During consultation with my clients, when I discuss the great benefits of cardiovascular exercise and how it will be part of their training program, one of the most common replies is “I do not have to run do I?”.

Cardio looks to have a stigma attached to it that you must run to get a good cardio workout, this simply is not true.

Cardiovascular Exercise by definition is the rythmical movement of large muscle groups over a period of time.

It is widely understood that to enable you to get any of the great benefits of Cardio this period of time must be at least 10-15 minutes or more and must cause the following reactions in your body. Raise your heart rate, warm you up and Develop a sweat.

The most accurate method of measuring the effectiveness of your Cardio is by using a heart rate monitor, however as long as your activity does those things you can consider it to be good cardiovascular exercise.

Below I will list what I consider to be my top cardiovascular activities not including running, there are plenty to choose from and I really suggest you try them all.


By far, the best form of cardio out there, make no mistake. No other form of cardio works more muscle groups harder than rowing, either on the water or on a machine. In my opinion this is the Cardio of choice for general fitness and fat loss. The only problem is, if there is no gym available water access can only be achieved by considering investment or by joining a club, Rowing machines of any decent quality are also quite an investment.


Another fantastic form of cardio, swimming uses large groups of muscles with resistance coming from the water itself. I would suggest that if swimming is your Cardio of choice then you should vary strokes to ensure your training is as balanced as possible. The only problems I see with swimming is either, you can not swim, in which case case, it's what life is all about and no-one will look down on your for learning something that could in some situations be life saving. The other point to consider is pool access but that is relatively cheap and availability is high.


Although this is not the most intensive cardiovascular exercise out there, this has to be the beginners gem, no other cardiovascular activity is more easy to stick to than walking. The Calories burned may be consider less than other forms but it is a perfect way for any beginner to break into the world of cardio. Walking has unlimited access and no specialist equipment involved.


Again another fine form of cardio, cycling can be either gym based on machines or in the great out doors with good options to choose from, mountain biking, road biking or just for leisure and pleasure. Cycling is also a great family activity and a fine way to introduce cardio to the kids. Although there is investment involved, bikes are reliably cheap these days and a good quality bike can be found for less than £ 100.

Cross training or Nordic Ski

Available either as a gym based activity or outside, cross training or nordic ski again uses a large amount of muscle groups and will have you sweating in no time, again there are investments required either through gym membership, machine purchase or equipment purchase, before purchasing nordic ski equipment I would suggest searching for clubs or organizations that would more than happily let you give it a go.

Although I have only listed 5 cardio exercises, there are a whole host of others out there just waiting for you to try them.

Remember the golden rule, if it uses large muscle groups, warms you up, raises your heart rate, gives you a sweat and can be done for more than 10-15 minutes continuously its good cardio so enjoy.

Philip Dodds