12 Exercises That are Better Than Running

Running has been the greatest workout routine throughout all of human history, and for good reason; you can start at any point, in any physical condition, it doesn’t require anything but your own body, and can be done quite literally anywhere. With that said, running isn’t the be-all and end-all exercise. It is incredibly good at burning fat, but just like anything else, with enough practice, your body gets good at it.

You’ll find that you’re getting great at running distances or times you would have felt impossible earlier on in your running career, you essentially plateau. As a result, you’ll find yourself having to get more and more creative with your routine to see consistent improvement. Fortunately, we have devised other forms of exercise that provide us with all the benefits running does, but with easier ways to alternate and keep ourselves constantly improving in meaningful ways. 

Another issue with running is the fact that it, in the end, takes a serious toll on your body. There are a plethora of problems that can come about by overworking yourself or simply just being a runner for too long. We’re talking ankle issues, feet issues, knee issues, and even lower back problems. A life of running is a great and healthy one, without a doubt, but too much of a good thing is never ideal, and that includes running.

Tennis

women playing tennis

Calories burned: 1000 cals

Despite being a sport as opposed to a dedicated exercise, Tennis finds itself to be a great method of improving your cardiovascular health, endurance and overall body strength, similar to running. It is also a sport that does not technically require more than a ball and a wall, and as such, will simulate a real, yet very challenging tennis match with each of your hits being immediately reflected back to your side of the court.

It is a meaningful way to burn calories, as even a moderate solo hour of a session can see you burning upwards of 840 calories, and even more, if you are with another person playing a singles match. If your main aim is to burn as many calories as possible, singles are the most intensive form of tennis to play, with general and doubles lagging behind.

Rock Climbing

climbing wall workout

Calories burned: 1000 cals

Also, not a conventional standalone exercise, rock-climbing is a niche hobby and workout routine that provides a complete and full-body workout for all the muscle groups. Unlike most other activities you’ll even see improvements in your hand dexterity, toe strength, and of course the other major muscle groups in your arms, legs, and core. It is an incredibly satisfying, yet difficult workout, but there are various rock-climbing oriented gyms in metropolitan areas with members more than happy to help you get a start on your journey upwards.

As for fat-burning potential, rock-climbing is unrivaled in its ability to burn fat as well as get your entire body toned. In a single hour interval, you can burn up to 1000 calories, and this is rock-climbing in general, not even considering hard or expert rock-climbing courses that will push your body to its limits. Overall a great hobby, exercise, and better calorie-burning exercise than running alone.

Fat-Tire Biking

fat tire biking workout

Calories burned: 1000 cals

You might be wondering what Fat-Tire biking is, or how it differs from regular cycling. Simply put, these are bicycles with incredibly large tires that plow through anything you put in their way. At 3.8inches in width, equipped with this, you’ve got yourself a two-wheeled jeep. The bikes were designed to ride across snowy trails initially, but it was soon found they can trek a lot more than just snow. These huge wheels allow for huge contact with the ground, allowing you to traverse slippery or unusual surfaces easily, that with a normal bike would have been impassable.

Biking like this isn’t about the speed, but it’s about the intensity. You’re going to have to put a lot of work into getting across rough terrain, but this heavy bike will make it achievable – provided you put in the work. In fact, this workout is intense enough to burn around 1,000 calories per hour, of course, this varies by the type and difficulty of conditions you’re up against.

Stair-Climbing

climbing stairs as workout

Calories burned: 1000 cals

Stair climbing is also a unique workout, and differs greatly from a straight-forward running regimen. While running you are of course moving horizontally on whatever surface you’re traversing, with minimal to no vertical movement. This is not the case when you stair-climb, as your muscles are forced to fight against gravity at literally every step of the way, an added hurdle otherwise nonexistent when running. You’re placing a much higher demand by repeatedly lifting your muscles up against the pull of gravity. What’s more, is that stairs are found almost everywhere, and if you don’t have a gym membership you could simply take the stairs along your regular routes or actively choose to use the stairs instead of elevators.

You’re burning about 0.17 calories per stair, and 0.05 per stair you descend. One hour of stair climbing will burn around 1,000 calories, or more if you are particularly intense.

Swimming

man swimming for workout

Calories burned: ~950 cals

It should be apparent that swimming is a great full-body workout as you are using your entire self to fight against a current of water and cutting through. It improves your cardiovascular ability as well and providing you with a unique and fun sensation of weightlessness. Swimming is not quite as accessible as running or stair climbing, depending on your location, but it is definitely an activity that sheds the weight off of you like wax to a flame. Swimming is also very beneficial to people with pain in their knees and feet as opposed to running that can cause injuries to your feet.

