s Your Favorite Cardio Workout?

These are my favorite ways to get in good cardio workouts without running. What do you do for your cardio? Please leave a comment below. I am always looking for new ways to mix things up and stay in shape.


Don’t get trapped into thinking that running is the only way to improve your cardio health. There are a lot of options that will help you build up your cardio strength. In fact, I recently wrote about a fairly new-to-me cardio workout, Tabata, that has a ton going for it. I really love the high intensity, short time-frame, and the fact that it has benefits that carry on throughout your day.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read. I hope that you have found this helpful. Please take a moment to leave a comment below. I would love to know what you do for cardio when running isn’t an option.

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I love to pretend that someday I'll become a runner but so far that hasn't happened. Until then I need to find good cardio workouts that aren't running so I can stay in shape.  Here are my favorites. #running #cardio

I am the technical person behind I write a little bit but most of my work is behind the scenes. I am working to get back in shape and reclaim some of the agility and strength I've lost to age and injury.


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