It depends for what you are pinging an host.
There is the fping program. It could be used in your scripting not inside a loop, but specifying the range of ips to ping, in just one command.
There is the nmap program too, which is used as a network discovery tool. It can check if a host is up, not just sending ICMP packets but sending half-protocol and guessing the status without complete the protocol.
And there is the nice arpalert tool, which uses the ARP protocol to create a list of hosts in your site, and send alerts when a new host is plugged in your network.
I hope one of theses can satisfy your requirements.