I'm a qualified personal trainer: these are the most effective cardio exercises you can do at home if you're short on time

Cosy cardio coming your way...

Cardio exercises at home: A woman running
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If entering your hibernation era has caused you to cancel more sweat sessions than you’d like, then you might be considering doing cardio exercises at home. 

Of course, there’s no shame in switching up your training schedule to suit seasonal shifts in motivation and weather – and you certainly aren’t alone if you’re craving a slower pace and more comfortable training conditions at this time of year. Research conducted last year by Sports Direct revealed that 48% of Brits find it harder to stick to their normal exercise routine during the colder months, while a huge 61% stop exercising altogether. 

Elsewhere, fitness enthusiasts in their millions are adopting more gentle and home-based exercise for snug season in the form of #cozycardio. The trend, initiated by TikTok creator Hope Zuckerbrow, essentially involves doing at-home low-impact cardio, such as walking on a step pad, in your comfiest clothes (pyjamas included) while watching your favourite series or bingeing a good audiobook and has accrued a massive 15.5 million views on the app. If anything’s clear, there’s a collective appetite for more home-based activity right now. And we’re not mad about it.

Of course, it’s important to prioritise time outside – a study by The International Association of Applied Psychology found that outdoor exercises "provide an added value to the known benefits of physical activity" (essentially, it’s especially important for emotional wellbeing). 

That said, there’s no reason why you can’t rejig your programme during winter to include more cardio exercises at home and reap the benefits of outdoor workouts come summer when the sun is shining. Why cardio, then? Well, research tells us that doing cardio for as little as five to ten minutes a day and at a slow pace can dramatically reduce your risk of death from all causes, including cardiovascular disease.

Here, personal trainer Aimee Victoria Long explains how to incorporate cardio exercises at home into your workouts, if that’s what you’re craving. Ready to learn how to improve your cardio fitness? Keep scrolling, and don't miss our guides to the best cardio workouts, while you're here.

The best cardio exercises at home

What is a cardio exercise?

“Cardio exercises are activities that increase your heart rate and make you breathe harder,” Long explains. Regular cardio exercise helps to make your heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood around the body, which in turn improves cardiovascular health.

Cardio exercises include activities such as:

  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Walking
  • Rowing.

What are the benefits of doing cardio?

Ultimately, cardio is key for overall health and wellbeing. A study by the American Heart Association found that people who do 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate physical activity have a 20 to 21% lower risk of death from all causes, while those who do 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity per week experience a 19% lower risk of mortality from all causes.

1. Improved heart health

We’ve already alluded to it – cardio exercise is superior for heart health. “Cardio exercises strengthen the heart, making it more efficient at pumping blood and oxygen throughout the body,” Long explains.

2. Increased lung capacity

“It challenges your lungs, improving their capacity to take in oxygen and deliver it to your muscles,” Long says.

3. Reduced risk of chronic diseases

Engaging in cardio exercise can lower the risk of conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

4. Enhanced mood

“Cardio workouts release endorphins, which can boost your mood, reduce stress, and improve your overall mental well-being,” says Long.

What cardio exercise can I do at home?

If, like the many city-dwellers and flat-sharers among us, you aren’t blessed with ample space for bulky, high-tech machines, don’t worry – there are still options for cardio exercises you can do at home.


Research indicates that HIIT may be more beneficial than moderate-intensity exercise for "maximising health outcomes."

Plus, it’s efficient, requires little space and equipment, and there are tons of exercises to choose from. “Jumping jacks are a classic and effective exercise that gets your heart pumping and works your entire body,” Long says. She also recommends doing high knees (“running in place and lifting your knees up as high as possible helps improve cardiovascular fitness”) and burpees.

Also: mountain climbers. “It’s a dynamic exercise that targets multiple muscle groups while elevating your heart rate,” she adds. Not sure where to start? Our guide to high intensity interval training will help, as will our PT-approved guides to the best 15 minute home HIIT workouts and HIIT workouts at home

2. Walking

If you have room enough for a small step pad, you can clock up the steps in the comfort of your own living room while catching up on your current series of choice (or watching Christmas movies?). Health Editor Ally Head tried a walking treadmill for eight months this year and now swears by it.

If an at-home treadmill is a no-go, a small step, which you can purchase online for around £20, is an option worth considering. Walking workouts at the ready.

3. Skipping

Sure, not the most practical option, but if you do happen to have a garage or similar space with appropriately high ceilings and sparse surroundings (so you don’t risk damaging anything), then skipping is an ideal cardio exercise to do at home. Excellent for getting the heart going, it’s also helpful for improving coordination and balance, too, and costs very little to get going.

If skipping is totally out of the question in your home, you can purchase ropeless handles which, weird as they may sound, allow you to mimic the movements of skipping sans the whipping. I tried a skipping challenge myself this year and, spoiler alert: totally loved it.

4. Dancing

Sure, most dancing requires a dancefloor, but there are some styles you can do in very little space. You could try your hand at tap (probably without the shoes, though) or zumba, or you could work up a sweat practising some TikTok routines. 

5. Boxing

Boxing engages the entire body for a top quality cardio workout. You can purchase compact punch bags for your home, or you can give it a go without any equipment at all. 

5 best cardio exercises to do at home, chosen by a PT

1. Calisthenics HIIT

What? A bodyweight HIIT workout.

Why? HIIT, we know, is an efficient and effective method of cardio exercise. This workout requires no equipment and little space, so it's ideal for an at-home session.

How long? 30 minutes.

2. Sports cardio workout

What? A sports-focussed bodyweight cardio workout.

Why? Comprising everything from agility to core exercises, this workout is a full-body session needing no equipment.

How long? 30 minutes.

3. Full body cardio workout

What? A 15-minute full-body bodyweight workout.

Why? In a hurry? This super-speedy session is perfect for getting your sweat on at home when your schedule is looking a bit overloaded. You'll do squat jacks, burpees and mountain climbers, and you'll need no equipment. 

How long? 15 minutes.

4. Non-stop cardio and abs workout

What? A 30-minute endurance workout.

Why? Endurance is the goal for this workout, so it's less about intensity and more about completing full and quality reps and going the distance. 

How long? 30 minutes.

5. 2020s pop mix power walk

What? A walking workout set to 2020s tunes.

Why? Looking for something a bit more low-impact (or have downstairs neighbours)? This walking workout will wrack up your step count and get your heart pumping while you vibe to a playlist of seriously good music.

How long? 18 minutes.

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Abbi Henderson
Health Writer

Abbi Henderson is a freelance journalist and social media editor who covers health, fitness, women’s sport and lifestyle for titles including Women's Health and Stylist, among others. 

With a desire to help make healthcare, exercise and sport more accessible to women, she writes about everything from the realities of seeking medical support as a woman to those of being a female athlete fighting for equality. 

When she’s not working, she’s drinking tea, going on seaside walks, lifting weights, watching football, and probably cooking something pasta-based.