You do have to be creative if you exercise at home, but there are a wide range of effective, and accessible, cardio exercises you can do to get in shape, burn calories and lose weight. Below are some of my favorite home cardio exercises you can do anytime, anywhere.
1. Jump Rope
What: Turning a rope with handles repeatedly while jumping over it and (optional) chanting rhymes
Why: It's great cardio, burning about 220 calories in 20 minutes. Jump ropes are inexpensive, travel well, require no special skills and can be used anywhere you have the space
Requirements: A jump rope (Compare prices), a good pair of shoes, patience and practice.
Precautions: Jumping rope is high impact and requires practice. It looks easy but beginners may have all the grace of a pigeon-toed elephant and trip often. For the best results, turn the rope with the wrists, not the arms and land softly. Only jump high enough to clear the rope
Variations: Jumping on one foot, alternating feet, crossing the feet, jumping with high knees, double turning the rope
Best Jump Rope Workouts:
- Beginner Circuit: Alternating 10-30 seconds of jumping with marching in place for 5-10 circuits. Gradually work up to longer jumping sessions
- Cardio Circuit: Alternate 30-60 seconds of jumping with other cardio exercises such as marching, jogging, jumping jacks, etc.
- Strength Circuit: Alternate 30-60 seconds of jumping with strength exercises such as squats, lunges, pushups and dips. Example: Jump Rope Circuit Workout
What: Repeatedly jumping the feet wide while circling the arms overhead, then back again
Why: Jumping jacks burn about 100 calories in 10 minutes. No special equipment or skills are needed
Requirements: A good pair of shoes, a conditioned heart and a sturdy floor
Precautions: Jumping jacks are high impact, which may tax the joints. May remind you of elementary or high school gym class traumas
Variations: Plyo-jacks, stepping the feet out rather than jumping, on a step, holding a medicine ball, pushups jacks
Best Way to Use Jumping Jacks in a Workout:
- In a Cardio Circuit: Use jumping jacks in a circuit, doing them for 30-60 seconds and alternating them with other cardio exercises such as marching, jogging, jumping rope, etc. Try a different variation of jumping jacks each time, repeating the circuit for 10-30 minutes.
- In a Strength Circuit: Alternate 30-60 seconds of jumping jacks with strength exercises such as squats, lunges, pushups and dips for 10-30 minutes.
- In Your Regular Workout: Add a high intensity blast to your regular cardio or strength workouts by adding a minute or more of jumping jacks throughout the workout or at the end
What: Jogging in a stationary position
Why: It's simple, accessible, gets the heart rate up and is a great way to warm up for more intense exercise
Requirements: A good pair of shoes and a sturdy floor
Precautions: It's high impact, which may tax the joints, and it can be boring. Because there's no forward motion, it isn't as intense as jogging outside
Variations: Press the arms overhead, high knees, butt kicks, wide knees
Best Way to Use Jogging in Place in a Workout:
- As a Warm Up: Start by marching in place, then slowly change that to a jog to prepare your body for more strenuous exercise
- In a Cardio Circuit: Alternate jogging in place with other cardio exercises such as marching, jogging, jumping rope, step touches, etc. Do each for 30-60 seconds, repeating for 10-30 minutes
- In a Strength Circuit: Alternate 30-60 seconds of jogging in place with strength exercises such as squats, lunges, pushups and dips for 10-30 minutes.
- As an Active Break: Try jogging in place when you need an active break at work or at home
What: Squatting to the floor, jumping the feet to a plank position, jumping back in and standing up
Why: It's a killer cardio exercise, burning 100 or more calories in 10 minutes (if you can stomach 10 minutes of this exercise)
Requirements: A good pair of shoes, experience with high impact exercise, an iron will
Precautions: It's really, really hard
Variations: Stepping the feet back instead of jumping, jump up at the end, add a pushup or use equipment: Medicine ball, BOSU, kettlebell or Gliding Discs
Best Way to Use Burpees in a Workout:
- Sparingly: As mentioned above, it's really, really hard
- In a Cardio Circuit: Incorporate 30-60 seconds burpees every 3-4 minutes of a cardio circuit that includes other exercises such as marching, jogging, jumping rope, step touches, etc.
- In a Strength Circuit: Add 30-60 seconds of burpees every 3-5 strength exercises such as squats, lunges, pushups and dips for 10-30 minutes.
- In High Intensity Interval Training: Do 30-60 seconds of burpees, rest for 30-60 seconds and repeat for 10 or more minutes. You can also use burpees in a Tabata workout.
