Cardio workouts at home are arguably the simplest way to get fit - 7 PT-approved workouts to try

Forget the gym.

Cardio workouts at home: A woman drinking water
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Could cardio workouts at home be any more on trend right now? According to research, over half of us prefer to exercise in the comfort of our own homes these days - and we all know that cardio workouts are a vital part of any balanced fitness regime. If you don’t fancy a class (gymtimidation is real, right?) and running just isn’t your thing (we hear you), cardio workouts at home are a fantastic way to get all the benefits of cardio without the expense and hassle of a membership.

That’s right – you don’t need a gym or any fancy equipment to work up a proper cardio sweat (introverts, rejoice). You don’t even need to leave the house, as cardio exercises at home promise to strengthen your heart, boost your mood, improve immune function and enhance stamina, overall fitness and strength, too. That's right - it’s entirely possible to gain all the benefits of a good old cardio session from the comfort of your living room.

That said, it’s important that you know what moves to do to get the most bang for your buck, not to mention how to do them with the correct form. With this in mind, we’ve asked top PTs to share their favourite home cardio workouts along with how to perform them, for maximum benefit.

Keen to include more bodyweight cardio exercises or cardio exercises in your weekly routine? Don't miss our guides to how to improve your cardio fitness or whether 30 minutes of cardio is enough to boost your fitness (spoiler alert: the answer might surprise you). 

Cardio workouts at home are the simplest way to get fit - 7 to try today 

What are cardio workouts at home?

First things first, let’s cover the basics. The term cardio comes from the Greek word "kardia", meaning heart. Put simply, a cardio workout (also known as aerobic or endurance exercise) is a session that intentionally raises your heart rate for a prolonged period of time – think brisk walking, running, tennis, swimming, running up stairs and so on. If you’re feeling puffed, you’ve been doing cardio.

“A cardio workout at home is a cardiovascular set of exercises that you can do without leaving the house or without any specialist equipment,” explains PT Tej Patel. “Ideally, a home cardio workout should be designed to increase your heart rate and breathing rate to improve your cardiovascular health, stamina, and overall fitness levels for life.”

What are the benefits of cardio workouts at home?

While you may associate many more traditional cardio workouts with being outside or in a gym, it’s surprisingly simple to achieve results at home. Thanks to the pandemic, there’s a plethora of excellent online apps and classes you can choose from – or, if you’re after a less structured approach, you can put together your own regime. But you might be wondering why you should bother. After all, we’re all busy and stressed, surely we don’t need to make time for cardio at home, too?

Well, you might feel differently after reading about the myriad of benefits – and you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that the benefits extend beyond your health, too.

“Cardio has so many health benefits, both mental and physical,” says Patel. “But more than this, doing cardio at home offers real-life benefits too. Because you don’t need any equipment, nor too much space or time, it gives us busy people a chance to fit in our health and wellbeing priorities with juggling other responsibilities (like work, life, or kids) too.”

And there’s more good news for those of us who are time-poor (and who isn’t?) You don’t need to spend hours working out at home to reap the rewards. Studies (such as this one, published in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise) show that even workouts of less than ten minutes are associated with improved health outcomes. 

“A good cardio burn can be as quick as fifteen minutes to get your heart rate up and start feeling energised,” agrees Patel. “You can make the workouts as long or short as you need based on your time availability, and fit them in whenever works for you and your schedule (try a few minutes between video meetings), helping to build consistency and frequency too.”

Plus, being at home is a safe space. If you’re just starting your fitness journey or you simply feel uncomfortable working out in public, a home cardio workout allows you to build confidence without what feels like the eyes of the world on you.

Cardio workouts at home – 7 PT-approved workouts to try today

Keen to give home cardio workouts a try? We asked top PTs for the most effective moves that you can try today.

1. 10-minute home HIIT

What? Alternating bursts of intense exercise (think jumping jacks, burpees and so on) with short periods of rest.

Why? “HIIT training really gets your heart racing,” explains Patel. "Interspersing the cardio with short breaks maximises your cardiovascular health and boosts your metabolism."

How long for? 10 minutes and you're all done - win, win. 

2. Full-body tabata workout

What? Intense cardio for a super short period, with very little rest! The structure can vary, but it's generally eight repeated moves of around 20 to 30 seconds on, ten seconds off. 

Why? "A Tabata workout is my go-to for clients cardio who don't use the gym," says Patel. "It's well-structured and fun." But don't be fooled - it's super challenging and fab for building cardiovascular strength and endurance.

How long for? 12 minutes. 

3. 15-minute upbeat dance workout

What? Bring the feel-good party vibes to your living room with this 15-minute 2000's dance workout. 

Why? "Whether you're following along with dance fitness videos or creating your own moves to your favourite music, dancing improves coordination, boosts agility and fexibility and strengthens bones - not to mention the mood-boosting benefits!" says PT Paige Verity Davis

How long for? 15 minutes - but trust us, you'll want to do more. 

4. Rebounders

What? Turn your living room into a fitness playground with the ultimate cardio workout - jumping on a mini trampoline.

Why? Not just for kids, trampolining is as fun as it is effective. “With every bounce, you're elevating your heart rate and elevating your fitness game,” says Davis. “It’s also a fantastic workout for your joints.”

How long for? Davis recommends starting with the basics and working your way up to tuck jumps, split leaps and jumping jacks. Start with 15 minutes, and see if you can progress to 30 minutes. 

5. Shadow boxing

What? Boxing, but make it no-opponent and no-equipment. That's right - just you, your fists and a mirror. 

Why? "Shadow boxing offers numerous benefits for overall fitness," says PT Michael Baah. "It's a full-body cardio workout that not only enhances fighting skills but also strengthens muscles, improves speed, and boosts cardiovascular health. Additionally, it helps improve balance, muscle memory, and relieves stress."

How long for? For an effective shadow boxing session, Baah recommends aiming for two to three minutes of continuous movement, alternating between various punches like jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts. Take a 30-second rest between rounds. Ideally, complete six to ten rounds to maximize the benefits of the workout. 

6. 30-minute cardio Barre

What? Barre is a fusion of ballet, Pilates and more traditional strength-based moves. 

Why? "Barre is a whole-body workout that is both fun and fierce," says Barre instructor and founder of Meet You At The Barre, Jennie Brown. "The classes are short but highly effective and, despite the burn, joyful.  It’s also as good for your mind as it is for your body - the mental health benefits are enormous."

How long for? 30 minutes. 

7. Cardio interval walking

What? A beginner-friendly 30 minute guided walk with interval training. 

Why? Walking is having quite the moment right now. And with good reason: studies (such as this one, published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology) show that the more walking we do, the lower our risk of death is, from any cause. Pretty compelling stuff. 

How long for? The workout we've chosen is half an hour, but with walking, it's up to you. Keen to up your steps outside of your workouts? Walking pads are a great investment, in our eyes...

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Anna Bartter
Health Writer

Anna Bartter is a freelance journalist who writes about health, fitness and women's lifestyle for publications including Stylist, Metro and Psychologies, among others. 

She's always on a quest to find a variety of fun and functional workouts that give you the most bang for your workout buck and she's passionate about championing movement for everyone's mental and physical wellbeing.