Running is easy, cheap and can be a great workout but it’s definitely not my favorite exercise. I find running to be boring and generally not my cup of tea. Luckily there are lots of exercises that actually burn the same, if not more, calories than running and can give you an excellent work out.
Here are 10 exercises that are better than running and why:
High-intensity indoor rowing can burn 316 calories in just 30 minutes.¹ When you take into account you are working your legs, arms and back it becomes apparent that indoor rowing is a great way to get in shape without pounding the pavement. This low impact exercise can be performed with minimal training by a wide variety of gym-goers.
Jumping rope may not be as low impact as rowing, but it’s certainly a great way to burn calories. In 30 minutes you can burn an amazing 372 calories¹ by jumping at a steady pace. Jumping rope can be also be performed in Tabata-style intervals or smaller sessions if you need to work your way up to longer sessions. In addition to burning more calories than running it’s easy to take a jump rope with you just about anywhere when you need to workout on the go.
Battle ropes are a new kid on the block when it comes to gym equipment. Not everyone is familiar with these and even if you have seen them you might not know what the heck to down with them. The good news is that battle ropes are fun and easy to use, plus they can help you burn tons of calories by whipping, dragging, slamming or waving them. A small study done by the Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation at the University of Minnesota Duluth found a 10 minute session can burn around 112 calories.² If you need some ideas on what to do with battle ropes check out Greatist’s round up of 20 Epic Battle Rope Exercises.
Rollerblading may not be the hot activity it was a decade or two ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent workout. At a pace of 10 mph you will burn around 276 calories in just a half hour.³ Couple that with the fact it engages your legs, glutes and even lower back all while challenging your balance and stability and you’ve got a lower impact exercise that provides big results. Just be sure to wear a helmet and other protective gear – safety first!
Swimming is the ultimate low impact, high calorie burning activity that nearly everyone can do in some capacity. A mere 30 minutes of breaststroke will burn around 372 calories, while more intense strokes like the butterfly or crawl weigh in at 409 calories in the same amount of time.¹ Even water jogging can burn 119 calories in 15 minutes⁴ thanks to the resistance of water. Swimming and water jogging challenges multiple muscles groups and your balance too.
Tabata/High Intensity Interval (HIIT) Routines
Tabata or high intensity interval (HIIT) routines are big calorie burners due to their high intensity activity and format. In order the make Tabata or HIIT routines work best you need to pick an engaging exercise or exercises and perform them at near maximal intensity for a set period of time, then rest and repeat according to the specific routine. Calories burned will vary by the specific exercises, but a very small ACE study found a twenty minute session burned between 240 and 360 calories. Another benefit to Tabata or high intensity interval (HIIT) routines is that not only do you burn calories during your workout, but you actually continue to have an increased metabolic rate up to 24 hours post-exercise.
Biking is great exercise for cardio health and for working your lower body muscles. From BMX and mountain biking to road racing or even stationery biking, there are options to fit many environments and skill levels. High intensity stationery biking burns around 391 calories in 30 minutes, while BMX/mountain biking burns around 316. Calories burned while racing or biking on the street will vary with intensity/speed, but should fall around 372 to 446 calories (at 14-15.9 mph to 16-19 mph).¹ Don’t forget your helmet for this activity.
Climbing requires advanced physical abilities, but if you’re able to do it you could burn 409 calories in 30 minutes.¹ Climbing can be done indoors or out and with the prevalence of climbing facilities even beginners can enjoy this fun and challenging sport in a safe and controlled environment. If you’re looking for an outdoor climbing adventure checkout the searchable database at Climb, organized by state. Indoor Climbing walls can be found at Indoor Climb’s World-wide Rock Climbing Gym & Artificial Wall Listing.
The elliptical machine sometimes gets a bad rap at the gym. If it’s the only machine you ever use and you spend countless hours plodding away you probably won’t see the results you’re looking for. On the other hand, if you integrate some vigorous elliptical sessions into a diverse cardio and strength training routine you may burn around 335 calories in 30 minutes.¹ You’ll work the muscles in your lower body and recruit core stabilizing muscles to help keep your balance. Machines with moving arms will yield even more muscle engagement. The elliptical gets extra points for being low impact and easy to use too.
Clearly not an activity available to everyone, but a very worthy one if you can do it. Snowshoeing burns around 298 calories per 30 minutes, which is about the same as running at a 5 mile per hour pace.¹ While caloric expenditure is similar to running, shoe shoeing is infinitely more entertaining. Snowshoeing challenges your balance and agility and forces you to engage your leg muscles with every step. If you add poles you’ll also gain the benefits of working your upper body at the same time. Snowshoeing can take you into places otherwise inaccessible and the rhythmic movement of your snowshoes can be rather soothing. If you’ve never tried snowshoeing then add it to your list of fun things to try in the coming winter.
¹ Harvard Health Publications, Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights (calculated posted are based on a 155 pound person).
² Daily Burn, The Ultimate Battle Ropes Workout.
³ Phil Lenihan. University of Massachusetts Fitness Study. In-line skating Calorie Usage Chart.
⁴ Calorie Lab, Calories burned search results for Water activities.
About the Author
Alicen Ronan is a Kansas City personal trainer, fitness coach and writer. She has been a certified personal trainer since 2009 when she decided that she wanted to help others make positive lifestyle changes. She is available for personal training and fitness coaching 7 days a week both in the Kansas City metro and virtually.
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