8 Activities That Are Better For You Than Running

by Lara Rutherford-Morrison

Running is good for you. According to Runner’s World, “Studies have shown that running can help prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some cancers, and a host of other unpleasant conditions.” In addition to these significant health benefits, runners can also experience the famed “runner’s high,” a sense of intense euphoria caused when the brain is flooded with endorphins post-run. As much as some people hate it, it's simply a fact that your body likes it, and benefits from doing it.

But you know what? I don’t care. I hate running. Hate it. You can talk about health advantages and endorphin-fueled out-of-body experiences until the end of time, and it won’t change anything: I hate running, and I don’t want to do it, and you can’t make me. I am aware that this means I would be one of the first ones to die in a zombie apocalypse (you runners would be able to dash to safety as the undead hordes effortlessly mowed down my fast-walking self) and I don’t care. I’d rather become a meandering zombie than literally be on the run for the rest of my life. (Zombies, you’ll note, don’t have to run. That’s why the show is called The WALKING Dead.)

I know that I’m not the only one out there who would rather do just about anything than jog, but it’s important that we future-zombies don’t let our dislike of running prevent us from exercising altogether. Exercise is important for everyone, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Exercise requires motivation, and it’s impossible to feel motivated when you hate what you’re doing; it's fairly easy, on the other hand, to keep going with an activity you truly enjoy. There are a lot of sports and activities out there that have great health benefits that don’t involve rapidly putting one foot in front of the other over and over and over again. Try out some of the non-running sports below to find out what mode of exercise lights your fire.

1. Walking

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The phrase “walking for exercise” might make you think of old people speed-walking through the mall, but walking is actually great exercise. As a Harvard Medical School newsletter points out, with walking, “You can get all the benefits of moderate exercise with a very low risk of injury.” You have to walk more often for longer periods of time to get the same benefits as running (Harvard Medical School recommends 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week), but the extra time may be worth it when you take into account the lowered risk of injury: Walkers experience a 1 to 5 percent risk of exercise-related injury, as opposed to runners, who experience a risk of 20 to 70 percent. Also, walking is not running, so it has that going for it.

2. Swimming

Swimming burns calories and provides a total-body workout. It’s also low impact (because you’re not dealing with so much gravity in the water), so there is decreased risk of injury.

3. Yoga

Yoga is wonderful for increasing flexibility, improving posture and alignment, and building strength. It’s also customizable — if you’re looking for a strong cardio work out, try Ashtanga or Vinyasa; if you’re looking for something more relaxing, try Hatha.

4. Dancing

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, dancing can lead to decreased stress, improved balance, weight loss, improved cognitive abilities, and better overall health. Not bad, right? Join a dance class at a local dance school, or try out dance-fitness classes at your local gym. Or, you know, just dance wildly around your apartment.

5. Hiking

Some people (ahem, me) are simply not motivated by gyms—they always seem so cold and uninviting. But what will get gym-phobes out of bed early on a Saturday morning is a long hike through beautiful countryside. Hiking has all of the benefits of walking, with the added exercise of going up and down inclined terrain.

6. Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

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According to the big-wave surfer/Men’s Journal contributor Laird Hamilton, paddle boarding is a great total-body work out that “strengthens your core and stabilization system.” Plus, you get to hang out by the ocean. Sure beats a treadmill!

6. Cross Country Skiing

For those of you who live in places with real winters (and who probably just read the last two items thinking, “How am I supposed to go hiking and paddle boarding when I live in a frozen wasteland, you insensitive jerk-face??”), don’t forget that you have fun outdoor options, too! Cross country skiing is a great — and intense — full-body work out because, unlike runners and cyclists, cross country skiers work out their arms in addition to their legs.

If you’re interested in winter sports, you can also try out snow shoeing, which is surprisingly fun. It’s just like hiking, only, you know, there’s snow.

7. Cycling

Cycling burns serious calories, whether you're out on the road, or sweating it up in an indoor spin class. It’s also easier on the joints than running, so there is a decreased risk of injury.

8. Kickball

OK, so technically joining a kickball team may involve running, but the running might seem less onerous when it’s part of a game. Lots of cities have kickball leagues; in addition to giving you some necessary exercise, the games can be a great way to meet new people and are an excuse to go out for beer with the team afterward. (I mean, you just burned all those calories. You deserve a beer or two now, right?)

Images: barrebody/Instagram; Giphy (4); Moyan Brenn, Greenland Travel, Nottingham Trent University /Flickr; Getty (2)