The American College of Sports Medicine recommend people engage in 150–300 minutes of moderate physical activity a week.
The following exercises allow a person to perform cardio almost anywhere, such as in their home, public park, or outdoor space.
People can choose the exercises that suit their current fitness level. They could also move on to more difficult movements over time as their fitness improves.
Best cardio exercises to do at home
The following are calorie-burning exercises that a person can do at home with minimal equipment.
These exercises can form a cardiovascular exercise program.
For example, a person could do each exercise for 45 seconds to 1 minute, rest for 30 seconds, and move on to the next set.
As their fitness levels increase, people may wish to perform these exercises in circuits.
To perform circuits, a person completes 30–60 second rounds of each chosen exercise in succession before resting for 30–60 seconds. They then perform the entire course again, as many times as they prefer.
Beginner exercises do not require previous experience of physical activity or special training to perform. A person can usually increase the intensity as they advance in their cardiovascular ability.
Marching in place
Marching in place can elevate the heart rate, making this exercise a suitable choice for a warm-up or single cardio activity.
To increase the intensity, a person can increase the speed they march or raise the knees higher.
Single leg stand
This exercise works the abdominal muscles.
- Start with the feet together or no more than 3 inches (in) apart.
- Bend the knees slightly and lift one leg 3–6 in off the floor.
- Hold this position for 10–15 seconds and return the foot to the floor.
- Repeat for the opposite leg.
To increase difficulty, a person can lift their leg higher off the floor or jump from one leg to the other more quickly.
Jogging in place
Jogging in place is a simple and effective exercise to increase heart rate. This is also a suitable beginner warm-up activity.
To perform, bounce lightly from one foot to the other. At the same same, swing the arms from side to side.
Air jump rope
The air jump rope requires a person to “swing” an imaginary jump rope in the air. The exercise provides an alternative to jogging in place and is suitable as part of a warm-up routine.
To perform, stand with the feet together and jump up and down while swinging the arms in a circular direction.
Dancing to music
A person can turn free space into a dancefloor at home.
Dancing to upbeat music can burn calories, while people may find it very enjoyable as an exercise.
A person can perform arm circles while sitting or standing, making them ideal for all skill levels.
- Rotate the arms in a circular motion, both clockwise and counterclockwise. The movement may resemble a butterfly or backstroke.
- If a person has limited mobility in their arms, they can extend their arms to their sides and draw small circles.
Jumping jacks are a beginner cardiovascular exercise that a person can perform almost anywhere.
- Begin with the feet hip-width apart and arms down.
- Raise the arms out to the sides, straight in the air while jumping out with the feet apart.
- Jump back into the starting position and land softly on the balls of the feet, bringing the arms back into the body.
A person can increase the exercise intensity by jumping higher or faster. They can also reduce intensity by performing slower or smaller jumping jacks.
Supine snow angel (wipers) exercise
A person should perform this exercise while lying down, which works the abdominal muscles, chest, and shoulders.
- Lie on the back with the feet flat on the ground.
- Tuck the pelvis slightly to place the lower back on the floor.
- Extend the arms from the shoulders, slightly bending the hands toward the ears.
- Slowly raise the hands toward the head to meet each other.
- Lower the hands to the starting position and repeat.
Intermediate exercises increase the intensity of the workout to get the heart pumping and the body moving.
Squat jumps are a way to increase the exercise intensity while working the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
- Stand with the feet hip-width apart and arms at the sides.
- Bend at the knees to squat.
- From the squat position, jump in the air and extend the hips until the body is straight.
- Land softly on the balls of the feet, rolling backward to absorb the shock in the heels.
- Repeat using different arm movements to adjust the difficulty.
Increase the difficulty of jumping an air rope in the beginner exercises to jumping with a real rope at home.
A person can alternate between jumping with both feet and jumping from one foot to the other.
Squat to front kick
This exercise will challenge a person’s balance by adding a single leg kick at the peak of the squat position.
- Stand with the feet hip-width apart and arms at the sides.
- Bend at the knees to squat down.
- Return to standing and extend one leg to perform a front kick.
- Repeat the kick on the other side.
The trunk rotation works the abdominal muscles while testing the cardiovascular system.
To increase the intensity, a person can hold a heavy weight, such as a kettlebell, exercise ball, or other household items.
- Stand with a heavy object at chest height with elbows to the sides.
- Twist from the torso, turning to one side, then the other.
