10 Cardio Moves You Can Do At Home

You don't need an expensive piece of cardio equipment or a lot of extra space to enjoy a home-based cardio workout. If my 16 years of education and experience in the fitness industry have taught me anything (and, for the record, they have), all you really need to improve your heart and lung health are your own body and a dose of internal motivation. It also helps to know how to piece together a workout using a few simple moves.

The following 10 cardio moves are simple and effective, but you don't want to just pick one of them and perform it ad nauseum for 30 minutes. I mean, sure, it'll get your heart rate up, and that's important, but it'll also bore you to tears. There is a better way. For an excellent routine, pick any four of the following exercises and use them to perform a Tabata. Tabata workouts are a form of high-intensity interval training that involve eight rounds of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest. A single Tabata lasts a total of four minutes. Simply download a free Tabata timer app on your smartphone to time the intervals for you.

When you perform a Tabata using four different exercises, you'll end up cycling through each of the moves twice. So, for instance, if you decide to use burpees, jumping jacks, skaters, and high knees as your moves, your Tabata will look like this:


  • 20 seconds burpees

  • 10 seconds rest

  • 20 seconds jumping jacks

  • 10 seconds rest

  • 20 seconds skaters

  • 10 seconds rest

  • 20 seconds high knees

  • 10 seconds rest

  • 20 seconds burpees

  • 10 seconds rest

  • 20 seconds jumping jacks

  • 10 seconds rest

  • 20 seconds skaters

  • 10 seconds rest

  • 20 seconds high knees

  • 10 seconds rest


After finishing a full Tabata, rest for two minutes. Perform a total of four separate Tabatas to complete your workout. You can stick with the same four exercises throughout, or if you want to keep things interesting, choose different moves for each Tabata.

Jumping jacks

Jumping jacks should be familiar, as they're a staple in elementary school PE classes everywhere. Just don't assume they're easy. According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, when calorie-burn was monitored in children and adolescents who performed 70 different activities, jumping jacks burned more calories than any other activity, including heavy hitters like jogging on a treadmill at six miles per hour and playing a game of basketball. This is because jumping jacks require engagement of all your major muscle groups as you perform a high-intensity jumping action.

Simply start standing with your feet together, your arms at your sides. Jump into the air and spread your legs wide, as you simultaneously swing your arms out and up over your head. Land in a star-like position, legs out, arms up. Immediately jump back into the air, pulling your legs together as you swing your arms back down to your sides. Continue as fast as you can.

Mountain climbers

When I was in my undergraduate exercise science degree program, one of my professors used a two-minute mountain climber challenge to assess students' cardiovascular health. His goal was to get our heart rates up as high as possible in a two-minute time frame to assess how long it took us to recover after the challenge. Most of the students in the class couldn't even do the exercise for the full two minutes because mountain climbers are hard. This makes them an excellent cardiovascular workout, especially when used as part of a Tabata routine.

Start on your hands and feet on the ground, set up in a high push-up position, your palms under your shoulders and your legs extended so your body forms a straight line from heels to head. Draw one knee toward your chest, planting your foot on the ground as if you were about to take off running. This is the starting position. From here, hop both feet into the air simultaneously, switching your legs' positions, so the bent leg lands in an extended position, and the straight leg is drawn into your chest. Continue hopping your legs back and forth as fast as you can.

Skaters

Skaters are an excellent exercise because they force you to work in the frontal plane of motion as you "skate" side-to-side. This is a break from most cardiovascular exercises, such as walking, running, and cycling, which all use a forward-backward motion. As you move side-to-side, you'll challenge your hip abductors and adductors (your inner and outer thighs), as you also engage your obliques.

Start standing, your feet roughly shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent. Engage your core — all of the muscles between your shoulders and hips — and bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle. Step your right leg out to the right, and as you do so, sweep your left leg behind your right leg and reach your left arm down to touch your right foot. Immediately step or hop your left leg to the left, this time sweeping your right leg behind your left foot as you reach your right arm down to touch your left foot. Bend your knees and press your hips back with each skating motion, and focus on keeping your torso straight as you keep your gaze forward — don't allow your chest and shoulders to collapse down toward the ground as you reach to touch your foot with your opposite hand.

