Gyms are closed, which means you could be feeling like you're missing out on your favorite cardio workouts.
Whether you regularly attend a spin class or cardio boot camp, just because you don’t have access to a fitness studio or fancy cardio equipment doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate some awesome cardio at home.
There are a number of cardio exercise programs and workouts that can be done with minimal space and right in the comfort of your own living room.
So if you’re stuck in quarantine and looking for a way to keep up your cardio at home, look no further.
HIIT Cardio At Home
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is an excellent way to improve your cardiovascular health. The origins of this training came from Dr. Izumi Tabata out of the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo.
His research compared athletes that carried out moderate-intensity workouts to those that did high-intensity interval workouts.
While the moderate-intensity group had increased their aerobic fitness, they showed little or no results for their anaerobic fitness.
However, the HIIT group showed an even greater increase in their aerobic system than the moderate-intensity group.
Plus they had increased their anaerobic system by 28 percent (1).
Adding HIIT sessions once or twice a week is a great way to stay in shape and keep your heart healthy. Plus, it is easy to do at home with no equipment necessary!
Warm-up with some dynamic exercises and stretches. This will help get your heart rate up and to avoid injuries.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold your arms out to the side at shoulder height.
- Circle around your arms forward, starting with small circles, working up to larger circles.
- Perform 20 circles. Reverse direction and perform 20 more.
Front Arm Swings:
- Start with your arms extended out to your sides.
- Swing both arms in front of your chest, crossing your left arm over your right, then reverse back to the starting position.
- Then swing both arms back in front of your chest, this time crossing your right arm over your left, then bring back again.
- Continue alternating like this for about 20-30 seconds.
- Stand while holding onto a chair or wall for support.
- Shift your weight to your left foot, and swing the right leg forward and backward, allowing the right knee to naturally flex and extend throughout the movement.
- Continue for 10-15 swings on the right then switch sides and repeat.
Knees to Chest:
- Bring your right knee toward your chest before lowering the foot toward the ground.
- Then bring your left knee in and hug it towards your chest before lowering back down.
- Continue alternating sides for 10 reps on each side.
Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Then move immediately to the next exercise.
- You can perform these with or without a push-up.
- As your fitness increases, try adding in the push-up.
Alternating Lunge Jumps:
- For this exercise, you start in a lunge position.
- Lower your back knee toward the ground in a lunge while keeping your front shin as vertical as possible. Do not let your knee track over your toe.
- Push explosively off the ground, jumping and switching the position of your legs while in mid-air.
- Land in the lunge position with the opposite leg forward.
- Repeat, switching legs on each jump.
- Start in a push-up position.
- Engage your abs as you bring your right knee to your chest and then straighten it back to the starting position.
- Then bring your left leg to your chest and back again.
- Repeat this as quickly as possible for the 20 seconds.
- Start in a standard pushup position.
- As you lower your body toward the floor, bring your right leg out to the side and try to touch your knee to your elbow.
- Return to the starting position, and repeat with your left leg.
Rest for 1 minute, then repeat this circuit two more times. While this may seem like a short workout, if you perform this at your highest effort it will feel a lot longer than 15 minutes!
Finish with some static stretches. For example:
- Push your arms up behind you while pulling your shoulder blades together and your back straight until you feel the stretch in your chest.
- Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.
- Lift your arms overhead with both arms slightly behind your head and bent at the elbow.
- Use your right hand to pull your left elbow until you feel a stretch in your triceps.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
Low Back Stretch:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and pulled up toward your chest.
- Hold for 30 seconds before releasing.
- Sit on the ground with both knees bent and both feet on the floor.
- Lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh.
- Pull both legs inwards toward your stomach for a deep stretch of your glutes.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds and then switch sides and repeat.
Stair Cardio Home Workout
If you live in a home or apartment that has stairs, these can be utilized to get in some much needed quarantine cardio.
A 2019 study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that three bouts a day of vigorous stair workouts done three times a week was highly effective at improving cardiovascular health (2).
Warm up with the dynamic exercises like those in the HIIT warm-up.
- Sprint up one flight of stairs. Do 10 jumping jacks at the top, then jog back down.