- A person can also hold the arms at shoulder height and twist side to side.
Screamer lunges help build leg muscles while challenging the heart.
- Stand with the feet hip-width apart.
- Extend the right leg back to a lunge position.
- Push off with the right foot to lift the right knee to hip height, jumping in the air while doing so.
- Return the right foot to the starting position and repeat for 10 lunges on one side.
- Repeat for the left leg.
A person can incorporate stairs into a workout by going up and down them several times.
Taking the stairs two at a time and increasing speed to a running pace can further challenge the cardiovascular system and leg muscles.
This shuffling motion closely resembles a football or speed-skating warm-up.
- Start on one end of a room and squat slightly.
- Shuffle toward the other side of the room, with the feet meeting together before shuffling out and forward again.
- Pick up speed and increase the squat depth to increase the exercise intensity.
A person can increase the intensity — referring to the rate and repetitions — of any cardio exercise to convert them into advanced movements.
However, some exercises are also more complicated and involve transitions from floor to standing.
Mountain climbers are an advanced exercise to work the whole body, especially the lower portion.
- Start in a pushup position with the right leg extended backward and the left leg near the chest with the toes on the ground.
- Keeping the hands on the ground and hips level, quickly switch the positions of the legs.
- Continue to alternate the legs.
Burpees are an advanced full-body move to get the heart pumping.
- Start with the body in a pushup position.
- Push off the balls of the feet to bring the knees into the chest and land in a squat.
- Jump out of the squat, raising the hands in the air before landing softly back into the squat.
- Place the hands back on the floor underneath the shoulders.
- Spring the legs back to return to the starting position.
If a person wishes to increase the difficulty further, they can use a special exercise device called a Bosu ball.
The bear crawl is a full-body exercise.
- Start in a pushup position.
- While keeping the knees off the ground and bent, crawl forward by alternating leg and arm movements.
- Keeping the torso level and abs supported.
The inchworm is a full-body exercise that improves mobility and tests shoulder strength.
- Start in a standing position, reach down and touch the toes briefly before walking the hands out to a pushup position.
- Perform a pushup, then walk the feet toward the hands and lift the hips upwards, similar to the downward dog position.
- Inch the feet as close as possible toward the hands before walking the hands out to return to the pushup position.
YouTube and other streaming services mean that a person can learn from trainers in the comfort of their home.
A person can search for a variety of cardiovascular exercise routines online.
With cardiovascular workouts, a person must focus not only on the exercises themselves but also on their effort and intensity when performing them.
One way that exercise experts achieve this involves a person estimating their “rate of perceived exertion or effort,” or RPE.
RPE is a scale of intensity with 0 indicating rest and 10 referring to exercise at a person’s maximum capacity. Very few people should aim for a 10 when exercising at home.
During home exercise, a person can ideally aim for an RPE of between 3–7, indicating moderate to vigorous exercise.
Below are some characteristics of each RPE, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
- RPE: between moderate and hard or about 3–4 out of 10
- heart rate: 65–75% of a person’s maximum target heart rate, calculated by subtracting their age from 220
- steps: about 100 steps per minute or 1,000 per 10 minutes
- conversation level: a person is able to carry a steady conversation
- RPE: between hard and very hard or about 5–7 out of 10
- heart rate: about 76–96% of a person’s maximum target heart rate
- steps: greater than 100 steps per minute
- conversation level: a person can speak only a few words comfortably
Making an effort to alternate exertion levels or increase RPE with subsequent home workouts can help enhance a person’s cardio routine.
In addition to focusing on effort, consistency is also important.
Engaging in a consistent home exercise routine 3–5 days per week can enhance physical abilities and overall physical health.
Just because a person is at home does not mean they are not susceptible to injury. Some of the ways to help ensure safety include:
- clearing enough space in the home to be able to move freely
- checking that rugs or carpets are stable
- wearing non-skid shoes on hardwood floors
- warming up for at least 5 minutes with low-impact exercises to increase heart rate and warm the muscles
- engaging in regular water breaks to stay hydrated
- listening to the body and not pushing too far beyond the maximum heart rate
- cooling down after a workout and stretching the muscles
It is important to check with a doctor before beginning an exercise program to help reduce potential health issues or the worsening of any current symptoms.
Cardiovascular exercise can be an important part of a person’s exercise routine. There are plenty of activities involving a range of difficulties that can become part of a home workout.
People may wish to incorporate a mixture of challenges as they create a cardio program.