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Cardio without Running

Best Cardio at Home Workouts Without Running

Cardiovascular exercise is excellent for the body, period. Heart health, flexibility, heart rate variability, protection against longevity health risks, and more are improved by moving your body and getting the heart pumping vigorously. And what do you think about first when you think about cardio? That’s right, running. Pounding the pavement, putting one foot in front of the other rapidly, going in circles around a track. 

Sure, running is an effective form of cardio activity. But what if you want to get cardiovascular benefits without running? What if running causes a high impact on your joints, making it painful to run over and over again? At that point, the cost outweighs the benefits of running.
Luckily, you don’t have to run to do cardio at home – in fact, no-running cardio is preferred for longevity and health purposes. Toss out the treadmill and get ready to reap the rewards of cardio without losing your knees in the process.

Why Low-Impact Cardio Is Ideal

Running is a solid way to track various health markers because it’s easily replicable. You can run in the same circumstances based on treadmill settings or the same track every time. While this is nice, it’s a form of high-impact cardio. This means it causes your joints to wear down over time, creating more bodily injury than bodily vitality.

On the other hand, low-impact cardio relieves the pressure put on your joints while reaping benefits from spiking the heart rate. You don’t lose out on the improvements in heart rate variability, VO2 max, reduced risk of all-cause mortality, and other important health markers. What’s more, these low-impact options can also be easily replicated. So long as you have access to the same equipment and environment, you can repeat and track how you fare based on past efforts.

The Best Cardio Exercises


The rowing machine is fantastic for cardiovascular health while keeping things low-impact. The combination movement involves both strength and speed, generating power. You use everything from your feet to your shoulders, hinging at various joints without compressing them. It’s the perfect blend of overall movement, cardio, and low-impact stress on the body.


If you have access to a pool or another vast body of water, swimming is the best form of cardio. For one, nothing about it is high-impact; the water's gentle resistance keeps everything in perspective, allowing you to go for great distances without overexerting your joints. For two, the thermogenic effect of water allows you to burn calories like none other, aiding the cardio work being performed. 


The slower cousin of running, going for a neighborhood stroll is still cardio. In fact, it’s Zone 2 cardio, a gentler version where you can still carry a conversation, but your heart rate is still elevated. This cardio zone is essential for quality longevity; many people who thrive in the Blue Zones on Earth get a lot of walking done in their day-to-day lives. 


Biking keeps the joints in a comfortable range of motion, and it doesn’t have the same jarring impact that slapping your feet on the pavement has on your ankles, knees, and hips. And don’t worry about how vigorous you go – the body can handle an intense bike ride much better than a grueling run.

HIIT (Sometimes)

Depending on the exercises, a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session can provide outstanding cardio without joint degradation. Of course, jumping or running exercises, such as burpees, jumping rope, and high knees, are out. But clapping push-ups, bodyweight squats, and mountain climbers are very much in. Look at our “cardio at-home” workout below, and you’ll see how you can get a good cardio sweat done in no time and a sweat you can do repeatedly without losing your joints.

The PVL At-Home Cardio Workout

The exercises below are meant to be done one after the other, with 40 seconds of continuous movement followed by 20 seconds of rest. This HIIT workout can be done for one to three rounds, with an optional finisher.
    • Plank with Opposite Arm Shoulder Taps
    • Mountain Climbers
    • Push-ups
    • Bodyweight Squats
    • Side-to-Side Squats
    • Inverted Rows (using a table ledge or sturdy horizontal bar)
    • Lying Toe Touches
    • Crunches

  • Optional Finisher: Row Machine for 500 meters as fast as possible

  • Give low-impact, no-running cardio a try and see how you feel throughout the weeks, months, and years of keeping your joints and body simultaneously healthy!

    Article by Terry Ramos

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