Alternative Forms of Cardio

For me, the first thing that springs to mind when someone mentions cardio is running. And if you are not a runner, you’re stomach will churn at the thought of it! Running is one of those exercises that you either love or loath – there is no grey area. In fact, I haven’t met a person yet that hangs out on the fence with their opinion on running. People will either sing it’s praises or express a firm displeasure of the activity.

And if your opinion swings to the latter, or quite simply you need to avoid running out of necessity due to injury or biomechanical issues, the good news is that there are other types of cardio that don’t involve pounding the pavement!

Here are some of my favourite alternative forms of cardio.


Strapping a pair of boxing gloves on and thumping a bag is satisfying to say the least. It will have you huffing and puffing quick smart, and is so much fun that you may not realise just how hard you are working.

There are several methods of boxing to practice from using a bag, to having a coach on the pads guiding you, to shadow boxing (the movement of boxing without actually connecting your punches with anything) or even a group boxing session at your local gym.

When I’ve been injured in the past and unable to run, this is by far my favourite cardio alternative. Beyond puffing, sweating and fatiguing muscles, boxing is also a great exercise to help relieve daily stress in your life.


If you are time poor then skipping is the cardio exercise for you! Try grabbing a skipping rope, and once you get past tripping over your own feet (it’s a lot harder than what you remember in primary school) and find your rhythm, you may well be out of puff in under 10 minutes. It’s tough, but effective.


And before you think “I can’t do lycra”, rest assured that unless you plan on riding for speed and endurance, then there is no need to wear it. Having said that, it is far more comfortable on a long ride than regular clothing. The great thing about cycling is that you not only get cardio fitness but it is great for leg strength too.

There are several ways to go about cycling fitness – you can hit the road on a road bike, traverse some trails through the bush on a mountain bike or stay indoors on an exercise bike. You could also try a spin class at your local gym.

Cycling is much kinder to your joints than running, due its low-impact nature.


Like cycling, swimming also provides a low-impact cardio training option that is kind to joints, meaning that it is suitable for anyone – regardless of age. The added bonus with doing swimming for cardiovascular fitness is that you also gain strength and resistance training as your body navigates its way through the water. It is super effective at burning calories and in just 30 minutes you can burn up to 400 calories!

Stair climbing

Close to where I live, there is parkland that boasts a tall poppet head open to the public featuring a staircase with 130 steps. It makes for a fantastic cardio workout for any fitness level – you can walk it or run it, take every step or skip every second. You can tackle the stair climb several times without stopping – up and down, 260 steps by as many rounds as you can manage. Either way it gets the heart pumping and the lungs working.

Wherever you live, poppet head or not, there should be a way to get a cardio workout from steps. You could try the stairwell of your office building, or one of the local walking tracks, a public building or structure with a good amount of entrance steps – or if all else fails, you could simply buy an aerobics step from your local sports store and use that. There have been whole classes at the gym devoted to step aerobics, so if you need a little motivation to get stepping then maybe you could try one of these.