Cardio Without Running: 4 Great Workouts, No Running Required

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Is running cardio? Yes, it is! And while running is some people’s absolute favorite form of cardio, it is not for everyone. Luckily, running is not the only way to burn calories and improve cardiovascular health.

Cardio is crucial for everyone’s health and fitness. So, whether you’re a couch potato or a fitness fanatic, you will absolutely benefit from adding our four great ways to do cardio without running to your fitness routine.

In this article, we will talk about how to do cardio without running and still achieve your fitness goals and improve your health and well-being by doing them!

We will discuss the following:

  • Benefits of Adding Cardio to Your Fitness Routine
  • Why Do Some People Avoid Running?
  • 4 Great Ways to Do Cardio Without Running
  • Benefits of Doing Cardio Without Running
  • Tips for Success
People doing cardio without running in a dance class.

Benefits of Adding Cardio to Your Fitness Routine

Cardio is great for your heart. It gets your blood pumping and helps strengthen your cardiovascular system, which means you’ll be able to breathe easier and feel more energized throughout the day. 

If you’re worried about heart disease or high blood pressure, cardio can actually help lower your risk of both.

Adding cardio to your weekly routine is also a fantastic way to burn calories and lose weight. When you’re doing cardio, your body uses up stored energy (a.k.a. fat), which can help you shed unwanted pounds and get leaner and more toned.

Cardio workouts can also be fun and uplifting. There is something for everyone, whether biking through your local trails, doing a hip-hop dance class with friends, or battling it out on the rower.

If you are someone that struggles with stress and anxiety, cardio can also help reduce those things and boost your mood, which is a great way to improve your overall mental health. 

Your body releases something called endorphins when you do cardio. These are basically natural mood boosters that can make you feel happier and more relaxed.

Another bonus of cardio is that getting outside or trying a new workout can be a great way to clear your head and feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

A HIIT class.

Why Do some people avoid running?

Running is cardio and can be great for your health, but it is a high-impact exercise which means it can be tough on the joints. This is a big concern for people who have struggled with joint pain or other leg injuries in the past.

People at risk of injury or joint problems also may avoid running as a precaution.

For beginners, running can feel especially challenging. It requires a certain level of fitness and can be uncomfortable or even painful for some people. For example, some people may experience shortness of breath, side stitches, or discomfort in their feet or legs. 

While these things are all pretty normal for beginners, and they get better over time, many people do not want to “push through the pain,” which is okay.

Time constraints or accessibility issues can also be what turns people away from running. In order to build volume and ability to run comfortably and fast, it requires a certain amount of time and space. 

Some people may not have access to a safe or convenient place to run or have limited time to fit in a workout.

Why else may you not want to run? Well, truthfully, some people simply do not enjoy running and prefer to do cardio without running. Everyone has different fitness preferences and goals, and running may not be the best option for everyone. Remember, there are plenty of ways to get in cardio without running.

Explore the different options talked about here and find out what works best for you. You can still achieve your fitness goals and improve your health and well-being by doing cardio without running. 

A person cycling on the road.

4 great Ways to Do Cardio Without Running

#1: Cycling

Cycling is a great alternative to running for several reasons. One of the big reasons is that it is a low-impact exercise that puts less stress on the joints, making it a good option for people with joint pain or injuries as well as for those who run most of the time but need to give their bodies a break from the impact every once in a while without losing fitness.

Unlike running, cycling is a non-weight-bearing activity that is easier on the body. It also provides a full-body workout that can improve cardiovascular fitness, build strength in the legs and core, and burn calories.

Cycling can be done indoors on a stationary bike or outdoors on a road bike, making it a versatile option that can be done in any weather.

In general, cycling is an effective and enjoyable way to improve your fitness and achieve your cardio goals without the impact and discomfort that running may cause.

A person swimming laps.

#2: Swimming

Swimming is another great alternative to running for several reasons. It is also a very low-impact exercise that is gentle on the joints, and it is a full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups, including the arms, legs, and core. It’s a great option for people who may have injuries or arthritis.

When you swim, you are able to improve cardiovascular fitness, build endurance, and burn calories just as you would while running. Swimming is a refreshing and enjoyable way to stay cool during hot weather or indoor workouts, so if you tend to overheat during summer, swimming might be a great option!

It can be done at any skill level, from leisurely laps to high-intensity interval training, and can be a fun way to mix up your cardio routine.

While becoming a skilled swimmer may take a good amount of practice, you can easily burn calories and work your cardiovascular system even as an amateur swimmer.

Swimming works well if you want to improve your fitness, build strength, and achieve your cardio goals in a low-impact, enjoyable way.

People doing kettlebell push ups.

#3: HIIT 

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a popular way to do cardio without running for several reasons. HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by brief rest or recovery periods. It can be done with bodyweight exercises or equipment like kettlebells or dumbbells.

