We don’t all need to slap a 13.1 sticker on the back of our cars to feel good about a tough workout. In fact, contrary to what many runners would have you believe, running isn’t a requirement for staying healthy.
While running has many benefits, if you’re just looking to keep your heart healthy while attaining a toned physique, any exercise (or series of exercises) will do. All that’s necessary is sustaining said exercises for a prolonged period of time.
How long, you ask?
That depends. Most “cardio workouts” typically last 30 to 60 minutes, but if you ramp up the intensity — à la high-intensity interval training or Tabata workouts — you can get a killer workout in as little as 20 minutes or less.
To give it a try, choose any four of the 16 following exercises. Perform each exercise as a Tabata: putting in all-out effort for 20 seconds of work, then 10 seconds rest, for eight sets. Each Tabata lasts four minutes. Rest one minute between Tabatas.
After this 20-minute workout, check back in. I guarantee you’ll be sweaty, tired and out of breath. The perfect cardio solution — no running required.
From a standing position, roll your torso forward and reach your hands to the ground. Walk your hands out in front of you until your body forms a plank, then reverse the movement and return to standing.
Bonus: Add a push-up at the bottom.
2. Mountain climbers
Start in a plank position, then bend one knee, drawing it to your chest and planting the ball of the same foot in a forward position. In one movement, hop both feet into the air, supporting your weight on your palms and switching the position of your legs. Extend the bent knee and bend the extended knee. Continue hopping your feet back and forth as fast as you can.
Stand tall, feet hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent. Bend forward, plant your palms on the ground just in front of your feet and hop your feet backward in a single movement to a plank position. Immediately hop your feet forward again and return to standing.
Bonus: Add a push-up when you’re in the plank position and add a jump as you return to standing.
4. Broad jumps
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent, your weight in your heels. Squat down, pressing your hips back as you swing your arms behind you. Then in a powerful movement, press from your heels through the balls of your feet as you swing your arms forward and jump as far forward as you possibly can, landing softly on your heels with your knees bent. Turn around and immediately do another broad jump back to start.
5. Squat jumps
The squat jump is just like the broad jump, but instead of jumping as far as you can, you’re jumping as high as you can. Make sure you’re using proper jumping form and landing with “soft” knees — slightly bent to absorb the impact.
Takin’ you back to your elementary school dance curriculum. Simply step out laterally with your right foot, cross your left foot in front, step out again with your right foot and cross your left foot behind. Immediately reverse the movement, leading with your left foot. Continue “grapevining” back and forth.
7. Side shuffles
Like the grapevine, you’re moving laterally to the left and right, but this time you’re not crossing your legs as you move back and forth. Step to the right with your right foot and bring your left foot to meet it, then step to the right again. Shuffle a few steps to the right, then reverse and shuffle back to the left.
8. Washing machine hops
Stand with your feet together, knees slightly bent. Bend your elbows and clench your fists, holding them in front of your body. Hop into the air and twist your legs and hips to the right while keeping your torso facing forward, landing with your feet together and knees bent. Immediately jump into the air and twist your legs and hips all the way to the left. Continue twisting your lower body from left to right repeatedly.
Stand with knees bent in an athletic position, your arms in front of your body. Step to the right with your right foot and cross your left foot back and behind the right foot as you swing your left arm down to the ground to touch your right foot. Immediately reverse the movement, hopping to the left and leading with your left foot. But, this time cross your right foot behind your left, reaching across and down with your right hand to touch your left foot. Continue this “speed skating” motion from left to right. Remember to keep your core tight and torso straight to protect your low back.
10. Jumping jacks
You know how to do these! Hop both legs outward from your midline while swinging your arms out and over your head, then hop your feet back to center as you swing your arms back down to your sides. Continue jumping as fast as you can.
11. Frog push-up to low squat
This one’s a toughie! Get down on your hands and knees, planting the balls of your feet on the ground. Press through your feet and palms, lifting your knees from the ground. Bend your elbows into a mini push-up as you simultaneously rotate your hips outward from midline, almost like a frog, pointing your knees out to the sides.
Press yourself back up, then hop your feet forward — outside your palms — picking your hands up off the ground to enter into a low squat position. Hold for a second, then return to start.
12. Bear crawl
This one starts just like the frog push-up. Balance on the balls of your feet and your palms, your knees just off the ground. Maintaining this position, step forward with one hand, then one foot, then your other hand and other foot, crawling forward with your knees off the ground while your back remains low and flat (Don’t let your butt point up to the sky!). Take several steps forward, then several steps backward and continue.
13. Crab walk
Flip that bear crawl over for the crab walk. Balance on your palms and feet, your butt off the ground and take several steps forward, then several steps back.
14. March and twist
Stand tall and march in place — high knees, please! — while simultaneously twisting your torso. Aim to touch your opposite elbow to the knee you’re lifting.
15. Hacky sacks
Remember hacky sacks? Pretend you’re playing a game without the ball itself. As you lift one leg, rotate your knee outward so the inside of your foot crosses in front of the standing leg. Reach down to tap the inside of your lifted foot with the opposite hand. Lower your foot to the ground and repeat on the opposite side. Try to pick up your pace and hop from side to side as you perform the exercise.
16. Cross jacks
Very similar to traditional jumping jacks, cross jacks are exactly what they sound like: jumping jacks with a cross-body component. Start with your arms and legs spread wide like a star fish, then hop your feet toward your midline, crossing your left foot in front of your right as you simultaneously cross your left arm in front of your right. Reverse the movement: Hop back to start, then hop inward again. This time crossing your right leg in front of your left and your right arm over your left.