When someone says “I just did some cardio”, I am willing to bet the first thing that comes to mind is running.
However, there are plenty of exercises of cross training for runners that are equally beneficial for your health as running if not more beneficial than running some aspects!
Some people are big fans of biking while others love rowing. Each form of cardio have their benefits and of course downfalls.
Regardless, it is worth at least trying out other forms of cardio, because you might end up enjoying a form of cardio you weren’t expecting.
I’ll give you my take on each major form of cardio besides running and examine the advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives to running.
Whether you are on rowing a boat in a river or rowing at a gym on a seated machine both are great forms of cardio and strengthen muscle groups that normally wouldn’t strengthen from running.
Pros of Rowing
Since you are on a seat, and your feet are strapped on the rowing equipment, you reduce the impact on the lower body injuries to your shins, knees, and ankles.
This means you can do a cardio workout at high intensities while at relatively low risk of an injury, unlike treadmills.
Full Body Workout:
If you are looking to burn a serious amount of calories and get that flat tummy or 6 pack abs, look no further than rowing.
From using your legs for push-off, core and back for posture, and arms to finish it off the stroke, rowing is truly intense work.
Just look at the numbers Annie Mulgrew vice president of City Row even states “The rowing machine is unique in its ability to target 85% of your body’s muscles to perform the full movement or stroke properly”
Unlike running, which is focused mainly on muscular endurance and is great for staying lean or shredding (or even looking skinny like a twig if you want to).
Rowing offers some strengthening to the muscles. Allowing you to retain or even increase muscle mass while still performing cardio.
Cons of Rowing
Unfortunately, rowing is not as simple as hopping on the machine and pulling the cable to your chest.
To row effectively and get a good workout, there is a proper sequence which is “legs, body arms then arms, body, legs”.
Even though elliptical machines have been around for quite a while, these cardio machines have become an even more popular cardio workout routine in the modern fitness era.
I swear gyms are buying a brand new type of elliptical machines each week, but seriously there are just as many elliptical machines as treadmills in most gyms nowadays.
However, there are plenty of good reasons for the increased popularity of ellipticals for cardio.
Pros of Elliptical
Probably the biggest draw to using these machines is the reduced impact on the lower body.
In running, you are constantly stepping on the ground, and this constant contact can put a lot of strain on your feet, knees, and shins.
In comparison on the elliptical, your feet are almost locked-in on the machine reducing the wear and tear on the body while keeping the similar high intensity of any other cardio routine.
Whole Body Workout:
Unlike biking and to some degree running, modern elliptical machines have rotating arms for you to work out your upper body as well.
Now, are you going to get massive arms the size of tree trunks from working out on the elliptical?
Probably not, but again it’s still offers something for the upper body than some other forms of cardio.
Working out on elliptical machines burns a massive amount of calories. This why I personally love using elliptical machines for my cardio workouts.
For instance, according to Harvard health’s calorie calculator a 155lb person burns on average 335 calories in 30 minutes at a moderate pace
Cons of Elliptical
Now the elliptical’s greatest benefit is the low impact is also the cause of its greatest drawback.
To get the feet to stay stationary on the equipment, the machine is designed to restrict the lower body movement.
However, modern elliptical machines such as have slowly overcome this challenge to the point where it feels almost a natural movement on the machine.
In concept, this cardio exercise is just as simple as hopping over a piece of rope, and it sounds super easy.
However even with all the advancements in the health and fitness industry, professional athletes (such as boxers, kickboxers and, mix martial artist fighters) still heavily incorporate jump roping.
The reason many athletes do jump rope is to keep their cardiovascular system in shape and prepared for an upcoming event.
And so if professional athletes still jump rope to keep in shape, there plenty of great reasons for you to possibly incorporate jumping rope as well
Pros of Jumping Rope
Whole Body Workout:
Jumping rope is truly workouts your entire body because you have to use your arms and wrist to move the rope over your body while simultaneously using your legs and feet to jump over the rope.
Since this exercise is a full-body workout, your body burns through a crazy amount of calories.
In 30 minutes a person weighing 155lbs can burn on average 375 calories accord to Harvard Health Publishing.
You can even burn up to 500 calories in just 15 minutes as seen in this video!
Improve Agility and Coordination:
While jumping rope seems like a fairly easy movement, to truly master it is a whole different story.
To precisely time each movement and for your brain and muscles to continuously remain in sync requires a great level of coordination.
Cons of Jumping Rope
High Strain or High Impact:
The constant jumping up and down especially when you are moving at high speed does put some major strain on your body.
However, this drawback can be minimized by jumping rope on softer surfaces such as rubber mats.
No matter if you are outside on a mountain bike zipping by trees or inside on stationary biking watching a new tv show episode both are great alternatives to running.
Pros of Biking
Low Impact (great for rehab):
If you have ever seen professional athletes go through rehabilitation after an injury one of the first things they do is get on a stationary bike and start pedaling.
With your feet strapped onto the pedals and your butt seated, the risk of injury is low (especially in comparison to running)
Muscular Strengthen Legs:
Have you seen some of the cyclist’s legs?
Some of these cyclists have tree trunks for legs!
So unless you want lean slender legs. I think I’d say this is a major benefit to cycling.
Cons of Biking
Since your upper body is relatively stationary and your legs are the only body part that is moving during this exercise.
Biking unfortunately doesn’t work out your entire body such as rowing.
Not Best Calorie Burning:
Even though cardio exercises are known to be calorie burners, biking just is not that great. Just look at the numbers.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, a 150lb person who runs at a seven-minute mile pace burns 1000 calories per hour, and if the same person pedals at 16 to 19 miles per hour burns only 850 calories per hour.
That’s 150 calories less in comparison to running!