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  • Writer's pictureEmily

The Best Cardio That Is Not Running

When you first start working out, it can be easy to believe that running is the only way to workout, but it's not. It's not even the only way to do cardio! Let me say it again for those in the back: You do not need to run to lose weight or be fit. While running is good for you, and a great way to get moving outside, there are plenty of other ways to get in your cardio.

But first…what is cardio?

Cardio is short for cardiovascular exercise. It’s also called aerobic exercise. Not because of 80s aerobics videos, but because it depends on the aerobic energy-generating process. Intensity varies from light (walking), medium (jogging), and high (running). Hypothetically, we should be able to perform light to medium intensity aerobic exercises for extended amounts of time, light almost indefinitely. This is opposed to anaerobic exercises, like strength training or even sprinting.

Okay here are some of my favorite forms of cardio that don’t include running:


HIIT is actually how I got into fitness in the first place, so it holds a special place in my heart. It stands for High Intensity Interval Training. Basically, you do a move as fast and as hard as you can for a certain amount of time, then rest for a shorter period of time. You repeat that process for however many different moves you have in a circuit. Then you repeat the circuit at least twice. When I started, I was doing 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off with 5 moves, and now I've worked my way up to 45 seconds of and 15 seconds off with 5 moves. I repeat my circuits 3 times. One of the best benefits of doing HIIT is that you while it promotes weight loss, you won't lose muscle! To learn more about the benefits of HIIT check out this article from Shape.

2. Kickboxing

Kickboxing has got to be my favorite form of cardio that’s not running! I take a kickboxing class once a week at martial arts studio, and I always leave exhausted, drenched, and feeling great mentally and physically. It’s a great way to get your heart rate up, hit your anger out, and have fun! If you’ve never tried kickboxing, do yourself a favor and try a class. It may feel awkward at first, but after a few classes you’ll be a pro. A lot of instructors combine hitting the bag with other moves like push-ups, crunches, and squats, so you’ll really get a full body workout. For more information about the benefits of kickboxing both mentally and physically, check out this article from TIME.

3. Spin/Cycling

I only recently jumped on the Spin train, and wow I’ve been missing out! It’s a totally different type of workout that pushes you to extremes. These classes can sometimes be more advanced, so if you’re looking for something new to challenge yourself, spin is a great option! It’s amazing how many calories you can burn and how sweaty you can get on a stationery bike. Even if you’re not interested in sitting inside cycling, try going outside! There are a lot of places now where you can actually rent bikes for some time, so you don’t even have to worry about purchasing one. There’s nothing like riding a bike outside and feeling the breeze as you cruise through and explore new areas. For more information about why you should love Spin Class, check out this article from the Huffington Post.

4. Swimming

A lot of people forget about swimming as a workout, because it’s so fun! Swimming is one of my favorite things to do in summer, but a lot of gyms will have indoor pools that you can use all year round. Swimming is one of the best full body workouts, because the water resists against your body movements more than air does. However this resistance is uniformly distributed, unlike when you run on the ground and your knees take a lot of the impact. This is perfect for people who have injuries, as working out in the water is often much more comfortable than working out on a hard surface. For more information about why swimming is such great cardio, check out this article from TIME.

5. Stairclimber

There hasn't been one time I've used the stairclimber and haven't been dripping sweat. I feel more exhausted after 10 minutes on the stairclimber than 45 minutes on the elliptical. If you're really looking to sweat it out and burn calories in a short amount of time you should check out the stairclimber. It's also a great way to build muscle, as the constant stepping motion is more strengthening than other cardio movements. For more information on how amazing the stairclimber is as a workout check out this article Aaptiv.

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