Improve Your Cardio Without “Cardio”

If you’re like me, you involuntary grimace at the idea of cardio. Running? Boring. Biking? Meh. Rowing? Fuggeddahboutit. 

Fortunately, you can improve your cardio without doing ‘traditional cardio.’ But first, it will help to know what cardio is.

What is cardio?

Cardio exercise, also called aerobic exercise, elevates your heart rate to at least 60% of your maximum heart rate (you can find this by subtracting your age from 220). The benefits include torching calories to keep excess fat at bay, boosting immunity, and improving cardiovascular functions.


Now, here’s how to get the benefits of cardio without “doing cardio”: 


We think of strength as the opposite of cardio—but the exercises we use to train “cardio” versus “strength” are not mutually exclusive. In the same way you can increase resistance on a spin bike or incline on a treadmill to prioritize strength, you can increase your rep range and shorten rest periods during lifting to prioritize cardio.

Better yet, as your muscles grow in response to resistance training, your cardiovascular system has more room to pump blood into your muscles rather than let pressure build up in your arteries. 

Aim for a 15-20 rep range and 30-60 seconds of rest between sets. You’ll need to reduce your weights in order to compensate—these resistance bands have 5 to 25 pounds of resistance which is a great starting point for this type of training. 

Sauna Break

This may sound crazy—like, really crazy. But this 2019 study shows it may not be too good to be true. 25-minute sauna sessions can elevate your heart rate between 100-150 BPM, the upper limits being what you need to reach the aerobic range. The lead researcher in the study concluded that these sauna sessions were indeed comparable to a session of moderate physical exercise. 

Additionally, you can use Sweet Sweat in infrared saunas to maximize the benefits of an elevated heart rate. Passive cardio? Sign me up.

Go Clubbing?

This list is getting increasingly more fun by the second… 

Think about it though—dancing is great aerobic exercise, and all the body heat generated by those around you will certainly leave you with armpit sweat stains by the end of the night. Plus—for many, it is much more fun than running.

Here’s the caveat—in order for a night out to be more beneficial than detrimental, you’ll need to swap your cocktails for mocktails. But don’t worry, we got you covered. Here are some our favorites:

You’ll also need to prioritize 7-9 hours of sleep, and that will be nearly impossible with clubbing as a daily occurrence. But as a fun supplementary alternative? You have my permission to dance the night away. 

Are you ready for a grimace-free cardio session? 


This article was written by Melissa Pelowski.