Exercise 201: Running Alternatives

Are you tired of everyone talking about running for exercise when you can’t run? Perhaps you suffer from a back injury or joint issues and you know that running is probably never in your future based on discussions with your physician. You want to stay healthy and running may seem like the easiest option, but there are alternatives that provide great health benefits.

The first, and perhaps most obvious, is walking. Vigorous walking can provide the same benefits as running. Don’t believe for a second that you’re not benefiting from walking. It’s great for the cardiovascular system, you burn calories, and it has mood boosting benefits as well.

Another activity is swimming or water aerobics. Exercising in the water is a no-impact way to get your heart pumping. Don’t know how to swim you can learn, never too late, or you can stick with water aerobics. There is also bicycling in the water. How cool is that?!?

Want to stay out of the water but need a low impact option, try the elliptical machine. If you’ve never seen one it’s basically the same as a stair machine except the peddles go around in an elliptical pattern. The benefit of using this is reduced pressure on your knees since you are never fully extending them or fully putting all of your weight on one joint at a time. You still get a great workout by increasing the resistance. What I like about the elliptical machine is you can go backwards giving your hamstrings a workout as well. Running, walking and even swimming tend to focus on the quads leaving the hamstrings under-developed.

Dancing is another great alternative to running but still gets the heart rate going. Dancing allows you to move your body without putting too much pressure on those joints. You can also use your arms more which contributes to increasing the heart rate as well. No worries, you can do a two-step but try some salsa dancing too.  I love to dance!

Yoga is time-tested exercise regime that will align your mind and body. I freely admit I am not much into yoga, but it has some great benefits. You’re not going to get your heart rate up doing yoga like you would with some of the other exercises but you will be much more flexible. Yoga is a wonderful strength building practice. Include yoga and walking in your exercise regimen to build both strength and endurance. I like to stretch to remain flexible, there are some wonderful stretching routines if you find yoga is not for you.

If you enjoy the outdoors, biking is a wonderful alternative to running. In the winter months you can bike indoors at your local gym. It’s easy to get started with biking. It’s no impact and it combines strength building in your legs with cardiovascular endurance.

Lastly, be sure to include strength training exercises in your regimen. Muscles burn more calories than fat and also help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.

No excuses! Remember the most important thing for a healthy body is just to get moving. It doesn’t matter if you run, walk, bike, etc. Just get yourself moving and start to see the benefits. Anyone at any age can do these activities at some level. Even if you’re confined to a wheel chair or sitting you can do upper-body exercises that will get the blood moving. You can also do floor-based exercises. A physical therapist would be able to provide you with the best options and exercises.

Real Talk | Real Things | Real Results


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