If an injury or burn-out has turned you off of traipsing along the trails, your commitment to cardio exercise doesn’t have to waver. Running is an efficient calorie-burner, sizzling 372 calories in 30 minutes going at a 6 mph pace for a 155-pound person. Connection with the great outdoors, the infamous runner’s high and the simplicity of the movement may be other features that attract you to running. When looking for a replacement, consider your goals and preferences so you are more likely to maintain your new cardio habit.
If you are after the high calorie burn you get from running, choose an equally high-intensity activity. The elliptical trainer can provide you with the same energy expenditure, provided you work at an equally intense level, found a study published in the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” in June 2010. The elliptical offers a non-impact movement similar to running and trains many of the same muscles. A stair climber is another possible machine alternative that will help you burn calories and improve cardiorespiratory fitness. A study published in the June 2004 issue of the “Journal of Medicine and Physical Fitness” compared the physiological changes of training on the elliptical, stair climber and treadmill running on 22 women for 12 weeks. Researchers found that when all types of exercise were performed at an equal intensity and volume, approximately three times per week for 70 minutes at a moderate-to-high intensity level, all the participants experienced similar improvements.
Doing the same movements all the time at every workout can lead to repetitive stress injuries and imbalances and, overtime, make your body too efficient to experience significant changes in fitness. If you are abandoning running to add variety to your routine, cycling is a way to go. Cycling is nonimpact and trains your legs while keeping your aerobic system pumping. You also train the muscles in different ways than you do when running, offering a new challenge while resting muscles you may have overused. Other ways to add variety are to enroll in a dance or kickboxing class. You may feel uncoordinated at first because you are accustomed to linear movement, but this only means you are working different muscles and getting the variety your body needs.
If you crave outdoor workouts, cycling is still a good alternative to running. You may also replace running with hiking up more complex terrain. In 30 minutes, a 155-pound person burns 223 calories hiking in cross-country terrain. If you include significant hills, you are maintaining and potentially building leg strength. Because hiking is generally done at a slower pace, you may have more opportunity to enjoy the scenery and take in the environment than you do when running.
You may choose running because it is a convenient, do-anywhere exercise. If you are stuck at home without a treadmill, but can’t go outside due to weather or time of day, jumping rope is an alternative that burns approximately the same number of calories with minimal fuss. You may need time to work up the stamina and skill to perform a consistent 10-minute or longer rope jumping session, but when you do, you can take the exercise almost anywhere. Stash a rope in the bottom of your coat closet or slip it into a suitcase for travel.
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Comparison of Energy Expenditure on a Treadmill Vs. an Elliptical Device at a Self-Selected Exercise Intensity
- Journal of Medicine and Physical Fitness: Physiological Changes Following a 12 Week Gym Based Stair-Climbing, Elliptical Trainer and Treadmill Running Program in Females
- The New York Times: The Benefits of Cross Training
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes of Exercise for People of Three Different Weights
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.