Approaching your cardio by doing HIIT has been shown to increase calorie burn and improve cardiovascular fitness in a shorter amount of time than steady-state cardio exercises like running, which is great for people on a time crunch!

HIIT workouts can be customized to fit any fitness level or preference and can be done with a variety of exercises such as jumping jacks, burpees, jumping rope, or high knees.

One great thing about HIIT workouts is that they can be done with minimal equipment and can be completed quickly, making them a great option for people with busy schedules.

You can even find a variety of these types of workouts on YouTube and other platforms to follow, which is great for people who do not want to feel alone when working out.

If you want variety in your cardio and love varying movements, then HIIT is a challenging and effective way to achieve your cardio goals and improve your fitness while also providing a versatile and time-efficient alternative to running.

A person on a rowing machine.

#4: Rowing

Rowing machines are commonly found in gyms and are even affordable to purchase and have at home. Rowing for your cardio provides a low-impact full-body workout that can improve cardiovascular fitness and build strength.

It is a fantastic alternative to running for several reasons. Like cycling and swimming, it is a low-impact exercise that is easy on the joints.

Rowing is a full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups, including the legs, back, arms, and core. While running engages many muscles, it does not impact the upper body as a rowing workout does.

This total body engagement results in increased calorie burn and improved cardiovascular fitness. Rowing is a versatile activity that can be done indoors on a rowing machine or outdoors on a boat, providing plenty of options for different skill levels and preferences.

The movement of rowing is also a refreshing change from traditional cardio exercises and can be an exciting and fun way to improve fitness and endurance.

Rowing is a challenging and effective way to achieve your cardio goals and improve your overall health and fitness while also providing low-impact options and an opportunity to get out and enjoy some time on the water.

These are just a few examples of common forms of cardio without running. The key is to find something that you enjoy and that fits your fitness level and lifestyle. There are endless options, and you can absolutely switch it up too.

A person swimming.

Benefits of Doing Cardio Without Running

Low-Impact for Joint Health

Running can be hard on your joints, particularly the knees and ankles. Cardio, like cycling, swimming, and rowing, is a great way to get in lower-impact workouts and can be a better option for those with joint pain or injuries.

These workouts still increase your heart rate and provide a great cardio workout without putting too much stress on your joints.

Adds Variety to Your Routine

If you do the same type of workout repeatedly, you can get bored, which may lead to a loss of motivation. When you incorporate different forms of cardio into your routine, you can keep things fresh and challenging. Trying something new can also be fun to mix things up and keep your workouts interesting.

Increased Calorie Burn

Running is a great calorie-burning exercise, but there are also non-running cardio workouts that can really torch away the calories.

Cycling, swimming, and rowing are great options for burning calories and building strength. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts can also be a great way to boost your calorie burn and improve your fitness.

The handlebars od a stationary bike.

Tips for Success

Trying new forms of cardio can be fun and motivating. However, it is important to remember that, as with all physical activity, you should proceed with caution and understand your limits.

Take a look at these tips for how to be successful on your run-free cardio journey. 

#1: Slow and Steady

When it comes to cardio workouts, it is important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity or duration of your workouts over time. This approach will help you build endurance and prevent burnout or injury from overexertion.

You do not need to go all in right as you get started. Your body needs time to adapt!

#2: Stay Injury Free

You should also pay attention to proper form and technique during your workouts to prevent strain or injury. This is especially relevant when doing cardio, like rowing or various HIIT movements.

Don’t neglect to take the time to check in on your form and get guidance when trying new exercises or activities.

A person rowing on a body of water.

#3: Set Realistic Goals

Another important tip is to set realistic goals and track your progress over time. This can help keep you motivated and provide a sense of accomplishment as you work towards achieving your fitness goals. Do not be too hard on yourself or expect too much upfront.

Remember that consistency and perseverance are what will help you achieve your goals.

#4: Listen to Your Body

And finally, do not forget to listen to your body and rest as needed. Overtraining or pushing yourself too hard can lead to burnout, injury, or illness.

By incorporating these tips into your no-running required cardio routine, you can set yourself up for success and achieve your fitness goals safely and effectively.


Cardio is definitely worth adding to your fitness routine and is possible even if you are not a runner!

It will help you feel better, look better, and improve your health and happiness in many ways.

Mixing up your routine and trying new things allows you to keep your workouts interesting, prevent boredom, and achieve your fitness goals.

Go on and get your heart pumping with these 7 high-powered cardio workouts you can do at home – your body (and mind) will thank you!

People doing shoulder taps.
Photo of author
I am a UESCA-certified running coach, psychology PhD student, and competitive obstacle racer and trail runner. Once 100 pounds overweight I found fitness and fell in love with an active and competitive lifestyle. My passion for inspiring others and fitness come together seamlessly in the world of writing where I get to share the thing that changed my life. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family, my dogs, as well as baking and cooking.

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