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Top 4 Alternatives to Running for Heart Health

I’m sure you’ve heard everyone talk about how running is great cardio. And, to be honest runners make it look and sound so easy. (I might be a little jealous that it’s not my gifting…just a little bit). Between the marathoners, triathletes, 5k-ers and the casual morning joggers, running looks cool. Plus it’s a great workout!

And the runners, they actually enjoy it. They love the moment adrenaline takes over and it’s just them and the sound of their feet hitting the pavement, or treadmill. Sometimes, I enjoy it, kind of. It’s a really great way to raise your heart rate and get a little sweat going, plus, it’s free. 

But sometimes I just can’t do it. Sometimes running hurts me.

Running is what is classified as a high-impact exercise. That means that it places a high level of impact on your joints. For some people that can cause pain either during the exercise or afterward. For me, I usually feel it a day or two after in my knees, hips, and ankles…not fun. 

If running hurts, what do you do for a great, yet simple cardio exercise without placing undue impact on your joints?
Luckily, there are many alternatives to running that you can do in the comfort of your home or at your local gym that can still give your heart a “run” for its money, here are my top 4.

Top 4 Alternatives to Running for Heart Health


I know what you’re thinking, “walking, really?” Yes, really! A daily walk at a relatively upbeat pace for about 30 minutes can do numbers for your heart health. For added intensity, try walking up hills if you’re walking outdoors or walking on an incline while using a treadmill.  The best thing about walking is that unlike most other activities, you don’t have to schedule it in. It can actually fit into your daily life pretty well! Have a dog? Take them for a walk instead of placing them in the backyard. Have a toddler/new baby? Head out for a stroll before the sun goes down. Live near a common hang out spot (coffee shop, library, food spot or cornerstore)? Try walking to and from your location instead of grabbing your car. My personal favorite time to go for a walk is right after dinner with my husband (it’s pretty great for digestion too!).

Photo of a black man walking his dog in an urban setting in the fall. Photo used in Nicole Eva's blog post "4 alternatives to running for heart health"
Photo by Zen Chung on


Okay, if you follow me on instagram you know how I have felt about cycling in the past. I hated it when I first started. I’ve since grown to love cycling over the last few months. When I first started it was an adjustment because the muscles I use while cycling were different than what I was used to using during my normal workouts. Biking/Cycling is a great low-impact workout because there’s almost ZERO impact and it’s a great way to work your heart and strengthen your lower body. I love to cycle at the end of a workout, especially one that was particularly grueling as a way to take a seat but still get some work in. A goal of mine this year as the weather warms is to purchase a bike so that I can enjoy the benefits of cycling while enjoying nature. It’s quite honestly a win win.

Photo of three people riding their bikes on a long empty rural road. Photo used by Nicole Eva for her blog post 4 alternates to running for heart health
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on

Swimming/Water Jogging

This one is my personal favorite. Swimming is a low-impact workout while also being a space where you can work almost every muscle group at the same time. You can swim, you can kick with the assistance of a kickboard to work your legs, you can jog along the shallow end while engaging your arm, legs, and core, or you can work your core through stabilization exercises. Almost anything you do along with the resistance of the water will be a great cardio workout. This one requires a little extra equipment than the others to start; a swimsuit, swim cap, goggles, maybe some earplugs and a place to swim. Once those are sorted, swimming is a workout that can carry you through many different stages of life. It’s great for injury recovery, strengthening of weak muscle groups and it’s one of the safest forms of exercise during pregnancy (According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists).

Underwater photo of a man swimming in a pool. Photo used by Nicole Eva for her blog post 4 alternates to running for heart health
Photo by Kindel Media on


The elliptical is another great low-impact alternative to running. This is a great one because you can go through the same motions as running, without needing to worry about hurting your hips, knees, back, or ankles. It is capable of getting your heart pumping as if you were running without the lifting and landing impact of running. With the elliptical, there are a variety of ways to use it that all work your body a little differently. You can use it to “run” backwards, you can add a more dramatic bend to your knees, you can utilize it for HIIT (high intensity interval training) or for steady state cardio.

Photo of a midsized woman with a shoulder tattoo training on an elliptical with her trainer beside her. Photo used by Nicole Eva for her blog post 4 alternates to running for heart health
Photo by Andres Ayrton on

There are many reasons why you or someone you know may be looking for alternatives to running for heart health. There may be injuries that limit ones ability to withstand the impact of running outside or on a treadmil. Maybe you want some variety in your cardio routine or you simply just hate running (because that’s valid too). Thankfully there are many alternatives, so what now? Now, you pick one that interests you and give it a shot, but don’t forget to have fun! Happy Training!

xx Nicole Eva

p.s. Wanna chat? Follow me on instagram (find me here) or twitter (find me here)! I’d love to connect with you, my dm’s are always open!

This entry was posted in: All, Wellness


Hi! I’m Nicole Eva, Journal Enthusiast, Healthy Habit Builder, and Advocate of all things Rest and Wellness. My job—to introduce you to YOU; The healthy, beautiful, authentic you. The you that sometimes gets lost in both the mundane and chaos of our world. I do this by sharing tips, stories, videos, guides, and more. I’ll challenge you, encourage you, and celebrate you all the way through your discovery of YOU. Currently, I’m studying to gain my certification in Holistic Nutrition and Health and Wellness Coaching and I’ll be sharing the cool things I’m learning with you along the way! Big fan of tea, cozy things, and well-designed spaces, so we’ll definitely talk about that too. Looking forward to getting to know you!

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