Top 6 Cardio Alternatives to Running – Exercises to Replace Running

Looking for the best cardio alternatives to running? Then you have come to the right place.

If you have trouble running—whether you’re injured, burned out or just looking to spice things up—know that you got alternatives.

You don’t have to suffer through pain or injury to increase your heart rate and get your body moving.

Here are my favorite running alternatives that can double up as exercises to replace running.


*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I’d use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. 

Cardio Alternatives To Running Option I – Skipping

Skipping is awesome for many reasons.

This amazing workout can help you build speed, power, and agility in your legs without having to leave the comfort of your home.

How it does that?

First of all, skipping builds lower body strength—especially in the calves—and improves core power and endurance—fundamental aspects of building a powerful and injury free runner.

Also, jump roping workouts can help you become a faster running by training your legs to “spend” less time on the ground, which is one of the main keys to speed and agility.

In other words, jumping rope on a regular basis can help you improve speed, power, balance, coordination, and endurance.

These are the essential elements when it comes to becoming the best runner you can be.

Not only that, the rope also burns tons of calories.

According to research, jumping rope can burn up to 15 calories per minute, depending on intensity and your fitness level, of course.

The only downside of jump rope training that I can think of is that it’s high impact.

As a result, if you have any sort of serious injury, you should go easy on the rope and stay within your fitness level the entire time.

For more tips on jump rope training, check my post here.

Other than that, I see no objection to adding this excellent tool into your training program.

Cardio Alternatives To Running Option II – Rowing

I’m not a big rowing machine fan.

I wish I were, but I’m not.

Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that this machine has got nothing to offer.

Au contraire, rowing is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise that targets the back, core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, as well as the shoulders and the arms, of course.

And with the right training form, you can target your abs, chest, triceps and biceps muscles in one continuous and non-stop motion and action.

In fact, the movement of pushing and pulling on a rowing machine might be more effective than traditional strength training since it hits and targets almost all of the major muscle groups, according to a study by Duke University.

That’s right.

This workout is total body exercise per excellence.

And you can do this all while getting your heart working to its max.

What’s more? Oh, rowing is also very low impact, so it’s an ideal alternative for runners recovering from an injury or looking for a low-impact exercise to replace running.

And if you’ve never used a rowing machine before, then don’t let that stop you.

The good news is that you can find an indoor rowing machine at most gyms and fitness facilities.

You might also consider signing up for an indoor rowing class or get yourself an indoor rowing machine to get the most out of this amazing workout.

Here is a YouTube tutorial to help you perfect your form and get ready to row with finesse or check this great beginner rowing machine workout plan.

Cardio Alternatives To Running Option III – The Stairs

According to a Canadian research, walking up 200 steps at least twice a day, five days a week for a duration of two months can lead to an increase in V02 max by up to 17 percent.

Which is great.

Not only that, but you also have to engage more leg muscles on the stairs since you have to constantly lift up your body upward with each step you take.

This boosts overall lower body strength like nothing else.

What’s more?

The stairs are also easier on the joints than classic sprints while also improving your range of motion and agility.

Therefore, if your office or apartment building has access to stairs, or you leave near a stadium, be sure to add this cardio option to your training arsenal.

To get the most of the stairs, be sure to switch it up between running, skipping, jumping, hopping and squatting.

For an impressive stair workout, check my post here.

Cardio Alternatives To Running Option IV – Cycling

This is my favorite cardio cross-training exercise.

I really love cycling because it works the lungs and the cardiovascular system in a similar manner to running, but without the high impact often associated with the sport.


For starters, this is one of the best workouts for shedding mad calories while building up muscles and power in the core, glutes, thighs, and legs.

Also, cycling is low impact, so it’s easier on the body and the perfect running alternative option for anyone nursing an injury.

And it’s also the ideal calorie burner.

In fact, research shows that you can burn as many calories as you would during a 45-minutes run during a typical spinning class.

Not only that, cycling can also increase your stride length and speed.

Maybe the only downside of this cardio option is that you’ll need some gear to get going, including a good bike (whether it’s a road bike, mountain bike, etc.), a helmet, and protective glasses and the right clothing.

Also, be sure to stay safe on the road.

Check my post for some of the best biking workouts for runners.

Cardio Alternatives To Running Option V –  Swimming

If you are a running fanatic, just like me, but are suffering from joint pain or an injury, then swimming might be the exact thing the doctor ordered.

Swimming can push your body and cardiovascular system to the max without so much impact on your joints—making it the IDEAL running alternative for those looking to reduce impact on their bodies and/or recovering from an injury.

In fact, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, hitting the pool for an hour, at least three times per week for ten weeks can increase VO2 max by up 10 percent.

Not only that, swimming also target almost every muscle in the upper body, making it for an excellent resistance training option.

Here is a YouTube tutorial to help you build perfect swimming technique if you are a complete beginner.

Alternatives To Running Option VI – Bodyweight Training

Last but not least, you can also get a great cardio workout without reaching for the rope, hopping on the rowing machine, hitting the pool, or purchasing an expensive bike.

Enter the world of the bodyweight training.

What I really love about bodyweight training is that it is easily scalable, convenient and mostly low impact.

This means you can do it in the comfort of your own house without paying for hefty gym fees or purchasing any expensive training equipment.

All you need is your body, a bit of space, and off you go.

What’s more? Body-only exercises are also so effective at burning calories and maximizing fitness gains.

In fact, performing bodyweight exercises in a high-intensity interval manner can be an effective way to increase total body strength while also the heart pumping.

Some of the best bodyweight cardio exercises include high knees, power skips, butt kicks, jumping jacks, bounding, plyo push-ups, squat jumps, box jumps, and burpees.

The list is almost endless.

Here are three routines to try:

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  1. This is really helpful information for those of us that aren’t able to run right now, but still want to get our workout in. I LOVE that you list skipping rope, which is my personal favorite. This list gives me some alternatives that could be good for cross training.


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