The amount of calories you burn normally depends on your weight, where heavier people burn more calories per exercise, simply because there is more excess, but another added consideration is the swimming style you assume. At the top is the butterfly stroke, which can see you burn 1,024 calories per hour of intense swimming, easily rivaling the most intense running routines. Behind that is freestyle swimming that can see you shedding up to 931 calories per hour of intense swimming.

Sandbag Workouts

sandbag workout for fitness

Calories burned: ~950 cals

This might be foreign to you, but sandbag workouts are a specific set of high-intensity sets of squats, alternating lunges, Olympic bar, and jackknife stretches using a CrossFit Sandbag. In between sets you ideally do a bit of in-place jogging. This lasts for a little under half an hour per session. It is without a doubt high-intensity, and for an hour of working out, in two sessions, you’re looking at about 961 calories burned.

With this exercise, all you need is a bit of room around you and a hefty sandbag with a weight you can feasibly move around – not too heavy but not too light. It is fairly easy to set up and do at any point when at home and provides you with a dynamic way of burning calories quickly. Be warned though as this will definitely leave you feeling the burn.

Indoor Rowing

indoor rowing for fitness

Calories burned: 600 cals

This activity is fairly straightforward, provided you have gym equipment or more likely, a gym membership. You perform high-intensity rowing motions in place on a stationary machine. And while it is quite a workout on your body, it is not harmful to your joints or spine, like running. This is an exercise that most anyone can do – whether you’re young, old, or with good or bad knees (perhaps from running too much). As for calories burnt, you can expect to get around 600 or more calories burned off from an hour’s session of mild intensity indoor rowing.

Jumping Jacks

jumping jacks better than running

Calories burned: ~960 cals

A military staple, the jumping jack exercise is perfect for a multi-muscle workout, as you have to use multiple parts of your body to fully complete a set. Running is, of course, all in the legs, but this is a step above by getting the rest of your body a bit more involved. They are a great way to increase your heart rate, improve muscle strength and endurance. As for the methods, you can either perform a high number of jumping jacks at a slow pace or a low number in rapid succession.

At the higher end of the spectrum, you’re looking at 16 calories burned per minute, and 960 burned per hour doing jumping jacks, though it isn’t an activity you’d be doing in a single sitting.

Battling Ropes

battling ropes military workout

Calories burned: 600 cals

Battling ropes has become somewhat of a craze in recent years. It was previously a secret training tool for combat arts specialists and professional football players for years. The ropes are thickly braided and range from 16.5 to 44 pounds each and by gripping and slamming them down, you are building a whole lot of power, endurance, and stamina. It is an extremely intense workout rivaling running, and you can see yourself burning at least 600 calories per hour of unbridled swinging.

Jump Rope

jumping ropes for fitness

Calories burned: 780 cals

A classic among athletes from all walks of life, jumping rope is a great cardiovascular exercise that helps you maintain good muscle tone and health overall. A simple yet effective exercise that can be done by almost anyone anywhere, provided there is a long enough rope or string available. If you’re quite skilled, you can burn up to 13 calories a minute, or 780 calories per hour of high-intensity jump rope.

Bike Sprints – Tabata Protocol

indoor bike sprints

Calories burned: 1000 cals

Bike sprints using Tabata protocol, a supra-aerobic cardio workout, you can have a fairly quick but high-intensity and rewarding workout. This style of workout is predicated on short burst of high-intensity movement followed by active downtime. You’re moving at all times, but you ramp up the intensity for a short period, and gradually increase it after each downtime.

You will be burning up to 18 calories per minute per Tabata session, translating to about 1,080 calories per hour.

Burpees

burpees as intense workouts

Calories burned: 800 cals

Plaguing military recruits and bringing smiles to commanding officers for centuries, burpees are one of the most effective and full-body intensive workouts to be invented. Burpees involve rapidly bending down, then crouching, then stretching your body out parallel to the ground in a push-up – then reversing the steps to end back at the upright starting position.

By completing 10-20 Burpees per minute, you’ll burn 10-20 calories per minute or 600-1,200 calories per hour of non-stop burpees. With that said, to do so for an hour non-stop borders on inhumane torture, so we recommend smaller sessions daily with large intervals between for a moderate 800 calories burned.