Share on Pinterest

Cardiovascular exercise, also known as cardio or aerobic exercise, is essential for good health. It gets your heart rate up, making you blood pump faster. This delivers more oxygen throughout your body, which keeps your heart and lungs healthy.

Regular cardio exercise can also help you lose weight, get better sleep, and reduce your risk for chronic disease.

But what if you can’t get outside for a daily run or don’t feel like hitting the gym? There are still plenty of cardio exercises you can do at home.

If you’re new to cardio, these moves will help get you up to speed.

High knees

This exercise involves running in place, so you can do it anywhere with minimal space.

high knees for cardio exercise
  1. Stand with your legs together and arms at your sides.
  2. Lift one knee toward your chest. Lower your leg and repeat with the other knee.
  3. Continue alternating knees, pumping your arms up and down.

Butt kicks

Butt kicks are the opposite of high knees. Instead of lifting your knees up high, you’ll lift your heels up toward your butt.

butt kicks for cardio exercise
  1. Stand with your legs together and arms at your sides.
  2. Bring one heel toward your butt. Lower your foot and repeat with the other heel.
  3. Continue alternating your heels and pumping your arms.

Lateral shuffles

Lateral shuffles increase your heart rate while improving your side-to-side coordination.

Lateral shuffles for cardio exercise
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees and hips bent. Lean forward slightly and brace your core.
  2. Lift your right foot, push off your left foot, and move right while keeping your form.
  3. Place your feet together. Continue shuffling to the right.
  4. Repeat the same steps to the left side.

To evenly work both sides, shuffle left and right for the same amount of space.

Crab walk

Doing the crab walk is a fun way to get your blood flowing. It also strengthens your upper arms while working your back, core, and legs.

Crab walk for cardio exercise
  1. Sit on the floor, knees bent and feet flat. Place your hands on the floor under your shoulders, fingers pointing forward.
  2. Lift your hips off the floor. “Walk” backward using your arms and legs, keeping your weight evenly distributed between your arms and legs.
  3. Continue walking backward for the desired distance.

Standing oblique crunch

This cardio exercise is low impact and ideal for beginners. As you lift your knees, you’ll engage the core muscles on your sides.

Standing oblique crunch for cardio exercise
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on the back of your head, elbows pointing outward.
  2. Bend to the right, moving your right elbow down and right knee up.
  3. Return to starting position. Repeat on the left side.

Speed skaters

The sideways movement of this exercise mimics how a skater moves. For a challenge, add a jump when you move to the side.

Speed skaters for cardio exercise
  1. Start in a curtsy lunge, both knees bent and your right leg diagonally behind you. Bend your right arm and straighten your left arm.
  2. Push off your left leg, moving your right leg forward. Bring your left leg diagonally behind you and switch arms.
  3. Continue “skating” left and right.

Jumping jacks

For a full-body workout, add in some jumping jacks. This classic move works your entire body while increasing your heart rate.

Jumping jacks for cardio exercise
  1. Stand with your legs together and arms at your sides.
  2. Bend your knees slightly. Jump and spread your legs wider than shoulder-width, lifting your arms overhead.
  3. Jump to center. Repeat.

Toe taps

This is an easy, low-impact exercise that can be done on a curb or lowest step of a staircase.

Toe taps for cardio exercise
  1. Stand in front of the curb or step. Rest one foot on top, toes facing down.
  2. Quickly switch legs to bring the other foot on top. Continue alternating feet.
  3. As you get used to the movement, move left or right while doing toe taps.

As you build endurance and strength, progress to these intermediate moves.

Squat jumps

The regular squat is a bodyweight move that targets the lower body. By adding a jump, you can turn it into an explosive cardio workout.

Squat jumps for cardio exercise
  1. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and lower into a squat.
  2. Swing your arms back. Quickly swing your arms upward and jump.
  3. Land gently back in a squat. Repeat.

Standing alternating toe touches

This exercise works your arms, core, and legs, making it great full-body cardio move.

Standing alternating toe touches for cardio exercise
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms at your sides. Brace your core.
  2. Lift your right leg straight up. Simultaneously raise your left hand up and over, reaching toward your right toes.
  3. Repeat with your left leg and right hand.

Lunge jumps

Lunge jumps, which combine jumps and standard lunges, will get your heart pumping.

Lunge jumps for cardio exercise
  1. Start in a lunge, both knees bent at 90-degree angles. Point your feet forward.
  2. Brace your core, pull your shoulders down, and swing your arms back. Quickly swing your arms upward and jump. Simultaneously switch legs.
  3. Land in a lunge. Repeat.

