It’s no secret that cardiovascular exercise is super important to your health, not to mention your waistline. It’s the king of calorie burn and a proven way to amp up your energy levels and even your mood.
Of all the cardio exercises out there, running is perhaps the most common.
But running isn’t the only way to get your cardio fix. In fact, non-running cardio workouts might even be better, especially if you:
- Live in a colder climate where running outside is less than ideal
- Don’t have access to a gym/treadmill
- Really hate running (the best exercise will always be the one you actually do!)
- Have an injury that prevents you from running long distances
As for myself, I fell into the last camp.
Before I became obsessed with fitness apps and the benefits of strength training, I was a bit of a running addict.
I have two half-marathons and several smaller races under my belt, and at one point I was running 50 km a week with ease. (In those days I recoiled at the sight of a workout bench and had never done a proper pushup in my life, but that’s another topic for another time!)
Then I got a hip injury that put a swift end to my racing days, and I was forced to find some non-running cardio alternatives.
Fortunately, I have discovered other forms of cardio that I (and my hips) enjoy even more!
If you’re looking for the best non-running cardio workouts you can do from home, here is my current list of favorites.
(Note: The last two do require an initial investment in equipment but if you compare it to how much you spend on a gym membership, it’s still well worth the investment!)
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(Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or professional fitness trainer and the following is for informational purposes only and based on my own opinions/experiences. You should always consult your doctor before making any changes to your health and fitness regime.)
HIIT, or High-Intensity Interval Training, is a type of exercise that alternates short bursts of high-intensity exercise with short recovery periods. I discovered this type of exercise in 2017 and I’ve been addicted ever since!
Why? For one thing, HIIT sessions are shorter and you can get a great workout done in as little as 20 minutes.
Not only does it get your heart rate into the cardio zone, you simultaneously strengthen your muscles which is great for body recomposition. (Translation: Looking more toned!)
And very little equipment needed. You can even do HIIT workouts that require nothing other than your own bodyweight.
Lastly, there’s this wonderful thing called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, which is a fancy term for the “afterburn” effect of HIIT. In other words, your body continues to burn more calories long after your workout has ended!
And this effect is stronger after a HIIT session than it is after completing a steady-state cardio workout, i.e., running.
Now, there are a ton of great fitness programs out there for HIIT, but I have two favorites:
My Fitness by Jillian Michaels – Is a competitively-priced subscription-based app with a myriad of fitness programs and perfect for those who are looking for long-term fitness options. You can also get a 7-day free trial before committing to the monthly fee. (Read my full review of My Fitness.)
Many people think of yoga as mostly a restorative practice that helps you find inner calm while stretching out a few tight muscles in the process.
And while restorative yoga is a valuable practice in its own right, it’s far from the only yoga style there is.
I learned this when I went to my very first Vinyasa yoga class, which left me sweat-drenched in the span of 40 minutes.
I love vinyasa yoga because its super low-impact and helps you build strength, mobility, and flexibility all while getting your heart rate up. Not only that, it requires the absolute minimum amount of space and equipment; you just need a quality yoga mat and you’re good to go.
I’ve found that YogaDownload.com is the most versatile and affordable source for online yoga classes. They have hundreds of on-demand classes taught by dozens of teachers, and the app comes with a handy filter that can help you zoom in on the perfect high-intensity yoga class in seconds.
Aside from Vinyasa, they also have other fitness-centered styles like Power Yoga, Barre, and Yoga with Weights.
Subscription plans can be as low as $10/month – which works out to far less than my Starbucks latte habit! But if you want to test-drive the app before subscribing, you can try the first 14 days for just $1.
This is a robust app which is why I also wrote a full review of YogaDownload.
Who doesn’t love to dance? And it’s fantastic exercise. Depending on your weight, you can expect to burn between 200-400 calories in half an hour just by dancing away your troubles.
And sure, you can totally do this for free by popping some earbuds in and busting out a few moves in your kitchen or living room, but I recommend trying a dance fitness program in order to optimize the calorie-burn of your booty-shaking sessions.
The program I’m obsessed with right now is Figure 8 Fitness. Figure 8 is an eight-week program that teaches you Latin dance moves while targeting your core and getting you into insane shape. The calorie burn on these workouts is nuts. I burned over 400 active calories in one 40-minute session, and for me, that’s a lot. (I’m just shy of 5’4 and 120 lbs)
You can get the workouts on DVD or stream them online, making them perfect to do from home.
Program creator Jaana Kunitz makes these workouts so fun! Even the 45-minute sessions just fly by. You will laugh, have a blast, and be happily sore the next day.
And don’t be surprised if your arms and abs get just as toned as your legs do! (Read my full review of Figure 8.)
The stationary bike was the first thing I fell back on when I had to stop running. It’s great for steady-state cardio and HIIT type workouts. One of my favorite things about spinning is that you can easily multitask on the bike.
For example, you can listen to a podcast, read a book, or watch TV while you’re spinning.
If you’re looking for a more focused workout you can try an app like Aaptiv, which features hundreds of on-demand audio fitness classes for a wide range of workouts including spinning. The monthly fee is very reasonable and they add new audio classes every week. You can even try them out for 30 days for free! (Read my full review here.)
Of course, the other required piece of equipment is a stationary bike, which can be a pretty significant investment upfront but still cheaper than driving to a gym every day to use one, over the long term.
And you don’t have to spend as much as you may think, either. Amazon has some highly-rated ones for under $300.
I only just discovered rowing a couple of months back when my spouse became obsessed with the idea of getting a rower. Since I already have the bike and my wide collection of fitness apps, I didn’t really share his excitement for the idea initially.
But once it arrived and I tried it out, I have to say I am loving it. Rowing is a full-body cardio workout! I find it especially useful for arms and shoulders, which have always been my trouble spot.
Rowing is also low-impact, making it ideal for people who can't or don't want to deal with plyometrics (jumping exercises.)
And the calorie burn is very high.
While it is important to use the right form when rowing, it's fortunately not hard to learn. Just make sure you watch a couple of YouTubes on proper form before giving it a try!
In terms of equipment cost, like spin bikes, you can spend a lot or a little, but you can get a decent one few hundred dollars on Amazon.
Choose one of these non-running cardio workouts and get sweating!
With so many options, you’re bound to find some non-running cardio workouts that you actually love doing in the comfort of your own home.
The key is not to be afraid of giving new things a try!
Because you might find yourself enjoying new exercises a lot more than you thought you would, just like how I ended up enjoying rowing when I thought I wouldn't.
Also, keep in mind that your first time trying anything new is bound to be hard, so give yourself a week or two of trying out a new exercise before deciding if it's right for you or not.
Your heart will thank you!
What are your favorite non-running cardio workouts? Let me know in the comments!