When you think of cardio exercise, running is probably the first thing that comes to mind. It’s easy to think this way, as running seems to be the most popular thing to do these days. Whether for weight loss, sport, recreation or charity, running just looks fun. But, what are you supposed to do for cardio if you don’t like running or if you’re unable to run due to joint-related issues or other physical limitations?
The answer is simple.
Do something else.
There are tons of cardio exercises you can perform that don’t require pounding the pavement day in and day out. Here are three highly effective alternatives to running that are low-impact and pretty easy on the joints.
1. Elliptical Trainer
Elliptical training is one of the best low-impact alternatives to running in that you can get in a full body workout without putting undue stress on your joints. By exercising at a moderate level on an elliptical trainer you can burn as many calories as you would running at a pace of about six miles per hour. To increase the intensity of your workout simply adjust the resistance on your elliptical trainer.
Higher levels of resistance are also great for inducing a toning effect. In addition, most elliptical trainers allow you to adjust the cross-ramp in order to target different lower body muscle groups including your glutes, thighs and legs. In addition, some trainers allow for arm motions, which is excellent for an effective full body workout.
2. Outdoor/Indoor Cycling
Cycling is one of the best exercises for burning calories while building up the muscles of your glutes, thighs and legs. It is also among the most effective cardio exercises for improving your lower-body endurance. There are many ways to incorporate cycling into your workout routine. For instance, if you generally prefer to be outdoors, use a bicycle.
Similar to running, outdoor bicycling greatly increases endorphins, which are essentially the brain’s ‘happy’ or ‘feel good’ hormones. Doing so also allows you to obtain an ample supply of your daily vitamin D requirement, which helps in the prevention of bone-related diseases and injuries, depression, heart attacks and some forms of cancer.
For indoor exercise, stationary cycling machines are great because they offer various settings, modes and preprogrammed exercise routines that allow you to constantly switch up your workouts and maximize your results without getting bored.
Spinning exercise classes are another good way to cycle indoors, especially if you enjoy working out with a group for motivation and support. During a typical spinning class, you can burn the same amount of calories as you would during a 40- to 45-minute run.
3. Aquatic Exercise
Performing aquatic (water-based) exercises like swimming, water aerobics and water jogging allows you to improve your cardiovascular and muscular systems simultaneously. In addition, the natural buoyancy offered by water reduces the effects of gravity on the body thereby decreasing the likelihood of joint compression, strain, and discomfort.
When performed at moderate-to-high intensities, water-based exercise creates a substantial amount of drag (resistance) in the water, which promotes increases in muscle strength.
While running is an excellent form of cardio exercise, it’s not necessarily the best type to perform if you have joint issues of any sort or if you simply don’t like running. Cardio should be challenging but exciting and fun. These three exercises are low-impact, joint-friendly, and highly effective in burning calories.