Those who have felt the proverbial “runner’s high” will tell you that there’s no other activity that even compares to running. As intoxicating as a hard run can be, running can take a toll on your joints even if you’re in tip-top shape. Finding alternatives to running will help keep you active while giving your joints a much-needed break. According to a 1994 study conducted by the Exercise Science Unit at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, cross-training is highly beneficial to your overall health and an effective alternative for athletes who are taking a break because of physical injury, overtraining, or fatigue.
Whether you’re in need of some recovery time from an injury or just looking for high-impact alternatives to mix things up and give your joints a break from the pavement pounding, these alternatives to running fit the bill.
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Cycling offers runners the perfect alternative to running. Just like running, cycling can be enjoyed indoors or out thanks to stationary bikes and bike trainers. Cycling allows you to maintain and improve your fitness but without the same stress on your joints and shins. Hop onto a road bike, a stationary bike at home or at the gym, or try an advanced Spin class for a high-intensity workout that just might offer runners a new kind of high.
The Elliptical Trainer
Love it or hate it, the elliptical trainer offers an excellent training alternative for runners who are injured or looking to rest their joints. Elliptical machines allow you to mimic the motion of running, and though a weight-bearing activity, it is low-impact for your joints so that you can get a workout comparable to jogging with less impact on your joints and no knee pain, according to Mayo Clinic physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist Edward R. Laskowski, MD. Focusing on motions that are as similar as possible to your usual running form and sticking to a similar training schedule will help you make the most of this activity and maintain your fitness level.
Runners who need a change but are reluctant to try anything other than running are likely to find water running, which is also referred to as pool running, to be a good compromise. Just as the name suggests, water running is performed by running in water, often the deep end of a swimming pool. This great alternative to running lets you enjoy the benefits that come from the motion of running without any impact on your joints. To get the most out of pool running, focus on your form, staying consistent with your regular running motion. Following a training schedule similar to your running one will also help you get the most from this unique alternative while still allowing your joints a break.
Contrary to popular belief that walking isn’t nearly as good a workout as running; walking is in fact an effective alternative for runners who want the same health benefits but without the impact on their joints. A study published by the American Heart Association in their journal, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, found that walking was just as effective as running in lowering the risk of hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. The key is to walk for twice as long as you would run in order to get the same benefits as you would from running. Along with the health benefits, you also get to enjoy the fresh air and scenery that makes running so appealing.
Taking a step aerobics class or working out to a step video offers a high-intensity and low-impact workout that is easier on the joints than running but still effective in improving muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance. A 2006 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that step exercise offers a workout with a biomechanical load that falls between what you would get from walking and running. The key is to perform the moves properly and safely to avoid injury.