Workout ideas for people who don't like running

For many of us, the mere thought of cardio exercise, especially running, makes us cringe. Running can be repetitive, hard on joints, ankles, knees, and old injuries. For some, it is just absolute misery. Luckily, while hitting the pavement with your favourite sports shoes is a classic cardio exercise, there are plenty of other options you can choose from to get your heart rate up.

Two man working out with dumbbells in a gym

Why is cardio important?

Incorporating aerobic exercise - any type of cardio exercise that moves your body and increases your heart rate - into your lifestyle has many benefits. As you breathe faster and deeper, the amount of oxygen in your blood increases, and as your heart beats faster, your blood flow increases throughout your body. More oxygen is then delivered to your muscles and helps carry toxic waste, such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid, to your lungs and kidneys to be filtered. Endorphins are also released into the body, giving you a well-deserved dose of happy hormones.

Are you determined to give cardio a chance but hate running? Here are a few workout ideas:

Jump rope

Kids make it look easy, but it’s not! Start with a regular bounce and small jumps, then progress to jump tricks that involve the lower body. Try the boxer skip, the feet side to side skip, and the high knee skip. Keep your elbows tucked in to your body, keep a straight back and put your hands out to the sides. Combine jump rope sets with bodyweight exercises to keep your heart pumping. Use ankle weights to increase difficulty. A one-pound jump rope will add weight and offer better feedback, which is good if you’re a beginner.

Good for: intense cardio workout, increasing coordination and endurance.

Woman holding a jump rope
People kickboxing in the living room

Kickboxing

Boxing works the lower body through footwork, but kickboxing involves the lower body muscles a lot more. This exercise is good for people who are not especially coordinated but want to build coordination over time. To amp up cardiovascular activity, cardio kickboxing is a great alternative. It combines kickboxing moves with other bodyweight exercises such as squats and lunges. This workout increases your muscle tone, endurance and agility, and improves flexibility, especially in your hips and glutes.

Good for: a mild to moderate cardio workout. Easily adaptable for every level. 

Weighted circuits

Combining weight lifting and cardio is excellent for building endurance and muscle power. Think of doing compound exercises - exercises that work multiple muscles simultaneously - to increase calorie burn and heart rate, while improving intramuscular coordination. Try walking lunges while holding dumbbells, followed by jumping goblet squats holding a medicine ball (or dumbbell) close to your chest, and finish with kettlebell swings. Take a 30-second break between sets and repeat 5 times. Intense burn guaranteed!

Good for: intense cardio workout and increasing endurance.

A woman working out with a dumbbell
Man stretching with resistance band

Resistance bands

To get similar benefits as you would from running, focus on lower body exercises such as squats, walking lunges, hip thrusts and leg extensions. Ensure the band sits in the appropriate position and that your knees push outwards to keep the band taut. Rest only 20 seconds between exercises and do as many repetitions as you can. You will build strength and endurance in your legs - similar to the effects of running.

Good for: a mild to moderate cardio workout, low-impact exercises that increase endurance.

Hiit (high-intensity interval training)

Are you pressed for time? Do you want to perform simple moves? HIIT workouts combine different techniques from calisthenics (bodyweight) exercises to boxing and Tabata (20 seconds interval training with 10 seconds rest) to offer you an explosive, intense and effective workout in under 30 minutes. HIIT workouts allow you to burn lots of calories in a short amount of time. You will perform exercises such as moving planks, burpees, squats and kickboxing moves. This workout helps to build strength and endurance.

Good for: intense cardio! Great for people who are less coordinated and struggle with the choreographies in Zumba and other aerobics classes.

Woman exercising outside
Women smiling at a dance classe

Dance-style workouts

Zumba, salsa, and dance-fitness workouts are a lot of fun and they get your heart pumping. However, following the beat is not the only challenge; coordinating your movements can also be a struggle! Most gyms and fitness centres offer an array of dance classes. You can also find videos online so that you can move your hips at home. The focus is on movement and rhythm, allowing your breathing to increase as the beat picks up.

Good for: a moderate to intense cardio workout and increased coordination.

If you have access to a variety of equipment or facilities, here are a few more ideas to keep your heart healthy:

Rowing: use an indoor rowing machine or sign-up for your local dragon-boat or rowing program. This low-impact exercise is a great way to work both your lower and upper body.

Cycling: use an indoor cycling bike or purchase a bike trainer for your bicycle so that you can train inside during winter. In the summer, join a cycling group or ride solo. Have you heard of cyclotouring? [est-ce qu’on a un lien? Sinon je peux écrire qlqc]

Trampolining: it’s every kid’s dream to have one in the backyard! If you don’t have a trampoline, check out your local area for a sports or fitness centre with trampoline lessons. Get ready to work your abs and legs!

Swimming: this is a great, low-impact, full-body exercise! No backyard pool? No problem! Visit your local community centre or gym for a drop-in swimming session.

Climbing: although a bit intimidating at first, you won’t regret trying this sport! If you’re a beginner, locate an indoor climbing facility and get an introductory lesson with your rented equipment. This exercise is easier to learn than you think, and it will strengthen your upper body while giving you incredible thrills!

Hiking: whether you have all the right equipment or not, hiking is accessible to most. It offers the opportunity to increase your heart rate as you walk up and down the mountain while admiring the beautiful surroundings.

We often think of running as the go-to cardio exercise. The truth is there are so many options out there. If you don’t have access to lots of equipment, you can still enjoy hiking, cycling and HIIT workouts that require very little equipment (if any). Most importantly, get your body moving and feel good about yourself!