Unless you possess a Peloton bike, genuinely delight in jogging the streets in your vicinity, or have access to a friend’s elliptical or treadmill, cardiovascular exercises can be difficult to incorporate into a fitness routine without a gym or studio. This makes at-home cardio workouts extremely susceptible to being postponed.
However, with approximately twelve simple movements, you can engage in a heart-pumping, sweat-inducing workout without the need to invest in bulky equipment or leave the cozy environment of your personal home gym (also known as the living room). Here, certified trainers disclose the most effective cardio workouts to perform at home, alongside the health advantages of cardiovascular training that will convince you to prioritize it.
Advantages of Cardio Workouts
Cardiorespiratory, or cardio, training encompasses exercises that aid in stimulating and strengthening the heart and lungs, as explained by Melissa Kendter, an ACE-certified trainer, functional training specialist, and EvolveYou coach. “They impose a demand on your energy systems, elevate your heart rate, promote blood circulation, and assist in enhancing the efficiency of your circulatory system – your lungs and heart – when it comes to supplying oxygen to the muscles. Consequently, this will improve your physical fitness level and allow you to perform more strenuous activities without experiencing shortness of breath or fatigue,” she explains.
Moreover, this advantage applies both within and outside the gym, adds Kendter. By consistently including cardiovascular training in your exercise routine, you won’t need to take extended breaks during an impromptu basketball game, after using a stair stepper, or while walking to and from your car to transport groceries into your dwelling, she suggests.
Performing cardio exercises also has a mental benefit, owing to the surge of endorphins experienced post-workout (commonly referred to as the “runner’s high” after completing a 5K), adds Danyele Wilson, a NASM-certified trainer, HIIT master trainer, and EvolveYou coach.
You’re achieving something that’s not simple and you don’t necessarily desire to do, so there’s this sense of achievement that provides you with that innate euphoria and zest,” she clarifies.
How Frequently Should You Engage in a Cardiovascular Workout?
To obtain all the health benefits of cardiovascular exercise, it is recommended by both the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to engage in 150 minutes of aerobic activity at a moderate intensity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both each week. An effective approach to gauge the intensity of your workout is by utilizing the talk test, as suggested by Kendter. “During cardio exercise of moderate intensity, you will be able to converse, but not sing. Your heart rate and breathing will be elevated, but not to the extent that you are completely breathless. In a vigorous state, you will only be able to speak a few words at a time, if at all,” she explains.
For the record, if you do not enjoy and struggle through a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout that leaves you breathless, you do not have to force yourself. “It is about discovering activities that you enjoy and can adhere to, as well as finding ways to incorporate them into your schedule throughout the week,” clarifies Kendter. If you prefer going for energetic walks, swimming, jogging, or hiking rather than doing cardio workouts at home, that is perfectly fine, assert the experts.
The Most Effective Cardiovascular Workouts to Perform at Home
To accomplish your cardiovascular workouts at home, construct a 20- to 30-minute circuit incorporating some or all of the exercises mentioned below. These exercises are recommended as the best cardio exercises by both Kendter and Wilson. The list includes exercises that utilize only bodyweight as well as those that involve using light equipment such as a jump rope, kettlebell, and set of dumbbells.
Initially, it may not seem like your lungs are being stimulated and your cardiovascular system is being activated during strength-focused cardio exercises. However, “whenever you are rapidly moving resistance, I would argue that your heart rate will increase even more,” states Wilson. Of course, maintaining proper form is also crucial, so do not mindlessly hurl kettlebells into the air simply for the sake of speed.
Alternatively, maintain brevity in your intermissions to uphold the level of intensity,” she remarks.
Though these movements are regarded as the finest cardiovascular exercises, some challenge more than just your respiratory system and cardiovascular system. “Speed skaters offer additional advantages aside from simply increasing your heart rate. They enhance your lower-body strength, lateral power, and lateral strength, while mountain climbers assist in engaging your core,” Wilson states. Similarly, skipping with a jump rope compels you to focus on coordination, and performing kettlebell swings is a low-impact action that develops horizontal power, she adds.
How it functions: Execute each of the 15 cardiovascular exercises listed below for a duration of 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest. (If you find it difficult to give your all during the exercise period, attempt performing the exercises for 20 seconds of work followed by 40 seconds of rest instead.) Repeat the cycle again for a 30-minute workout session. Alternatively, you can select and combine exercises to create a personalized circuit of your own, adhering to the same time and set instructions.
You will need: A jump rope, a kettlebell, and a set of light to medium dumbbells
A. Stand with your feet positioned shoulder-width apart, clasp your hands in front of your chest, and descend into a squatting position.
B. Rapidly thrust upwards, jumping as high as you can. Remember to exert force through your heels rather than your toes. As soon as you land, immediately return to a squat position. Repeat. (Enjoy performing leap squats? Incorporate box jumps into your exercise routine to intensify your workout.)
A. Commence in a high plank position with your shoulders aligned with your wrists, spread your fingers apart, position your feet hip-width apart, and rest your weight on the balls of your feet. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles.
B. Maintain a flat back and focus your gaze between your hands, engage your core, lift one foot off the ground, and rapidly drive your knee towards your chest.
