8 Alternatives to Running For Your Fitness At Home

running at dawn

There's no denying that running is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise to control your weight and keep you fit. However, running is not for everybody.  Continue reading about our top 8 alternatives to running.

Whether you don't enjoy running or your knees and joints painfully protest at every step around the circuit, you do have exercise alternatives that will burn through the calories just as well. 

So, if you would rather your health and fitness goals didn't rely on miles and miles of pounding the pavement, then check out these joint-friendly alternatives to your cardio workout:

1. Cycling
2. Swimming
3. Rowing
4. Elliptical Trainer
5. Dance Class
6. Hiking
7. Treadmill on an Incline
8. Bodyweight Circuits

Our Top 8 Alternatives To Running

Let's have a look at each of the exercise types in more depth.

1 Cycling

Marcy Exercise Bike Upright and with Fan

Research at Harvard University shows us that a biking speed of moderate pace (12 to 13.9 miles per hour) will burn 298 calories in 30 minutes.

T his figure compares favorably with running's 280 to 520 calories, but without the sore knees and feet.

Of course, you can burn more calories by pushing yourself harder. Get your speed up to 14 to 15.9 miles per hour, and you are burning almost 400 calories every 30-minutes. You can easily change your workout intensity by adjusting your speed, stance, and intensity.

Spin classes are safer than cycling on the road, and a good instructor will help you burn even more calories than you could while running solo.

For more information on exercise bicycles, go to Home Fitness Focus Exercise Bikes reviews.

2 Swimming

alternatives to running swimming

Swimming is probably the most low-impact type of exercise you can get, but that doesn't mean you won't feel the burn if you put your all into it. You can churn through between 180 and nearly 300 calories in a half-hour swimming session.

A few laps in the pool will work just about every muscle group. If it's been a while between laps, expect to feel a little sore the next day. However, if you have issues with your joints, they will thank you for hitting the pool rather than the pavement.

You also have various swimming activities to choose from if you're the type who gets bored with the same routines.  Try swimming laps one week, water aerobics the next, and then jump in for a spot of water running.

Water running is another excellent pool-related exercise popular with cross-trainers and athletes recovering from injuries. The water's resistance makes you work hard on every lap while limiting the stress on the hips, knees, and back. There is even evidence showing that water running is as efficient as regular running when it comes to calories burned. 

There are even underwater treadmills available.  For more information, visit our Underwater Treadmills Review.

3 Rowing

Fitness Reality Magnetic Rowing Machine with Bluetooth Workout Tracking Built-In, Additional Full Body Extended Exercises, App Compatible, Tablet Holder, Rowing Machines for Home Use

A rowing machine targets the legs, arms, and abs. When you pay attention to proper form, you can get a decent cardio workout while also building lean muscle in your chest, triceps, biceps, and back.

If you work hard, you may even achieve the holy grail of fitness, the six-pack. A 30-minute session of rowing will burn through between 250 and 400 calories.

4 Elliptical Trainer

alternatives to running - Elliptical Trainer

Elliptical trainers are an excellent low-impact alternative to running. The fact that elliptical trainers have variable resistance means you can ramp up your burn but spend less time on the machine.

A medium resistance setting will burn about the same number of calories as running at 6mph or a 10-minute mile.

Ellipticals work best when you have dialed in at least some resistance. If you are pedaling too fast and feel like you are failing, then the machine is on too easy a setting.

More step machines and ellipticals are described at Steps and Ellipticals.

5 Dancing

alternatives to running - swimming

Professional dancers are some of the fittest people on the planet. Even if you think you don't have the grace and poise of the pros, you can still enjoy a dance session and burn off calories in the process.

Not only will you be churning through the extra calories, but you will also be developing muscle tone and having fun. Dancing has also been shown to help build a better sense of balance and improve cognitive functioning

6 Hiking

Hiking can be as easy or as challenging as you need it to be, depending on your fitness goals. Check out your local area for nature walks and national parks for hikes of varying difficulty.

Enjoy the fresh air and exercise while getting back to nature. You probably won't be hiking every day, but the views can be spectacular and a welcome change from the usual grind.

7 Treadmill on an Incline

Sunny Health and Fitness SF-T4400 Folding Treadmill

If you would like more of a challenge than the morning walks around your neighborhood, then a treadmill set to an incline will deliver. The sloping ramp makes gravity work against you, and you will have to work a lot harder to maintain your usual walking pace.

For an even deeper challenge, try a weighted vest to add more resistance and increase your calorie burn.

Remember, the heavier you are, the harder your body will work. If you've managed to lose a few pounds, you may feel your exercise routines are getting too easy. Adding a few pounds to your body weight by wearing a vest will increase your calorie burn.

Quite a few people also wear weighted vests while doing the housework and mowing the lawn, which helps them burn a few extra calories during the week. Every little bit helps.

For more treadmill information, visit homefitnessfocus.com/treadmills.

8 Bodyweight Circuits

A bodyweight circuit is a series of exercises you do in a sequence for a set number of reps and then repeat until your session is complete. The goal is to do each exercise one after the other until the series is complete, rest for a minute, and then go through them again.

The great thing about bodyweight routines is that you can do them anywhere, without expensive equipment. You can mix and match the routines to target different muscle groups each time. Here are a few bodyweight exercise ideas to get you started.

  • Push-ups
  • Planks
  • Side Planks
  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Burpees
  • Pull-Ups (you may need a bar for this one)
  • Step-Ups
  • Knee to Chest
  • Bodyweight Bridge
  • Bodyweight Bob and Weave
  • Bodyweight Cossacks
  • Mountain Climbers
  • High Knees
  • Many more!

If you don't know what any of these are, then YouTube is your friend. Watch the videos from professional trainers to ensure you are using the proper form for each exercise, and don't forget your stretches to warm up.

If you have the knees for it, another excellent bodyweight exercise that will also improve your coordination is the skipping rope. 

This video shows the proper way to do burpees.  She even demonstrates several easier modified versions. 


 If you are looking to improve your fitness and control your weight, don't be put off because you think you need to run circuits at the crack of dawn every morning. Hopefully, these 8 alternatives to running will give you some ideas.

There are tons of exercises you can do to burn calories that are kinder to your joints.

Plus, you can keep it interesting by mixing it up and including a few of the above ideas into your exercise routine, rather than just sticking with one.

About the author

Dee Smith

Hello I am Dee and I am a busy mom who truth be told hated to exercise. That is why I was always looking for shortcuts to fitness and started researching ways to stay healthy and fit at home. Here we provide reviews of the best and most popular products you can use at home to achieve your fitness goals!

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