Your exercise routine shouldn’t have to suffer during the winter months. Here, the experts suggest some awesome indoor workout alternatives to your outdoor routine.

By Jennifer Benjamin
Updated December 12, 2018
Indoor workout alternatives - women jumping rope
Credit: alvarez/Getty Images

When the weather cools and the days get shorter, scrounging up enough energy for a cardio workout can be challenging. Plus, sweating it out in the confines of a loud, frenetic gym isn’t always appealing, especially if you’re used to exercising outdoors. Luckily, you don’t have to spend all winter trudging away on the treadmill or elliptical machine—these pro-approved indoor cardio workouts are both challenging and fun.

“You should always be changing up your workout routine anyway, so the change of season is an ideal time to try something new, and even give some of your overused muscles a break,” says L.A.-based personal trainer Ali Moyer. “You may even want to consider doing at-home HIIT workouts, which are a great way to get fit, in minimal time, without having to leave the house.”

And, of course, there are an abundance of cardio and strength training classes to suit every need—do a little Google sleuthing or ask friends for recommendations in your area. For indoor cardio workouts that can fill in for your go-to outdoor exercises, read on.

Indoor workout alternatives - women jumping rope
Credit: alvarez/Getty Images

If you usually run ... Try a rebounding class.

The high-impact effects of running can put a lot of strain on your body, so you’ll want to find an exercise that goes easier on your joints, while still delivering the same cardiovascular benefits. Rebounders are essentially small trampolines that allow you to bounce your way to a fat burn. “They’re an excellent alternative to running because there’s zero impact on the joints and ligaments,” says celebrity fitness and lifestyle consultant Ashley Borden. “The bouncing also helps boost your immune system, build strong bones, and de-stress.”

If you usually bike ride ... Try a spin class.

While you may miss the scenery of biking in the open air, a spin class gives you the same lower body conditioning, but in a fun, upbeat, and indoor atmosphere. All spin classes are not created equal, though.

“Of course, there’s SoulCycle, but there are now a ton of different kinds of indoor spin classes, from Les Mills Sprint, which is a 30-minute HIIT class, to Flywheel, which offers more of a competitive vibe,” explains personal trainer Ramona Braganza, creator of the 3-2-1 Fitness Method. “Most are really entertaining with lights and music and motivating instructors, and many incorporate upper body strength training with hand weights as well.”

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If you usually hike ... Try treadmill inclines and lower body conditioning.

To get the same lower body burn as a rigorous hike, you can walk or hike at an incline on the treadmill, maybe even throwing in some leg weights for added resistance, Braganza suggests.

“You can do some lower body muscle exercises like squats and lunges. Strength training is a great option if you’re a hiker because it increases heart rate for conditioning, while strengthening ligaments and, of course, muscle.” And how do you give this indoor cardio workout the same atmosphere as a scenic hike? Try watching a Planet Earth episode while you work out.

OR, if you usually hike ... try indoor rock climbing.

For a serious full-body burn, find a local climbing gym. “They have indoor wall climbing courses where you use a harness, but they also have bouldering, where you free climb using foot and hand holds to scale rock formations,” Braganza says. “It trains similar muscles in your legs and glutes and improves stability in your feet, much like strenuous hiking.”

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If you usually climb stairs ... Try "tower running."

Sure, you could use the stair climbing machines at your local gym, but you may wind up feeling like a hamster on a wheel. A relatively new sport called tower running is building momentum globally, and it involves running flights in skyscrapers.

“With a global circuit of races, stair climbing is becoming a legitimate endurance sport, but you don’t have to go that far,” Braganza says. “Test your ability and try running and walking up and down stairwells in a local building you have access to, maybe even your own office or apartment. When you climb 75 to 90 floors, the exertion is roughly that of running a 5K.” We're adding tower running to our list of coolest indoor cardio workouts.

If you usually swim ... Try circuit training.

To get the same strengthening benefits as you would pushing your body through the pool, try a circuit training workout, with an emphasis on your upper body. Moyer recommends the following sequence, done four times:

  • 10 Pushups
  • 20 Jump squats
  • 10 bicep curls into a shoulder press with weights
  • 10 tricep dips on a couch or chair
  • 10 bent-over reverse flys with weights
  • 10 bent-over rows with weights

Between all of the super-charged machines and cutting-edge classes that are available, getting an effective indoor cardio workout has never been easier. In fact, you may just find that these winter exercises are more challenging than your summer routine.