Cardio Exercises other than running. 6 Great Options

cardio exercises other than running

Cardio. To most people, it is the less glamorous side of fitness. But like lifting weights and meal planning. It sometimes is just necessary. Whether you dislike running, have a leg injury or whatever your reason may be, you might have decided that running is just not for you right now. Luckily there are several cardio exercises other than running you may use in your routine that all vary significantly from one another.

The ones included in this list all get the job done of building your cardiovascular system, so pick the one that best suits you. So what cardio options are there other than running?

  • Battle ropes
  • Swimming
  • Stair climbing
  • Rowing machine
  • Jump rope
  • Sports cardio

Keep reading for a deeper description of each one.

Why is cardio important?

Before we get to breaking down the non running options for cardio, why should you be doing it in the first place.

To put it simply, it will drastically improve your health.

Two important things to know

  • It can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S according to this 2016 article by
  • You may find it easier to perform your daily activities as a result of increase mental readiness as well as improvements to your cardio respiratory system’s ability to perform activities

If you can’t get motivated even after knowing the benefits. Learn some tips on how to better motivated yourself.

1. Battle Ropes

The first item on this list of cardio exercises other than running will make you feel like a pro.

One of the more bad ass workouts you can do, battle ropes are also a great form of cardio and muscle building. With two separate ropes you can get a equal work load per arm and you may quickly realize as well that the rest of your body is going to be used with each swing.

The most important thing to have in mind, like every exercise you perform, is to understand and use correct form. These heavy ropes have a bad reputation for shoulder injury but they also have a reputation for being used by people who don’t know how to use them.

Once you decide what way you will use battle ropes and practice the correct form, you can reap the benefits of cardio and a great full body workout.


  • Great for toning arms
  • Good option when letting your legs recover
  • exciting and fun
  • a lot of different ways to use


  • Obviously, bad form can lead to injured shoulders
  • can be a little pricey
  • not as portable as they may seem

2. Swimming

If you are deciding to take a step away from running because of the impact on your joints you could consider taking up swimming in its place.

One of the most difficult thing to get used to if you are new to swimming is learning a correct swimming stroke, until you do you may feel silly splashing around, but just remember that everyone starts as a novice no matter how talented they are when a new activity is introduced.

Be patient and you may find a new activity that you love, and at the very least you will be rewarded with great cardio and a full body workout.


  • Joint friendly
  • Burns a ton of calories
  • Full body workout
  • Tons of different strokes and workouts to use


  • Limited to the availability of pools or other bodies of water near you
  • Not always ideal in all weather
  • Requires extra training/practice to perform well

3. Stair climber

Very often in the gym you will find machines that are rarely ever empty.

Whether it be treadmills or people bench pressing. There are activities that are flocked to on a daily basis.

Similarly, you may have seen this occur with stair climber machines.

Is it because of the excellent cardio they provide? Maybe. But its probably because of the work it gives your entire lower body muscles.

More often then not you will see this machine included in leg routines and specifically those of people wanting to sculpt a great butt.

For extra load on your muscles, avoid using the hand rails or other grips and simply let your legs alone raise you to the next step.

Note: Don’t let yourself be one of those people who avoid running, yet their cardio options start and end with stairs. Diversify!


  • Great option to add into leg day
  • Lower impact then running
  • Keeping good form works your core as well
  • Just as easily use staircases, bleachers or other steps


  • Often times will be crowded
  • Not great for injured legs
  • Some people may feel pressure to lean forward, leading to bad form and posture on the machine
  • May not be so friendly to a new gym goer when it’s time for your muscles to recover. Some workouts just need to be eased into depending on level of fitness.

4. Rowing machine

Running can be boring. Just moving in a straight line with your head forward. That’s why this list of cardio exercises other than running was created. You can wear headphones or watch t.v on a treadmill, but sometimes you cant avoid it becoming dull.

With this list hopefully we will bring to light, some options to get out of the rut and get excited about going to the gym.

If you aren’t happy about it, then why do it?

The rowing machine is a great cardio option that, similarly to battle ropes, that is a new motion to learn as well as being one that is a fun to do. The machine itself is simple to use and get started. It may take time to be comfortable continuously doing the rowing motion, but once you get it down it is like riding a bike.

This workout is another full body one as it takes your leg muscles to push off, your upper body for the pull, and your core to stabilize the movement.


  • Full body workout
  • High calorie burning
  • somewhat simple to use yet fun as well
  • fits into most gym routines
  • the machine is just small enough to have somewhere in your home


  • Machine can be a little expensive
  • if you don’t have room for it, you will need a gym membership.
  • Effectiveness is dependent on correct form
  • Not for those who have a limited range of motion

Put one in your home!

5. Jump rope

Seen very often in boxing movies, jump rope has been a staple in fitness for a long time and for good reason.

More than just a kids game, jump rope elevates your heart rate and very quickly gets you sweating. And just like the multiple games to play as a kid, their are multiple ways to use jump ropes as an exercise.

You can try to keep a high pace or a slow one, maybe even shift between the two. You can jump off one leg or two, even try to swing the rope under yourself for as many times as possible before landing.

The beauty I see in jump rope, is the ability to get your mind involved to create and maintain a pattern, and being so focused on keeping a rhythm will help make the time fly by as well as the calories.

Luckily for everyone out there, jump ropes are extremely affordable, portable and space friendly, thus making perfect for traveling so you have no excuse to not stay active. Don’t have space for running or other space needy cardio options? Break out your rope and get sweating!


  • Generally speaking, jump ropes are cheap
  • travel size
  • Multiple patterns to try so you can keep things interesting
  • Develops great footwork, coordination, and balance


  • Not for everybody, if you don’t feel comfortable or even ready for jump ropes. Try something less demanding until you do feel ready.
  • high impact on your legs, something to consider if you have existing leg issues

Try jump roping yourself!

6. Sports cardio

The last item in these cardio exercises other than running is a fun one.

Ever play a sport in school? With a group of friends? Maybe even your kids?

A lot of time your competitive spirit made you say “One more game” even if you were tired?

If that speaks to you on a personal level, try playing a sport for your cardio. You don’t need to join a club or team. You could even play by yourself if you choose to. Just go out and have fun, let loose and relax and it wont take long before you realize you’ve been running around for hours drenched in sweat.

Take basketball for example. You could join a team, play games of pick up, or just go and practice shooting around.

As long as you are trying to improve in what you choose and actually are invested, this won’t feel as much like cardio but more of a hobby or game.


  • Relaxing
  • Easy to rack up a lot of time
  • Meet new people if you choose to do so
  • You may find a new hobby you really enjoy


  • You might take a while to find a sport you like
  • It might take some practice before you personally feel like you are any good
  • May take more investment then other activities

If you hate running, you have other options for cardio , just find the one that you can enjoy doing. Weigh their pros and cons and what they accomplish and put real effort in your actions.

Don’t forget being fit involves more than one variable. It takes a routine, diet, and goal setting.

Hopefully these cardio exercises other than running helps you get your goals.