- Sprint up one flight of stairs. Perform 5 body weight squats at the top, then jog back down.
- Sprint up one flight of stairs. Do 5 burpees (with or without a push up), then jog back down.
Repeat this 3 times. If you feel like you can do more, you can always add a few more sets. You can even do this a few different times throughout the day to add in additional cardio if you have extra time.
Cool down with static stretches. Make sure to include stretches that focus on the quads, hamstrings, and calves as you really work these when doing stair repeats.
Hamstring and Calf Stretch:
- Stand about one foot from a wall and place your hands on the wall at shoulder height.
- Take a step back with one leg while pushing into the wall.
- Keep your back straight and press your heels into the floor. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Step forward and repeat with the other leg. Repeat the exercise three times on each side.
- Stand with your left arm holding a chair for balance and support.
- Next, bend your right knee and hold your right foot in your right hand.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds then switch to the left leg and hold for 20-30 seconds.
Family Cardio At Home Ideas
If you have kids, it’s a great idea to keep them involved in fitness as well.
A 2016 study from BMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine found that a parent’s motivation to exercise due to personal valuing of exercise was associated with their children engaging in more physical activity.
In contrast, motivation based on pressure and coercion was negatively associated with their child’s engagement in physical activity (3).
If you live in an area where you have access to sidewalks or trails get out and take a walk or hike.
As long as you are practicing safe social distancing, many areas are still allowing outdoor exercise.
Outdoor games are great for you and the kids and can be done right in your backyard. Have fun with it!
Set up some sprint relay races and have a fun family competition. Or play some basketball in the driveway or flag football in the backyard.
These are all activities that will get your heart pumping and improve your cardiovascular fitness.
Cardio workouts don’t always need to be structured activities.
And you don’t have to do cardio for hours to have a fitness benefit.
Brief, intense exercise can improve cardiovascular health to the same extent as sustained endurance exercise. Even with a lower total exercise volume! (4)
So even a short workout is far better than no workout at all.
The Fit Mother Project
Right now is a challenging time for everyone, and this includes keeping up with your normal fitness routines.
But now is more important than ever to stay healthy and in top cardiovascular shape.
Even recent research supports the fact that exercise has an anti-inflammatory effect and aids in immune regulation (5).
This means that continuing normal exercise can actually help boost your immune response!
In addition to these cardio at home workouts, the Fit Mother Project offers its own programs that can help you find ways to stay in shape at home.
These resources will help get you through this brief stay at home period.
It's likely you will find that these are exercises and workouts that you will want to continue to use even when you are able to get back to the gym.
You can continue to incorporate cardio on a daily basis even when your gym is closed.
The workouts above can be done easily within or right outside your home with no additional equipment.
When the gyms reopen in the not so distant future, you will be ready to nail your next group workout or hard treadmill interval run.
Your new friend & health coach,
*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on cardio at home.
- 1. Tabata, Izumi & Nishimura, Kouji & Kouzaki, Motoki & Hirai, Yuusuke & Ogita, Futoshi & Miyachi, Motohiko & Yamamoto, Kaoro. (1996). Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO(2max). Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 28. 1327-30.
- 2. Jenkins, E. M., Nairn, L. N., Skelly, L. E., Little, J. P., & Gibala, M. J. (2019). Do stair climbing exercise “snacks” improve cardiorespiratory fitness?. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 44(6), 681-684.
- 3. Solomon-Moore, E., Sebire, S. J., Thompson, J. L., Zahra, J., Lawlor, D. A., & Jago, R. (2017). Are parents' motivations to exercise and intention to engage in regular family-based activity associated with both adult and child physical activity? BMJ open sport & exercise medicine, 2(1), e000137. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2016-000137
- 4. Gillen, J. B., Martin, B. J., MacInnis, M. J., Skelly, L. E., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Gibala, M. J. (2016). Twelve weeks of sprint interval training improves indices of cardiometabolic health similar to traditional endurance training despite a five-fold lower exercise volume and time commitment. PloS one, 11(4), e0154075.
- 5. Nieman, D. C., & Wentz, L. M. (2019). The compelling link between physical activity and the body's defense system. Journal of sport and health science, 8(3), 201-217.