Dad Bod

The Best Cardio Workouts At Home That Don’t Involve Running

Hate running but want to keep your heart and lungs in good shape? Try these options.

Originally Published: 
A man jumping rope at home in the living room.

We all have that damn chipper coworker who lives and breathes everything about running. His races, his workouts, his new watch, his compression socks, his diet. He’s slim and fit and always seems happy, whether he’s trudged eight miles through sleet and snow, or sweated it out in 90-degree heat. You, on the other hand, loathe the idea of running. Or maybe you used to run, but then you got a nasty case of tendonitis, which triggered a bout of shin splints, which turned into a stress fracture, which made your realize the concept of pavement pounding is just plain madness.

Whatever the reason, you want to do some cardio workouts at home, and you don’t want it to involve right-foot-left-foot-repeat. We hear you. Instead, apply yourself to one of these cardio exercises, which achieve the same goals of getting the heart rate up, the blood pumping, and the muscles burning. Whether you’re at home, around the house, or looking for a little outdoor adventure, we’ve got you covered.

The Best Cardio Workouts at Home That Don’t Involve Running

Climb stairs. From your basement to your attic, or up and down the apartment building stairwell, or any place you can find at least 10 steps to scale, you’re golden. Do them speedy like a basketball player drill, do them every-other-step, or get crazy and try to hop up them on one leg and back. Do five minutes, catch your breath, and do five more minutes.

Jump rope. Probably the best cardio workout in town, jumping rope looks so simple — until you try it. It’s all about rhythm, so keep practicing until you find your groove. Start with one minute of double-hopping (two bounces for every one rope swing), then progress to one-for-one style. Your goal: Build up to five straight minutes without stopping.

Dance. If your kid is old enough, this can be a family endeavor. There are no rules here: Just crank up the stereo volume in your den and boogie. Like any aerobic activity, the payoff comes from keeping your heart rate elevated, so whatever you do, don’t stop moving. Shoot for 15 minutes. To keep yourself from staring down the clock, make a playlist of four of your favorite songs. At roughly a 4-minute playtime per song, you’re done when the tunes stop.

HIIT home circuit. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the buzzy gym class of the moment because it burns maximal calories in minimal time compared with a more moderate-paced jog. You can make your own version with jumping jacks, jumping squats, jogging in place with high knees, and burpees (jump up from a push-up position to standing, then back down again). To create a HIIT circuit, do the first exercise as fast as you can for 10 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then move on to the next. Do 5 rounds.

The Best Cardio Workouts Around the House

Wheelbarrow pushes. Got a driveway? Own a wheelbarrow? Load the hold with bricks, rocks, water jugs, or the grocery bags from your Costco run. Push it up and down the driveway as fast as you can for five minutes. Rest. Repeat. (If you break the eggs, do penance with five minutes more.)

Rake leaves/Shovel snow. Any activity that involves engaging your whole body is going to give you a better workout that running (which is really a lower limb exercise). Remember to bend your knees and use your core to get a full range of motion and protect your back. We’d give you a time limit, but you’re kind of done when the job is done.

Chop wood. Not just for Pa on Little House on the Prairie! Chopping wood burns about 600 calories an hour, roughly the same as running. You can go total old-school and start with taking down a tree, but more likely, you can have your fireplace wood delivered as logs, which you can then splice with your tomahawk. Just kidding. We mean your axe with a kid-friendly safety guard.

Mow the lawn (old-school style). If you have a yard, you have grass to mow. Skip the sitting mowers that practically do the job themselves, and get yourself a good hand mower that you can propel around the lawn and break a sweat.

The Best Cardio Workouts to Do Outdoors

Take a hike. If your kids are old enough, bring them along. If you have an infant, you can strap the babe to your back in one of these outdoor kid carriers. Hiking, though technically a glorified walk, engages the senses and gives your mind a feeling of escape. Go for an hour or for half a day. If you’re in an urban area without a car, city parks offer many more trails than you probably realize.

Bike. The beauty of biking is that you can go relatively far in a short period of time. Always wear a helmet and plan your route in advance, or you may find yourself on roads without wide shoulders or paths that suddenly reach a dead end.

Swim. Sure, there’s the local YMCA. There are also beaches, lakes, and even urban rivers (the latter is not so much a recommendation as it is a recognition that swimming happens in more places than you might think). It’s a no-impact activity that builds amazing arm and shoulder strength, and it’s something you can do for 20 minutes at the shore if you have a partner to watch the kids.

Row/Kayak. Gyms have ergs, and you could always get one for your house if you have the extra cash and space. But you can also purchase a fairly cheap rowboat or kayak, and take it down to the river or lake if you have one nearby. Another great family activity, rowing is relaxing while invigorating, and teaches kids (and grownups) great hand-eye coordination skills.

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