6 trainer-recommended cardio workouts you can do at home

6 trainer-recommended cardio workouts you can do at home
Many cardio workouts are easy to do indoors and require no equipment.LanaStock/Getty Images
  • Jumping jacks are a great cardio workout from home since they can improve heart health and mobility.
  • You can also try marching or walking in place for a lower-impact option that also improves balance.
  • Mountain climbers, punch jacks, and jumping rope are also great exercises to get your heart rate up.

Cardio exercise, also known as cardiovascular exercise or aerobic exercise, is any type of repetitive activity that raises your heart rate — like walking, swimming, or biking.

This type of exercise offers many health benefits, including:

The good news about cardio exercise is that it rarely requires equipment or even a gym membership. And you don't need a treadmill or an elliptical to get started. Here are six cardio workouts for beginners you can do at home.

Quick tip: Combine all of these six exercises into a single workout to help you reach the recommended weekly exercise amount of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of intense activity.

1. Jumping jacks

This is a full-body exercise sure to get your heart rate up. Jumping jacks can also increase shoulder mobility because it encourages you to raise your arms over your head, which strengthens your shoulder muscles, says Steve Stonehouse, CPT, and director of education for STRIDE, a coaching service for runners and walkers.


A 2014 study found that four weeks of high-intensity circuit training, which included jumping jacks, improved heart health in obsese men. Participants experienced a 16% decrease in resting heart rate and a 5.5% decrease in blood pressure.

Here is how to do this exercise:

  1. Start standing with your legs together and your arms at your sides.
  2. Bend your knees and then jump, pushing your legs out wider than shoulder-width while bringing your hands over your head in a semi-circular motion.
  3. Repeat for 30 seconds and rest as needed.

Stonehouse says that you can gradually work on increasing the time until you can do jumping jacks for a full minute. Aim for three sets with 30 seconds of rest in between.

Note: If you aren't able to reach your hands all the way above your head at first, focus on bringing your arms up as high as you can, maybe stopping at the shoulders or lower depending on your mobility. You can also improve shoulder flexibility with some simple stretches.

2. Walking or marching in place

Sometimes also referred to as high knees, this exercise doesn't require any equipment and can be done in a small space.


Stonehouse says that walking or marching in place has a number of benefits, including:

Here is how to do this exercise:

  1. Start standing with your arms at your sides.
  2. Lift one knee toward your chest as high as you can while pumping your arms up and down. Repeat with the other leg.

Stonehouse recommends starting with one minute of continuous movement, resting when needed. Repeat for three sets.

3. Jumping rope

For this exercise, using a jump rope is ideal — but if you don't have one you can just do the movement without a rope.

In addition to being a great cardio workout, jumping rope has also been shown to help build bone density, which makes your bones stronger.


A 2017 study found that 12-year-old girls who participated in weekly jump roping workouts had higher levels of bone density than those who did not.

Stonehouse recommends starting with 30 seconds of jumping rope and resting when needed. Gradually add more time with each workout until you can jump rope for five minutes without stopping.

Note: Jumping rope is a high-impact exercise, which means it may not be ideal for people who are injured, pregnant, or newly postpartum. If this applies to you, discuss with your doctor before engaging in a high-impact exercise like jumping rope.

Best jump ropes

6 trainer-recommended cardio workouts you can do at home
Double Under Speed Jump Rope; Alyssa Powell/Business Insider

We test and recommend the best jump ropes for cardio workouts. Check out our picks:


4. Mountain climbers

This exercise targets and strengthens your upper body and core while raising your heart rate, says Britt Rorie, CPT, and master instructor for CycleBar, an indoor cycling gym.

Here is how to do this exercise:

  1. Start on the ground, facedown in a high plank position, with your arms pushing against the floor and your wrists under your shoulders.
  2. Alternate bringing knees up to your chest at a moderate pace, Rorie says. You can slow this down or speed it up depending on your mobility and fitness level.

Aim for 30 seconds of work with 30 seconds of rest. Repeat for three sets.

5. Punch jacks

This exercise is similar to jumping jacks, but instead of bringing your arms over your head, you punch each hand forward in front of you alternating left and right, Rorie says.

Like with jumping jacks, this exercise will get your blood pumping and may even cause you to break a sweat, but because the arms are punching out instead of circling up, you are also strengthening your biceps and triceps.


Rorie recommends aiming for one minute of work with 30 seconds of rest for this exercise.

6. Walking

Walking is often underrated as a cardio exercise, but it offers many benefits, including:

  • Strengthening your bones and muscles
  • Boosting your mood
  • Increasing your energy levels
  • Helping with weight management
  • Improving your immune system

Walking is also great for those just beginning to add more cardio to their routines, Stonehouse says, and you can gradually increase the intensity or time you spend walking as you gain more endurance.

To start out, Stonehouse recommends trying to walk quickly for one minute then recovering at a slower pace for four minutes. The quicker you walk, the higher your heart rate will get and the more calories you will burn. Repeat this four to five times and you have a 20 to 25-minute walking workout.

Once that feels easy, add more minutes at higher intensity, walking quickly for two minutes and recovering for three, then walking quickly for three minutes, recovering for two, and so on until you can hold a higher intensity pace for the full 20 to 25-minute walk.


Insider's takeaway

Cardio exercise is any repetitive movement that raises your heart rate. This type of exercise offers many benefits, including boosting your mood, strengthening your immune system, and improving your heart health.

If you're just starting out incorporating cardio exercises into your daily or weekly routine, start slow and add more time and intensity as you gain endurance. You can do several different cardio workouts, like walking, mountain climbers, and jumping jacks at home.