Box jumps

The box jump is a cardio exercise that targets your lower body, including your butt, thighs, calves, and shins.

Box jumps for cardio exercise
  1. Stand in front of a knee-high box or platform. Place your feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides. Engage your core.
  2. Bend your knees and hinge forward at your hips, keeping your back flat. Swing your arms up and jump explosively onto the box.
  3. Land gently, leaning forward slightly. Jump back off the box. Repeat.

Plank jacks

This exercise is like a horizontal jumping jack. It forces your arms to support your weight as you quickly move your legs.

Plank jacks for cardio exercise
  1. Start in a plank with your hands under shoulders and your body straight. Bring your feet together.
  2. Jump and spread your legs wider than shoulder width.
  3. Jump back to a plank and repeat.

When you’re ready for a challenge, try these advanced cardio moves. Each exercise involves greater coordination and multiple body movements.

Mountain climbers

The mountain climber is an intense full-body exercise. If you’re new to the move, start slow and gradually pick up the pace.

  1. Start in a plank with your hands under your shoulders and your body straight. Flatten your back and brace your core.
  2. Lift your right knee toward your chest. Quickly switch, moving your right knee out and lifting your left knee in.
  3. Continue alternating legs.

Plank ski hops

Plank ski hops, also called plank skiers, combine planks and rotational jumps. The turning movement of the jump will challenge your strength and endurance.

  1. Start in a plank with your hands under your shoulders and your body straight. Bring your legs together.
  2. Jump your feet to the right, rotating to bring your knees outside your right elbow. Keep your legs together.
  3. Jump back into a plank. Repeat on the left side.

Diagonal jumps

The diagonal jump takes the lunge jump to the next level. Instead of facing forward, you’ll rotate your body during each jump for an extra heart-pumping move.

  1. Start in lunge position, both knees bent at 90 degrees. Turn your body toward the right corner of the room.
  2. Brace your core, pull your shoulders down, and swing your arms back. Quickly swing your arms up, jump, and switch legs.
  3. Land in a lunge, facing the left corner.
  4. Continue jumping and switching legs.

Rotational jacks

Rotational jacks combine jumps, squats, and body twists. Together, these movements will fire up your muscles and heart rate.

  1. Start with your feet and hands together.
  2. Jump into a squat, landing with your knees bent, feet wider than shoulder-width apart, and toes pointed slightly out. Simultaneously rotate your waist, reaching your right hand up and left hand to the floor.
  3. Jump into starting position before jumping back into a squat, reaching your left hand up and right hand down.
  4. Continue jumping and switching arms.

Burpees

The burpee, which involves a squat, jump, and pushup, will engage your entire body.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat and place your hands on the floor.
  2. Jump your feet back into a plank. Do one pushup.
  3. Jump your feet back into a squat. Jump up, reaching your arms upward. Repeat.

Inchworm crawl

During the inchworm, the motion of walking your hands and feet forward will put your heart and muscles to work.

  1. Stand with your feet together. Brace your core, bend forward at your hips, and reach your arms toward the floor. Keep your knees straight but relaxed.
  2. Set your fingers on the floor, softly bending your knees. Plant your feet and slowly walk your hands forward into a plank with your hands under your shoulders.
  3. Stiffen your core and do one pushup.
  4. Slowly walk your feet toward your hands. Reach your arms forward and repeat.

To make it harder, do more than one pushup. You can also skip the pushup altogether for an easier move.

Follow these tips to reap the benefits of cardio without getting injured:

  • Warm up. Start each session with a 5- to 10-minute warmup. This will increase your blood flow and relax your muscles, lowering your risk of injury.
  • Cool down. Instead of abruptly stopping your workout, slow down during the last 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Invite a friend. Exercise is always more fun with a workout buddy.
  • Aim for 150 minutes. Over the course of the week, aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity. You can spread this out over time by doing 30-minute sessions five days a week.

If you’re new to exercise or you haven’t exercised in a while, talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new program. They can offer guidance based on your health status and fitness level.

You should also consult your provider if you have:

You may need to take certain measures to exercise safely.

It’s also important to progress gradually. By slowly increasing intensity and speed, you’ll lower the risk of injury.

Cardio exercise keeps your heart, lungs, and muscles healthy. And you don’t even need to leave your house to add it to your fitness routine. Just remember to warm up and start slow, especially when trying a new move.