Bear crawls

There's a reason coaches everywhere use bear crawls as a form of punishment for wayward athletes — if you keep at them for very long, everything in your body starts to burn and your heart rate skyrockets. Think of bear crawls as crawling on your hands and knees, but with your knees lifted off the ground for the duration of the exercise. This means you're supporting your body weight with just your hands and the balls of your feet, and you must keep your entire body, particularly your shoulders, abs, quads, glutes, and calves engaged as you crawl across the floor. To mix things up, try crawling forward, backward and sideways in a square formation.

Butt kicks

Mastering the correct form for the butt kicks exercise is easy, but doing it is deceptively hard. You may feel comfortable jogging in place for long periods of time, but the increased range of motion required to kick your heel up and behind you to tap your butt will have you huffing and puffing in no time. Two quick pointers for this modified jogging exercise:

1. Rather than drawing your knee up and forward as you kick your heel to your butt, keep your knee pointing down toward the ground for a more efficient action.

2. Swing your arms in a natural jogging motion, so your right arm swings forward as your left foot kicks up, and your left arm swings forward as your right foot kicks up.

Lateral slides

Like skaters, lateral slides use a side-to-side motion that engages the less frequently used muscles of your abductors and adductors. Simply start standing with your feet shoulder-distance apart, your knees and hips slightly bent, and your elbows bent to 90-degrees. Press your hips back as you lower into a semi-squat, then take a step laterally to the right with your right foot before stepping your left foot to meet it. Continue moving to the right in a step-together-step-together fashion for about five to 10 feet. When you reach the edge of your allotted space, reverse the direction of the slide and move to the left, leading with your left foot. Continue sliding back and forth as fast as you can.

High knees

High knees, like butt kicks, are another variation for jogging in place. The key for this exercise is to keep your core engaged as you draw each knee up in front of your body as high as you comfortably can. Stay on the balls of your feet to help facilitate speed, landing each foot as "softly" as you can on the ground with your knee slightly bent to reduce the impact on your joints. If the running motion proves too challenging, you can march in place with high knees, instead.

Squat jacks

Think of squat jacks as the evil cousin of jumping jacks. The motion is more-or-less the same — you jump your legs in and out laterally as you swing your arms — but you have the added challenge of maintaining a squat position throughout the exercise.

Start with your feet shoulder-distance apart, your knees slightly bent. Press your hips back and bend your knees as you lower into a squat. As you squat down, raise your arms in front of your chest. When you've bent your knees to 90-degrees, you'll maintain this low-squat position and hop into the air, drawing your feet together as you swing your arms back behind you. Immediately after landing, hop back into the air, spreading your legs back to their original position as you swing your arms forward again. Keep your core engaged, and your chest up as you continue the in-and-out hops while maintaining a low squat. When your feet are together, your arms swing back, when your feet are apart, your arms swing forward.

Burpees

The word "burpee" may send shivers down your spine, as it's often touted in the fitness industry as a particularly torturous exercise, but the vilification of the burpee is overstated. Sure, it's tough, and it'll definitely get your heart rate up, but there are lots of modifications and variations that make the burpee appropriate for almost all fitness levels. Start with the first version shown in the video above, then work your way up to more challenging variations.

To perform the most low-impact version, start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent. Crouch down and place your hands on the ground directly under your shoulders. Step your feet backward, one at a time, to enter a high push-up position so your body forms a straight line from head to heels. Immediately step your feet back to their original positions, then return to standing, squeezing your glutes at the top of the exercise to press your hips forward. To make the exercise more challenging, you can:

1. Hop your feet backward and forward in a single unit rather than stepping them out.

2. Add a push-up after you enter the push-up position.

3. From your final crouch, jump into the air, raising your hands over your head, rather than simply standing up.

Run in place

There's nothing unexpected about running in place. It should come as no surprise that if running outside or on a treadmill is good exercise, then running in place is A-okay, too. Granted, you're less likely to push yourself as hard if you're running in place, and you're also less likely to perform a full range of motion at your shoulders, hips, and knees, making stationary jogging a less taxing form of running. You can combat this fact by actively pumping your arms and legs with each step as you lean forward slightly from the hips.