What: From a pushup position, running the knees in and out
Why: Mountain climbers raise the heart rate while building strength and endurance in the core. No special skills are needed
Requirements: Strong wrists and a floor
Precautions: This exercise can tax the wrists, arms and shoulders as well as the core
Variations: Alternate jumping each foot forward and back, use Gliding Discs, paper plates or towels, combine them with other exercises such as burpees, pushups or planks
Best Way to Use Mountain Climbers in a Workout:
- In a Cardio Circuit: Add mountain climbers to your cardio circuit, doing them for 30-60 seconds each time
- In a Strength Workout : Combine mountain climbers with pushups or planks to add intensity
- In Combinations: For high intensity, do a series of mountain climbers with burpees, alternate 10 pushups with 10 mountain climbers, or add them to bear crawls
6. Squat Jumps
What: From a squat position, jump as high as you can, landing back into a squat
Why: Squat jumps are a plyometric exercise that will raise the heart rate, burn calories and increase power in the legs. No special skills are needed
Requirements: Happy knees, experience with high impact exercise, a good pair of shoes and a floor
Precautions: This exercise is high impact and high intensity and requires strong joints and a strong heart. With any plyo exercise, land softly to protect the joints
Variations: Prisoner squat jumps, froggy jumps, on the BOSU
Best Way to Use Squat Jumps in a Workout:
- In a Cardio Workout: Incorporate 30-60 seconds of squat jumps into your regular cardio workout or in a cardio circuit with other exercises such as marching, jogging, jumping rope, step touches, etc.
- In a Lower Body Workout: Add 30-60 seconds of squat jumps after every 3-5 lower body exercises such as squats, lunges or deadlifts to increase intensity, power and strength
- In High Intensity Interval Training: Do 30-60 seconds of squat jumps, rest for 30-60 seconds and repeat for 10 or more minutes. You can also use squat jumps in a Tabata workout.
7. Bear Crawls
What: Squatting to the floor, walking the hands out to a pushup, walking the hands back and standing up...like a bear
Why: They get the heart rate way up while building strength and endurance
Requirements: A floor, a love of bears, experience with high intensity exercise
Precautions: This move is tougher than it looks and the intensity accumulates quickly
Variations: No pushup, pushup on the knees, keeping the knees down as you crawl in and out
Best Way to Use Bear Crawlss in a Workout:
- In a Cardio Workout: Incorporate 30-60 seconds of bear crawls into your regular cardio workout or in a cardio circuit with other exercises such as marching, jogging, jumping rope, burpees, etc.
- In an Upper Body Workout: Add 30-60 seconds of bear crawls every 3-5 upper body exercises such as pushups, chest presses or dumbbell rows to increase intensity, power and strength
- In High Intensity Interval Training: Do 30-60 seconds of bear crawls, rest for 30-60 seconds and repeat for 10 or more minutes or alternate bear crawls with other high intensity exercises such as burpees or squat jumps. You can also use bear crawls in a Tabata workout.
What: Punching, kicking and combinations thereof against a bag, the air or (risky) another person
Why: Kickboxing can burn more than 100 calories in 10 minutes, at the right intensity, requires no equipment and can help you get out your aggressions
Requirements: Basic knowledge of kicks and punches
Precautions: Extending the arms and legs all the way during punches and kicks can stress the joints
Variations: Endless combinations of kicks, punches or both
Best Way to Kickbox in a Workout:
- Create Your Own Cardio Workout: If you're familiar with kickboxing, make your own combinations: Jab-cross-hook-upper, jab-cross-hook-knee smash-front kick, squats with front kicks, jumping front kicks or side kicks
- Exercise Videos: Familiarize yourself with different elements of kickboxing with these instructional videos: Kickboxing Kicks, Punches, Proper Form, Tabata Jump Kicks with Jumping Side Lunges. You can also try home kickboxing videos
What: Using a staircase for everything from cardio to strength training
Why: Walking stairs is an excellent cardio workout and you can use the steps for a variety of other exercises
Requirements: A staircase with at least one step
Precautions: Watch for cats, dogs, toys and children. Make sure there's a handrail for safety
Variations: Use a step (compare prices)
Best Way to Incorporate Stairs Into Your Workout:
- In a Cardio Circuit: If you have a longer staircase (more than 6 stairs), work it into a cardio circuit: Alternate 1-2 laps up and down with other cardio exercises such as jumping rope, jogging in place, jumping jacks, etc.
- In High Intensity Interval Training: Run or walk up the stairs as fast as you can and walk back down to recover, repeating for 10 or more minutes. You can also use just one step: Jump onto the step with both feet and step down, or stand sideways with one foot on the step and jump, turning 180 degrees and landing with the other foot on the step
- In Strength Workouts: Use one step for pushups, lunges, dips, squats, step ups and more. Try this Staircase Circuit Workout.
10. Outdoor Exercise
What: The great outdoors
Why: There's fresh air out there and it's fun to actually go somewhere when you're exercising
Requirements: A door to the outside world, a decent pair of shoes, sunglasses and sunscreen
Precautions: Watch out for dog poop, heat, cold, chatty neighbors, distracted drivers and bikers
Best Way to Exercise Outdoors:
- Walk: For weight loss, walk at a brisk pace and incorporate hills and sprints to increase intensity. Walking Workouts
- Run: If you're a beginner, start with a walk/run program to condition your body. Running Workouts
- Circuit Training: You're not just stuck with walking or running outside. You can also incorporate strength exercises with your walks or runs to add intensity and make things more interesting. Try this Outdoor Circuit Workout or Outdoor Circuit Workout 2
- Play: Tossing a Frisbee or a football, chasing the dog or the kids or a day at the park makes exercise more fun