Running is one of the easiest cardiovascular exercises to get started with. Apart from a good pair of shoes, it doesn’t require any special equipment. It is just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, pushing yourself to continually improve.
Unfortunately, running does have one major drawback: it is hard on your body. According to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s PIT Journal, people who regularly participate in long-distance running are at risk of experiencing bone stress injury (BSI). Other problems including knee and ankle injuries, blisters, and cramps are also commonly reported. High-impact exercises like running take a real toll on the joints, often resulting in significant damage that is difficult to correct.
Low-impact cardiovascular exercises are a good alternative for people who are worried about their joint health or for runners who are currently injured. These exercises provide the cardiovascular benefits of running without all of the pressure on the joints. Some of the best low-impact alternatives to running include the following exercises:
Top 5 Low-Impact Alternatives to Running
Whether you ride an exercise bike at the gym or take an actual bike out on the road, cycling is an excellent low-impact activity that can dramatically improve your cardiovascular health. Unlike running where your joints experience a severe jarring motion with every step you take, pedaling a bike is easy on your knees and ankles.
If you choose to ride an actual bike, cycling provides the added benefit of getting you out into the world. You have a chance to take in the scenery while you exercise, which is similar to the experience of running. Instead of being stuck in a gym, you can exercise in the great outdoors, which can make your rides a lot more enjoyable.
2. Elliptical Training
If you don’t mind working out at the gym, using an elliptical trainer is a great low-impact option that is far easier on your joints than running. The motion of using an elliptical is extremely similar to running, which can make it feel a little more familiar than some of the other options.
When you work out on one of these machines, your feet stay on the pedals at all times. As a result, the impact on your joints is negligible. If you want to make the experience as similar as possible to running, don’t use the handles. Instead, keep your body stable on your own. Using the machine with less resistance at a faster rate will also provide an experience that is a lot more like running.
Working out in the water is one of the best ways to protect your joints. Swimming provides an incredible cardiovascular workout without putting any pressure on your joints. It is an excellent option for runners who are injured since it is non-weight-bearing.
Swimming laps is a great option if you want to boost your heart health and increase your lung capacity. As a bonus, swimming also helps build both upper and lower body strength.
You can also try other water-based activities like water running or water aerobics. The water helps make your body more buoyant, which means that there is practically no pressure on your joints when your feet touch the bottom of the pool. As a result, activities like these are considered low-impact.
Rowing machines are often overlooked at the gym. Since they are low to the ground, it is easy to walk right by them without giving them a second glance. As it turns out, however, they provide an incredible full-body workout. Whether you want to increase your leg strength, boost your upper body strength, or improve your cardiovascular health, using a rowing machine is a great option.
Nearly every major muscle group in your body is involved in the act of rowing. That is why it is such a powerful way to raise your heart rate. Like other types of equipment, you can adjust the amount of resistance according to your current level of fitness. That means that you can adapt your workout, increasing the resistance as you get stronger so that you are always challenged.
Just make sure to use good form when you are rowing. Otherwise, you risk injuring your back. Consider working with a personal trainer your first few times so that you can learn the correct rowing technique.
In 2013, the American Heart Association conducted a study comparing the health benefits of walking and running. What they found is that both activities provided similar health benefits including reducing the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
That doesn’t mean that you can go for a casual stroll and expect to get in shape. Instead, you need to walk at a moderate to fast pace. Keep tabs on your heart rate while you work out to see if you need to boost the intensity level. You can find your ideal target heart rate online. This number can vary based on your age, which is why it is important to look it up before you begin working out.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you will usually need to walk for a longer period of time to get the same health benefits as running. For instance, if you usually go for a 20-minute run, you may need to take a 40-minute walk to get a similar level of exercise.
These are some of the best low-impact alternatives to running. You don’t have to strain your joints to get a great workout. Instead, you just have to choose the right exercises.
Activities like cycling and walking allow you to exercise outdoors without putting a lot of pressure on your joints. If you prefer to work out at the gym, you can look into options like using a rowing machine or an elliptical. Water exercises are also a great option, whether you decide to swim laps, try your hand at water running, or experiment with water aerobics.
Don’t be afraid to try several of these options to see which ones you like best. That way, you can create a customized workout routine that includes activities that you enjoy.