10 of the best cardio workouts to boost both your mood and fitness

According to four qualified pros.

Two women running, doing one of their favourite cardio workouts
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're looking for good cardio workouts to help you boost your heart health, fitness, and more, you're in the right place. Whether you are a complete beginner (read our guide to running tips for beginners, here) or a workout pro, cardio workouts research has found cardio workouts boost heart health, metabolism, and more. 

Short for cardiovascular workouts (yep, they get your heart pumping) and otherwise known as aerobic exercise, cardio workouts are essentially any session that raises your heart rate. While they improve your physical and mental health, they've also been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure and regulate your blood sugar, too.

So as you can see, while they're often written off as a weight loss workout, they're far more than that. Sure, they can help regulate weight, but nothing beats feeling mentally and physically strong. Exercise shouldn't be about weight loss - rather, how it makes you feel.

"Cardio workouts are really the best medication for the prevention of cardiovascular disease," shares Dr Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist and member of Peloton’s Health & Wellness Advisory Council. "They produce feel-good hormones that energise you throughout the day and, at a basic level, will give you more energy, improve your sleep, and generally make you feel better."

We've asked four pros for their top tips for finding a cardio session that works for you, plus asked them to share their personal go-to's. Keep scrolling to see what Olympian and coach Steph Davis, run coach at Runna Ben Davies, Peloton instructor Jermaine Johnson, and Dr. Steinbaum have to say.

Don't miss our edits of the best running trainers, warm up exercises and marathon training tips, while you're here. 

What are the benefits of cardio workouts?

There are loads. From improved cardiovascular, to reduced blood pressure and regulate blood sugar levels, cardio really is an all-rounder.

Other research has also indicated that it could help to aid sleep, regulate weight, strengthen your immune system and boost your mood, thanks to the all-important endorphins your body releases when you workout. 

How many cardio workouts should I do a week?

Good question. As per the NHS website, they recommend aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise each week.

"Moderate intensity exercise is the most effective way to reach cardiovascular fitness," Dr Steinbaum explains. 

Completely new to cardio workouts? Take it slow. As Parker explains, with any form of exercise, we're looking for a gradual increase. Try this: aim for 15 minutes a few times a week and build up to 30 minutes. 

Keen to know you're working hard enough? The coach explains that if you're slightly short of breath but can still talk, you've likely reached your sweet spot.

Prefer a gym session where you work through weight lifting exercises or a yoga class, instead? Getting your cardio in can be as simple as hitting your daily step count - Parker explains that it's all about keeping your heart in good health, after all. Not convinced? Our explainer on the benefits of walking might just convince you.

So, why are cardio exercises so good for us? Well, because as we get older, the arteries throughout the body naturally get stiff, especially around the heart. Exercising helps to counter this, as Dr. Steinbaum explains. "Cardio keeps the arteries healthy and elastic, increasing oxygen delivery throughout the body and improving cardiac function," she explains. 

Keep scrolling for their go-to workouts.

Cardio workouts: 10 best to try tonight, according to the experts

1. Running

Running is the most obvious cardio workout to spring to mind. It's great because it's largely free, easy to do, and can be tailored to your specific fitness level. 

Not a runner or don't feel like it's for you? It's not for everyone, but if you would like to give it a go, the Couch to 5km app or Runna app will both come in handy (or head to our guide to the best running apps for more options). 

"Running is one of the best forms of cardio," shares Johnson. Try this: Take it up a notch by adding intervals into your weekly sessions. "This will improve your endurance, stamina, and aerobic threshold," he explains. After a less high-impact session? Try intervals with a power walk, or during a walk/run hybrid, the trainer advises. 

The below is a 20 minute interval run workout, if you'd like a guided session.

2. Boxing

Still yet to give boxing a go? It's a favourite celebrity workout for a reason.

"Boxing is another great cardio workout as it targets all of your muscle groups simultaneously, as well as improving your coordination and balance," Johnson explains. 

If you're not so keen to try it in studio, you can do the below session from certified personal trainer Kyra Pro from your living room. 

3. Skipping

Not just one for the school yard - skipping deserves credit as a fun, easy and cheap cardio workout, explains Johnson.

He explains: "It's a great workout for elevating your heart rate as well as engaging your core. It's a real winner for those looking for a quick cardio hit " Try this: all you need is a rope and enough space. You can also include HIIT-style intervals to your skipping which is a great way to really push yourself, shares the pro. 

Try the below fifteen minute session from trainer Sydney Houdyshell. 

4. Cross training

The team at Runna share that if you can't get out for a run, spending some time on a cross trainer will be just as beneficial. 

With cross training, you have several options: rowing, swimming, or cycling. The best one to go for is the one you'll enjoy the most. New to rowing? The below guide from the pros at PureGym will help.

5. Mountain climbers

These certainly get the heart pumping and are easy to do from home, especially if you're tight for time.

Just starting out? Be sure to slowly build up the intensity to avoid delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMs) the next day. Challenge yourself by counting how many you can do in sixty seconds. Watch the tutorial below for the correct form.

6. Traveling walkouts

Keen to opt for a low impact workout? This is a great exercise to begin with, shares Johnson.

Below, the Runna team demonstrates how it's done. Do note, all of the below exercises would have to be paired with other cardio exercises to form a full workout.

7. Squats

This one's a double whammy - helping you to improve your muscle mass and get your heart rate up at the same time.

For another glute workout, try this set from PT Krissy Cela.

8. Deadbug

Another great cardio exercise that, when paired with other moves, can make a great all-round workout, is a deadbug. While it won't get your blood pumping as much as, say, running, it's a great move to improve your overall strength and strengthen your core. 

Do note here: proper form is important for this exercise, so check out Runna's tutorial below.

9. Jumping lunge

A cardio and strength-boosting move? Winner, winner.

A jumping lunge is a great move to improve both your lower body strength and heart health at the same time, shares the trainer. Keen to increase the intensity? Aim to gradually include more jumping lunges each time.

10. Cycling

As above, cycling is one of the best cardio workouts for a number of reasons. 

You have several options - you can jump on your actual bike and go for a spin around your local park, start cycle commuting, or head out for some errands.

Similarly, if you'd prefer an indoor, stationary bike, there will be plenty at your local gym, or you can invest in one for at home. The Peloton App is £12.99 a month and gives unlimited access to a wide range of classes including running, cycling, boxing, walking, and HIIT. It offers a 30-day free trial period, too. 

After all your hard work, don't forget to call down by checking out our guide to the best cool down exercises here.

Dionne Brighton

Dionne Brighton is a writer at Marie Claire UK, specialising in all things shopping, beauty and fashion. Born and raised in North London, she studied Literature at the University of East Anglia before taking the leap into journalism. These days, you can find her testing out the latest TikTok beauty trends or finding out what the next full Moon means.