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  • The Best Cardio Alternatives to Running

    January 12, 2022 3 min read

    The Best Cardio Alternatives to Running
    We all know running is fantastic, and if you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you are at least curious about the sport, even if you’re not an avid runner. But most of us can’t run all of the time. Maybe you are nursing an overuse injury, you prefer indoor workouts when the weather is bad, or your routine is becoming a bit stale. The point is, there are many reasons — all valid — why running might not be for you right now. Luckily, there are great cardio alternatives to running that can provide many health benefits and more! 

    Stay inspired 

    Even dedicated runners can benefit from variety. Cross-training offers a chance to explore new places, meet new friends and expand your skills. Many people become bored when they spend too much time stuck in the same routine. Adding new activities to your arsenal will keep things fresh, boosting motivation. Cross-training also reduces the risk of overuse injury by working different muscles at lower intensities while increasing strength and endurance. 

    Here are seven great cardiovascular alternatives to running: 

    • Brisk walking
    • Hiking
    • Swimming
    • Bicycling
    • Elliptical machine
    • Stair machine
    • Dancing

    Brisk walking

    Walking offers most of the same health benefits as running, burning nearly as many calories per mile while working similar muscle groups. Beginners working their way up to running will find that brisk walking is a great segue. Aim for 15- to 18-minute miles for a heart-pumping workout. You’ll still sweat, so make sure to bring hydration; a half-liter per half hour is often a good rule of thumb. Check outFitletic hydration belts for a convenient and comfortable way to carry your supplies.


    Hiking on trails is fun to workout while enjoying nature, wildlife, and fresh air. It’s also a fun activity to invite friends and family along, combine exercise with social time. Hiking can be less risky than trail running (think tripping and falling) but still a heart-pumping exercise that will torch calories and improve fitness. Fitletic offers hiking packs and belts to ensure you’re prepared to fully enjoy your time on the trails. 


    If you have access to a pool, swimming is a great full-body workout that can burn calories while building strength. This low-impact exercise is also ideal for runners recovering from an injury. And swimming is fun! The feeling of gliding through water is tough to beat. 


    Cycling is another low-impact workout that improves endurance and strengthens muscles in your lower body. It can be as easy or as hard as you choose; there are cardiovascular benefits whether you pedal as hard as you can or spin at a more casual pace. Cycling is another fun activity to share with family and friends or meet new friends in local cycling groups, which can usually be found online. The bicycle allows you to go farther and faster to explore new places. There are many affordable bicycles for beginners and occasional riders. It’s important to find a bike that is well-built and fitted to your body. Consult with your local bike shop. 

    Elliptical machine

    If you have access to a gym, an elliptical machine is a great way to mimic the motion and aerobic intensity of running without the impact. This challenging exercise works both the upper and lower body.

    Stair machine

    Also present in most gyms, stair machines will fast-track aerobic endurance, which can be great for those pressed for time. Stair climbing engages a lot of different muscles. They are especially good for the posterior chain. If you don’t have access to a gym, simply climbing and descending flights of stairs works just as well. The movement takes some getting used to, so be patient. But once you’ve found your rhythm, you may declare stair-climbing to be the best workout ever. 


    Dancing may be the best all-around exercise. Dancing increases endurance because the movements elevate your heart rate and breathing while building strength, balance, and coordination. Unlike more repetitive cardiovascular activities such as bicycling and running, dancing includes a broad range of movements to engage different muscle groups. The most beautiful thing about dancing is that you can do it anytime, anywhere. You do not need to be a skilled dancer to reap the health benefits. Just put on your favorite music and start moving! But if you prefer to improve your skills, many gyms and community colleges offer dance classes.

    Stay prepared

    Be sure to check out Fitletic’s array of products for anything you might need — staying visible on the road, holding your phone at the gym, or packing everything you need for a day on the trails.