Treadmills are fantastic, but they’re not for everyone. Whether you have joint damage or injuries that flare up when you use a treadmill, or you’re simply not phased by using one and it bores you out of your mind, these alternatives will spice things up.
Keep in mind that engagement varies depending on the machine you use. You’re not going to burn the exact same amount of calories on suspension trainers that you’ll burn on a treadmill, and that’s okay. These are alternatives with similar benefits, not direct replacements.
#1 Rowing Machines
Rowing machines are full-body workouts that include a sliding seat, a pull cord, and different methods of applying resistance to help you improve your muscles and endurance.
A rowing machine can have a magnetic flywheel, or actually have a water basin that provides more natural resistance.
It is exactly what you think it is: a machine that emulates rowing. Rowing is low-impact on your knees and provides a ton of engagement for your muscles.
You can build back muscles, quads, and even core muscles all while burning calories in a similar fashion to a treadmill.
These take up a little more horizontal space than a treadmill, and usually fold up nice and flat so they can be stored vertically when not in use. That is, unless you get a water rower and have to fill up a reservoir.
Posture is everything with a rowing machine, so you need to be 100% certain that you maintain good form above all else, and work up intensity and speed without sacrificing your form later on as you scale up your exercise.
These are arguably the best in-home solutions to full-body exercises that have come out in a long time. They’re compact, generally inexpensive when you consider the other machines that you no longer need to buy, and help you work up a sweat.
If you want to get a single treadmill alternative, the rowing machine should be your first pick.
#2 Suspension Trainers
Suspension training can help you shed fat, lose calories, and create a more lean body, but it’s not quite as cardio-intensive as a treadmill. You’ll save your knees, but you will absolutely feel the pain and gain in your muscles.
Suspension training uses elastic or rubber bands that hang from a suspension system. These are usually installed into your garage rafters or between two supporting walls with studs. They surely take up a lot of space.
Using bands, you use the suspension system to pull on and produce resistance. You can lean back and do leg raises, use ropes and rings to engage your core and keep your body up, or even use suspension handles to do pull-ups from the floor.
These systems are versatile and allow you to exercise quite literally every muscle group in your body that you would normally engage at the gym. They’re invasive though, so you need to be sure that you have sufficient space to house one of these.
Suspension trainers are usually found at CrossFit gyms, or military-influenced gyms focused on strength training instead of cardio. It’s an alternative that will help you hit your goals with less impact on your joints.
#3 Vertical Climbers
These elliptical-like machines are vertical, compact, and don’t take up nearly as much room as a treadmill. Plus, they’re actually good for your knees, unlike treadmills.
Vertical climbers might also be referred to as incline steppers or step machines. These engage your knees and help you work up a sweat, but they can be daunting if your only major cardio experience has been a treadmill in the past.
There are many different vertical climbers, some of which can be rather large with more intensity, resistance, and height options available. It’s a very niche machine, so it’s hard to say whether or not you’ll love it right away.
Your best bet is to see if there’s a one-day trial pass for a local gym that has one, test it out, and see how you feel afterward. This takes a lot of the pressure off your knees and still helps you burn through calories like it’s your job.
#4 Stationary Bikes
Depending on who you ask, treadmills pale in comparison to a good spin bike. Stationary bikes can help you work up quite a sweat and are rated to last for 10+ years. There’s no motor, so you have fewer working parts to worry about, which also makes them cheaper than treadmills.
For some, knee engagement can be taxing, but the lack of pressure on your knees is great. Your full body weight isn’t coming down on your knees while you exercise, which can prevent injuries and joint pain in the future.
There are a lot of stationary bike types to choose from, though, which is what makes this decision difficult for a lot of people. There are upright, dual-action, and recumbent bikes to name a few, each with a different design and main goal for your fitness.
We mentioned spin bikes because they have similar or greater intensity than treadmills, and are often seen as the best option for weight loss, and cardio training, and are just an overall better choice than other stationary bike types.
#5 Jump Rope
Jump rope and treadmills have one thing in common: the stress on your knees. While jumping rope seems like a far cry from running on a treadmill, they’re actually surprisingly similar.
They can both be mid to high-impact on your knees, but offer great ways to build up a sweat and lose weight. Jumping rope can be less impactful if you’re smart about it.
These are cardio-based pieces of equipment, so don’t expect major muscle gains. Jump rope allows you to engage more muscle groups though, so if your goal is to keep fat at bay, jump rope can help in a different way than a treadmill does. You’ll have sore arms for sure.
Now we’re getting into the gray area. How is boxing an alternative to using a treadmill? Well, in some ways, it’s better. It’s not just for hardcore athletes, either: you can use boxing solely for cardio training.
The best thing is that you can stay completely stationary, which means no impact on your knees. All you have to do is focus on your core, and your arms, and keep up your pace while practicing your breathing.
Boxing can be intense, but it’s scalable. It only has to get as intense as you want it to be. One bonus that boxing has over running on a treadmill is the way it engages your biceps, triceps, and your core.
You can actually walk away from boxing with a bit of (good) muscle soreness and see improvements in your muscle definition and size before too long. You’re not going to get that on a treadmill, even though the caloric loss is nearly identical.
We’ve reached the furthest alternative. Dancing has plenty of benefits such as boosting your confidence, giving you another skill to work on, and working out more muscles than you would get on a machine in a gym.
You won’t lose the same amount of calories unless you practice intense dance types, but just like with boxing, this is scalable. You can make it your own, do it how you want, and still lose a considerable amount of calories while trimming fat off of multiple areas of your body.
It’s a win-win (and if machines bore you, this is a fun way to take control of your cardio).