Keeping a consistent cardio workout routine can be difficult for people with a fully packed schedule. The good news, however, is that you don’t have to spend hours each week commuting to a sports facility; you can achieve the same health results by doing cardio exercise at home with little to no equipment. The best part is that research published in JAMA International Medicine shows that even training for as little as 10 minutes each day results in great health benefits.
Which workouts are classified as “cardio”?
“Cardio” is cardiovascular exercise that increases heart rate and respiration through repetitive and rhythmic muscular load. It is also known as “aerobic exercise,” because your entire body uses oxygen when you do it.
Examples of cardio exercises include running, cycling, and burpees. While they may look different, they all ultimately help to strengthen your heart and lungs, improve your endurance, and burn calories.
How much cardio do I need?
To maintain health, the Center for Disease Control and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend performing a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise on most, if not all, days of the week.
However, if regular long-form cardio doesn’t excite you, there is another option—Reduced Exertion HIIT (REHIT). REHIT is the next-level HIIT workout, giving you double the health benefits of steady-state cardio in only 10% of the time. This means your time spent on cardio drops from 2+ hours per week to only 15 minutes per week.
REHIT gives you double the health benefits of steady-state cardio in only 10% of the time.
Benefits of cardio exercise
As backed by science, cardio exercise is a great way for most people to lose weight and get in better shape. The 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities lists the energy cost for 821 different activities. The most popular cardiovascular activities, including running, water polo, cycling, and circuit training, rank at the top of the list.
Cardiovascular exercise’s positive impact extends even farther. Participants gain the following benefits when they dedicate 10 minutes per day to aerobic exercise:
- Lower blood pressure
- Healthy blood sugar level
- Reduced chronic pain
- Deeper sleep
- Weight loss
- Stronger heart muscle
- Stronger immune system
- Improved mood
- Reduced risk of death from a cardiovascular disease*
*In fact, research shows that a regular cardio routine can decrease the risk of such death by up to 31%, a compelling reason to introduce cardio to your exercise routine.
7 best at-home cardio workouts
If you need an effective cardio workout that can be done from home, try the list below.
Body weight cardio workout
Using your own body weight is a great no-gear cardio workout that can vary from high to low impact. High-impact cardio exercises require you to simultaneously have both feet off the ground, thus resulting in greater energy burn. Conversely, when doing low-impact exercises, one leg stays on the ground. Below are some cardio exercises that can be included in your body weight workout:
- Jumping jacks
- Squat jumps
- Plank jacks
- Front/back kicks
- Pushups with shoulder touch
- Hand walks
- Split jumps
- Speed skaters
- Mountain climbers
You can do your aerobic exercise routine in progression or circuits repeated 3-5 times. The following are examples of simple 5- to 10-minute circuit workouts to try:
10 jump squats
10 jumping jacks
30 -sec high knees
30-sec mountain climbers
30-sec squat jumps
30-sec front kicks
30-sec split jumps
30-sec high knee
30-sec high knee
30-sec jump lunge
30-sec mountain climbers
30-sec hand walks
Circuits are a great way to use your own body weight as a no-gear cardio workout.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a framework that combines various exercises, both cardio exercises and strength training. The principle of all HIIT programs is alternating short periods of intense work and periods of rest or active recovery. Participants work near or at peak effort during the intervals, then take it easier during the breaks. Since this high level of effort can pump up the heart rate, some trainees use HIIT protocols as the cardio exercise component of their exercise routines rather than low-intensity steady-state training, like long runs or cycling.
High-intensity exercise is highly efficient, both in saving time and in weight loss. Some researchers have found that HIIT increases metabolism for hours after exercise, even more than both jogging and weight training.
For an optimal cardio load of your HIIT training, it is usually recommended to use a 1:1 (i.e., work for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds) or 1:2 work-to-rest ratio (i.e., work for 30 seconds, rest for 60 seconds). Unlike low-intensity cardiovascular exercise, HIIT shouldn’t last longer than 30 minutes, as you must be able to perform the exercises at your peak performance throughout.
