The Best Cardio Workout – No Running Required

Some people love to run, I am not one of those people. So I have spent the last few years figuring out how I can get all the benefits of cardio without having to run.

So how can you burn maximum calories, improve your cardiovascular health and reduce stress?

The answer is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

If you’re anything like I used to be you hear that and think wind sprints. Which is alternating between a flat out sprint and then a jog or walk for a certain amount of time or reps, this is the old school way, and surely not the best cardio workout.

A HIIT workout consists of short bursts of high intensity exercises combined with periods of rest or lower intensity exercise. The goal is to get your heart rate to at least 80 percent of it’s maximum capacity for one to five minutes with periods of rest or less intense exercise that allows your heart rate to drop below 80 percent.

If you don’t have a way to measure your heart rate you can HIIT by going as hard as you possibly can for the high intensity portion, or check out my review of the Withings Steel HR Activity Tracker if you’re in the market for the most stylish activity tracker.

Benefits of Interval Training

Increased Metabolic Rate

One of the great things about HIIT is it’s ability to increase your metabolic rate for hours after you are done your cardio workout. That means you burn more calories than you would have normally in the same time period, studies have shown that it can elevate your metabolism for hours after you exercise.

Build Muscle

You can still build muscle mass using HIIT, you can’t move your body without using your muscles so you will see an improvement in your muscle growth and definition. This will be especially true for anyone that is new to weight training. This has the added benefit of burning more calories through the rest of your day as well, since carrying more lean muscle mass on your frame raises your resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories burned at rest).

Greater Oxygen Consumption

Improves Oygen Consumption and Stamina, your oxygen consumption is the amount of oxygen taken in and used by the body per minute. I won’t go too deep in to this because I’m sure most people don’t need to know all the science behind it except to know that performing HIIT and any increased physical training will improve oxygen consumption, and studies have shown that high pulmonary peak oxygen consumption increases athletic performance.

Reduced Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

Reduces Heart Rate and Blood Pressure in overweight and obese individuals. What I like about this one is that HIIT has been shown to reduce blood pressure more than moderate intensity exercise. This means if you are able to do HIIT training you could lower your blood pressure and make a big step in the right direction to a healthy lifestyle.

Reduced Blood Sugar

Lowers blood sugar and has even been shown to improve insulin resistance more than steady state cardio or traditional weight lifting., which can be extremely beneficial for those at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Burn Fat

Now the reason that most people are probably here, it burns fat! And it is very effective at doing that. Burning fat isn’t just about looking better, it’s also about feeling better and improving your health. With HIIT training you could see as much as a 17 percent reduction in visceral fat, this is the fat surrounding your internal organs that can promote disease.

Is Interval Training the Best Way to Burn Calories?

There was a study that compared High Intensity Interval Training and Sprint Interval Training (SIT) that had HIIT of eight 1-minute bouts at 85% maximum Watts (Wmax), interspersed with a 1-minute active recovery at 25% Wmax compared with SIT of eight 30-second bouts at 130% Wmax, interspersed with 90-second active recovery at 25% Wmax. (Total time matched at 24 minutes including warm up & cool down). Their conclusion was “HIIT is the recommended routine If an individual is seeking to burn slightly more calories, maintain a higher oxygen uptake, and perceive less exertion during exercise.” You can share this on twitter (Tweet this)

How Do You Do It?

There are several ways to do HIIT training effectively but I like to do mine with body weight exercises to maximize whole body muscle activation. The main part here is to find something that you enjoy doing and keeps you motivated while still being challenging and raising your heart rate to 80 percent of your maximum.

Here is one of the HIIT routines that I do, I like to change the exercises that I do from day to day but I keep the general layout the same. You can adjust to make it your own or try it out the way it is, just keep the general rule of eight 1-minute maximum effort rounds interspersed with a 1-minute active recovery. You can also add more active recoveries to match your current fitness level.

1-minute Burpees

1-minute Box Jumps

1-minute Wall Sit (active recovery)

1-minute Alternating Split Squat Jumps

1-minute Plyo Push-up

1-minute Body Weight Squat (active recovery)

1-minute Mountain Climbers

1-minute Push-ups

1-minute Alternating Box Step-ups (active recovery)

1-minute Twisting Piston

1-minute Squat Jumps

When you are done feel free to lay on the floor and cry or if you’re feeling crazy repeat the whole thing. This only takes 11 minutes, anyone should be able to make that kind of time at least 3 times per week.

Just remember to keep the intensity high.

Did you try this workout? What is your favorite HIIT?

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7 thoughts on “The Best Cardio Workout – No Running Required”

  1. Great article! I switched my exercise routines to HIIT training a few years ago and it’s amazing – I find that I only need to exercise a fraction of the amount of time compared to when I was doing traditional gym workouts – and I feel much better after it. I love using my body for strength training, it just feels so much more natural compared to training with weights.

  2. High Intensity Interval Training is an exercise program that I recommend highly. I like the diversity of its applications. Sprinting, then walking, high treadmill speed, then slower. It even can apply to weight training – heavy reps, followed by more reps with lighter weight. The best part is that HIIT generally does not take as much time as more traditional workout programs. There is not a lot of real rest, only a lessening of intensity during the interval period before continuing at maximum speed or force. 

    In my opinion, it’s the best way to burn calories efficiently (exertion efficiency and time efficiency).

    Great post!


  3. I’ve been doing HIIT for the last couple of months, and I’ve definitely seen an improvement. Although I weigh the same as I did before commencing with HIIT, my body fat has reduced, so I must have gained muscle mass as well! 

    It’s a great way to burn the fat. I will try your workout next time I do it. Hopefully, as you say, my blood pressure will come down too. 

    • Hey Chris, 

      That’s great to hear that you are seeing positive results. If you plateau don’t get discouraged, change your workout a bit and crank up the intensity. Stick with it and that blood pressure will start looking better too. 
      Thanks, Tyler 

  4. hello dear I must say that this is very much one of the best articles I have seen on a very concise way to stay did an awesome job making a detailed explanation of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)..thanks for sharing such an awesome and most effective and informal article on how to stay fit with this simple practice of intensive internal training thanks a lot for sharing have a great da…

  5. Thanks for this article, I was looking for a way to workout and have enough time to deal with everyday problems and a child. Your best cardio workout (HIIT) is what i was looking for. I can definitely find 12 minutes a day for it, and having high blood pressure I hope it works on keeping it low.


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