When you hear the word “cardio,” what jumps to mind?

For many, cardio is just another word for running. And if you love to run, that’s great. But there’s so much more to cardio than just running. There’s a whole array of exercises you can do instead of running to boost your heart rate and strengthen your heart muscle. We want to share some ideas to get your body moving and heart pumping in creative ways. But first, let’s get oriented on why cardio matters at all.

Benefits of cardio exercise

Cardio refers to aerobic exercise that moves your large muscles and raises your heart rate.2 Regular cardio (aerobic) exercise strengthens your heart muscle and helps your heart work more efficiently.2

There are many heart-related benefits of doing cardio. A stronger heart doesn’t have to work as hard.3 It can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.3,4 Cardio also has whole-body benefits. For your brain, it can reduce the risk of a decline in memory and mental function.3 There are also benefits for strengthening your bones and lungs too.4 Regular cardio has also been shown to boost mental health.3

Ready to start getting active but not sure where to start?

Sometimes, it’s hard to start doing something new. At Teladoc Health, we can help you get “unstuck” and take the first steps toward a more active lifestyle. Create your account to get started today!

Create a virtual care account

With so much upside to cardio exercise, let’s dig in to some fun ways you can access all its benefits.

6 cardio ideas that aren’t running

  • Walking is something you can do solo or with friends and indoors or out. You can increase your intensity with a brisk pace or by walking uphill or on an inclined treadmill.1,2,4
  • Biking is easy on the joints and a great way to get your heart pumping. You can bike outdoors if it’s safe where you live or opt for indoor cycling options like a spin class or a stationary bike trainer.1,2,4
  • Jumping rope isn’t just for kids! It’s great exercise for your heart as well as your balance and coordination.1,2
  • Court sports like basketball, tennis, pickleball, racquetball or squash are active games that keep your body moving. Plus, they’re fun to do with friends!1,2
  • Water-based activities like water aerobics and swimming laps boost your heart rate without the joint stress of other sports. The water provides resistance to movement. You can adjust the intensity of your workout by increasing or decreasing how fast you move.1,2,4
  • Machines like ellipticals, steppers, treadmills and rowing machines add an element of resistance. All are designed to get your body and blood moving on a stationary unit.2,4

Ready to give some of these a try? Maybe you’ll shoot for the American Heart Association’s recommendation to get 150 minutes a week of moderate-effort aerobic exercise—or maybe not.1 Just remember that some cardio exercise is better than none. And before you hit it hard, make sure you run it (pun intended) by your doctor or primary care provider. They can help you fine-tune the right amount and type of exercise based on your health needs and goals.

You’ve got this!

Looking for heart health support?

Staying on top of your heart health isn’t always easy to do on your own. The Teladoc Health Hypertension Management program can help. Create your Teladoc Health account to learn more about chronic care program options available to you.

Create my account

Published February 23, 2024


This portion of the Teladoc Health website occasionally offers health, fitness and nutritional information and is provided for educational purposes only. You cannot rely on any information provided here as a substitute for or replacement of professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Teladoc Health cannot assure that the information contained on this site always includes the most recent findings or developments with respect to the particular subject matter covered.

If you ever have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical- or health-related advice from your healthcare professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.

If you are in the United States and think you are having a medical or health emergency, call your healthcare professional, or 911, immediately.