You can build a HIIT program to suit your preferences, such as bodyweight exercises (e.g., push-ups and jumping jacks), intense exercises with cardio equipment (e.g., jump rope and dumbbells), and machine exercises (e.g., treadmill running and cycling on an exercise bike). YouTube contains several workouts that you can follow, and you can also use a fitness app.
Reduced Exertion HIIT (REHIT) was developed by scientists looking for the shortest, most effective and accessible way to exercise. CAROL Bike is the only way to take REHIT out of the lab, made possible by AI-personalization and Instant Resistance.
CAROL Bike’s signature REHIT workout can be done in just 5 minutes and is scientifically proven to get results.
Cycling is a highly efficient aerobic exercise that allows you to burn up to 400 calories an hour and strengthens your lower body, legs, hips, and glutes. A stationary bicycle at home is a great investment in your health as it puts little stress on your joints and provides a good cardio workout at any time.
The benefits of at-home cycling include weight loss, improved cardio endurance, and increased strength in your lower back and leg muscles. Research has also proven that indoor cycling can result in longer life expectancy and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Again, you don’t have to spend hours to achieve visible results. A 2019 study compared the effectiveness of an eight-week REHIT program with traditional moderate-intensity cycling training. Participants who performed 10-minute REHIT sessions on a CAROL Bike 3 to 4 days per week saw significantly better health results compared with the traditional practice. Benefits included twice the level of improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness level and 3x reductions in systolic blood pressure.
Cycling can be included in HIIT/REHIT workouts or used as a low-impact cardio exercise if you prefer.
REHIT and AI-personalization make CAROL Bike unique. Developed with leading exercise researchers to give you the shortest, most effective workout.
Boxing is an accessible and great at-home cardio exercise because you can do it without getting in the ring. Just hit a punching bag or any suitable substitute, or work with a partner for even more fun.
When it comes to keeping your shape, boxing is a killer workout for the entire body. It targets everything from your lower body to your arms to your brain. After all, those combinations aren’t going to remember themselves. A 2014 study even found that boxing cardio exercises 3x a week can change your body composition and improve your self-confidence. Not to mention that you will also become more emotionally stable emotionally.
If you want to step up the difficulty, add a rope, slam ball, speed ladder, and box to your training routine. And don’t forget about a proper warmup!
Rowing is ahead of the competition when it comes to calorie burning, stamina building, and full-body muscle stimulation. This cardio activity doesn’t put as much stress on your knee and hip joints as running does, making it more suitable for people of various ages and physical conditions. Another bonus is that rowing machines are easy to install at home.
You need 2 terms to measure the efficiency of your rowing workout: strokes per minute (SPM) and split per distance (e.g., “split per 250 meters” means how much time you need to row 250 meters).
Maintaining the same number of SPM over long distances is particularly challenging. You can try a meltdown training method, which will gradually increase your stamina. For example, you can do 3 total sets of 1,000-meter rows., aiming to maintain 28 SPM during the first set, 26 SPM during the second set, and 24 SPM during the final set.
Rowing provides an intense load on your entire body, so you must have a proper warmup and cooldown before and after every session. That’s why it’s perfect to combine rowing with another low -intensity activity such as walking on the treadmill or stretching.
Jogging on a treadmill
We couldn’t leave jogging on a treadmill off the list of best cardio workouts for people at home. Running makes it to the top of activities for burning the most calories, outdoing swimming, cycling, and rowing. What’s more, jogging for at least 10 minutes a day can significantly lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and has plenty of other health benefits.
To include jogging in your at-home practice, you need to get a treadmill. You can use jogging as training in its own right, as a great warm-up for another set of cardio exercises, or as part of your HIIT program.
Final thoughts on the best cardio exercises to do at home
The cardio exercises that you can incorporate into your home exercise routine are very diverse. You can fine-tune the length and intensity of your practice to suit your personal fitness level and you can work on particular muscle groups or opt for a total body workout.
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