C. Return your foot to its initial position and repeat the movement with the alternate leg. Quickly alternate driving your knees towards your chest as if you were running.
Quick Lateral Movements
A. Initiate by standing on your left foot. In one seamless motion, leap towards the right and transfer your body weight to your right foot.
B. During the weight transition, push your hips back and extend your left arm towards the floor, simultaneously extending your left leg behind your right leg. Continue to alternate sides.
A. Stand facing a wall with your feet positioned hip-width apart. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height in a push-up position. Lean in until your body forms a 45-degree angle.
B. Bring one knee up towards your chest to assume a starting position, then swiftly alternate between legs as if you were attempting to run through the wall.
Skipping with a Jump Rope
A. Continuously hop at a consistent pace. Maintain a downward and backward position of the shoulder blades, keep the chest lifted, and softly land. Swing the rope using the wrists instead of the arms.
Kettlebell or Dumbbell Swings
A. Stand with feet apart at shoulder-width and place a kettlebell or single dumbbell on the floor approximately a foot in front of the toes. Hinge at the hips while maintaining a neutral spine (no rounding of the back), and lower the body to grab the kettlebell handle or one side of the dumbbell with both hands.
B. To initiate the swing, inhale and bring the weight back and up between the legs. (The legs will slightly straighten in this position.)
C. Propel forward through the hips, exhale, stand up quickly, and swing the weight upward until it reaches eye level. When at the highest point of the movement, the core and glutes should visibly contract.
D. Lower the weight back down and repeat the movement.
A. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand next to the thighs, with the palms facing inward.
B. Stabilize the midline, hinge the hips back, and lower the dumbbells to mid-thigh. Then, simultaneously straighten the legs and pull the dumbbells vertically upward, rotating the elbows underneath to catch the dumbbells at shoulder height in a quarter squat. Stand up. This marks the starting position.
C. Keep the core tight, maintain high elbows, and push the chest forward while sitting the glutes back toward the ground.
D. At the bottom of the squat, press the heels into the ground to straighten the legs while simultaneously pressing the dumbbells overhead. The repetition is complete when the legs are straight and the dumbbells are directly over the shoulders, with the biceps pressed against the ears.
E. Lower the dumbbells back to the shoulders while descending into a squat to begin the next repetition.
A. Stand with wide feet and slightly bent knees. Hold a dumbbell in the right hand, positioning the right arm in a goal post stance (elbows open to the sides at shoulder level). Keep the left arm by the side.
B. Engage the core and extend the right arm straight up.
C. Slowly lower the elbow to return to the starting position. Complete the set and repeat on the left side.
A. Stand facing a stair, box, or kettlebell. Perform a sprint motion, tapping the right toes and then the left toes on top of the object. Repeat, alternating feet.
A. Stand with feet at shoulder-width, ensuring the weight is on the heels and the arms are at the sides.
B. Push the hips back, bend the knees, and lower the body into a squat position.
C. Place the hands on the floor directly in front of and just inside the feet. Shift the weight onto the hands.
D. Jump the feet back to softly land on the balls of the feet in a plank position. The body should form a straight line from head to heels. Be cautious not to allow the back to sag or the butt to stick up in the air.
E. Optional: Descend into a push-up or lower body all the way onto the floor, maintaining a contracted core. Push up to raise body off the floor and return to plank position.
F. Bound feet forward so they land just outside of hands.
G. Extend arms overhead and explosively leap up into the air.
H. Touch down. Immediately descend back into a squat for the next repetition.
A. Stand with feet hips-width apart and arms at sides. Keeping shoulder blades down and back, chest elevated, and core tight, lift one foot off the floor and swiftly drive knee to chest.
B. Return foot to starting position and repeat with other leg. Swiftly alternate driving knees in toward chest as if running.
A. Stand with feet shoulders-width apart with weight in heels and arms at sides.
B. Propel hips back, bend knees, and lower body into a squat.
C. Place hands on the floor directly in front of, and just inside, feet. Shift weight onto hands.
D. Bound feet back to softly land on the balls of feet in a plank position. Body should align in a straight line from head to heels. Be cautious not to allow the back to sag or the buttocks to stick up in the air.
E: Bound feet forward so they land just outside of hands, and hold the low squat position. Repeat.
A. Stand with feet hips-width apart, knees bent, and weight shifted into hips. Activate core.
B. Maintaining chest aligned with knees, push off from left foot and shuffle toward the right. Continue pushing off from left foot for five steps.
C. Cease and repeat on right side in the left direction. Continue alternating directions.
A. Stand with feet together and arms at sides.
B. Leap into the air, separating legs and raising arms overhead. Land with feet hips-width apart, then leap feet back together and lower arms to sides. That’s one repetition.
A. Commence in a lunge position with right leg in front and both knees bent at 90-degree angles, ensuring right knee doesn’t surpass ankle.
B. Descend 1 to 2 inches to gather momentum, then propel off the floor and explosively jump up, switching legs midair. Land softly in lunge position with left leg in front. That’s one repetition.
C. Rapidly repeat, switching legs each time.