These 15 Quick Yet Effective Cardio Workouts Will Get Your Heart Pumping

Get your heart rate up

This article was first published on 29 March 2022.

Looking for a way to stay fit without having to head out to the gym? Consider adding some cardio exercises to your daily routine. 

Cardio or cardiovascular workouts, while often misconstrued as a simple warm-up for more intensive strength and endurance training, involve any form of exercise that raises your heart and breathing rate by repetitively doing low- to high-intensity body movements. You can find these incorporated into various high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and sports. Activities like running, jogging, and biking are all forms of cardio.


What are the benefits of cardio exercises?

Woman lacing shoes before workout

Cardio exercises aren’t just a great way to work up a sweat, it also improves your heart and lung health.


These workouts have multiple health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, regulating blood sugar, managing weight and improving focus. 

To reap these benefits, you'd need to do at least 150 minutes of cardio per week. That's around 20 minutes a day. 

Now that you know how your body benefits from cardiovascular exercises, get to know which ones you can do in the comfort of your home below. You can combine any of these exercises to get your 20-minute workout in.

1. Burpees



Ah, burpees, so challenging yet so effective. One burpee is a full-body workout. It exercises multiple muscle groups in one movement such as your hamstrings, quads, calves, pectorals, arms and abs. It also needs a higher level of oxygen consumption compared to other forms of exercise, so your lungs and heart are also working double-time with each movement. Burpees are best done in three-minute intervals at the minimum to get the most out of the exercise.

Amp it up with a small jump at the end of every burpee to boost your heart rate more.


2. Squats



Squats aren't just for toning your booty, they're also good for the heart. Squats are generally considered a strength-training exercise, but if you do more repetitions within a period of time then these are also considered a form of cardio. The key is to do enough to raise your heart rate. 30 squats is a good start. You can also do squat pulses, where instead of rising immediately from the squat position you'll do three to five small "pulsating" movements.

Amp it up by adding weights or resistance bands for a mix of strength and cardio training.

3. Squat or rocket jumps



Yes, your squats have variations too! Similar to jumping jacks, adding a little jump to your squats can increase your heart rate. Start with your regular squats but instead of returning to a standing position, you'd need to jump with your arms and legs fully extended. Remember to land with your knees bent to absorb the landing impact and minimise the shock to your joints.

Amp it up by adding some squat pulses before you jump.


4. Jumping rope



Jumping rope is one of the easiest effective cardio exercises you can do in the comfort of your home. It's a staple in a lot of professional sports training, like boxing, to improve stamina. It exercises your core but also has some toning effect on your arms and calves.

Amp it up by using a weighted jump rope.

5. Jumping jacks



Any exercise that involves some form of defying gravity will be a good cardio workout. Jumping jacks are pretty simple but highly effective. It increases blood flow and circulation, while also improving your flexibility. It can also improve the bone strength in your legs and lower back. However, jumping jacks alone aren't enough for a full-body workout — you'd need to do them in addition to the other cardio exercises on this list.

Amp it up by adding some light dumbbells for an extra push.


6. Screamer lunges



If you want to focus on the lower body, screamer lunges will be a good addition to your workout. Start with your regular lunging position but instead of immediately switching legs, smoothly bring your hind leg forward to hip height and jump. This exercises the muscles in your calves, thighs, and buttocks while raising your heart rate.

Amp it up by doing a minimum of 10 lunges per leg and then slowly working your way up to more repetitions in the future.

7. Stair climbs



Did you know that you can turn any flight of stairs into a set of makeshift exercise equipment? You can start by climbing up and down the stairs around five times per set. Once you feel ready, you can transition into more speedy jog-like movements. Just be careful to not slip on the steps.

Amp it up by trekking higher flights of stairs in more intervals.


8. Mountain climbers



Mountain climbers combine the stationary aspect of a plank with quick bursts of motion to increase your heart rate. Start off with a push-up position and bring one leg near your chest while the other is kept extended. Fluidly alternate your legs at a quick pace, mimicking how you'd walk upright.

Amp it up by extending your legs to the side instead of to your chest in a variation called the spider mountain climber.

9. Bear crawl



A bear crawl is a common strength and cardio exercise that's used in high-intensity workouts like CrossFit. It works the muscles in your core, arms, back, and legs. Similar to mountain climbers, you start with a push-up position. However, instead of keeping your upper body stationary, you'll literally crawl forward on the floor with only your hands and toes touching the floor. This exercise also engages your abdominal muscles to keep your balance.

Amp it up by crawling backwards and sideways. You can also make it more of a challenge by carrying some type of added weight, like a moderately stuffed backpack, on your back.


10. Inchworms



Inchworms are a low-impact exercise that you can do in a limited space, like your bedroom or living room. This cardio exercise mainly targets the muscles in your core, arms, chest, and upper back. Begin with a standing position and slowly bend forward until your hands reach your toes. Slowly walk your hands forward until you're in a planking position. Then, slowly walk your feet forward until you reach the heels of your palm. Repeat this movement at least five more times.

Amp it up by adding a push-up once you're in plank position.

11. Lateral shuffles

Cardio exercises don’t need to have big explosive movements. For example, lateral shuffles — which are staples in football and ice sport warm-up drills — involve doing a squat and then shuffling your feet one at a time to the left or right. These may not seem like they’re doing much, but they actually target your core, hips, buttocks, and inner thigh muscles with every movement.

Amp it up by increasing your speed and distance or wearing resistance bands around your thighs — you’ll definitely work up a sweat!

12. Trunk rotation

Trunk rotations are a light form of cardio exercise that comes with flexibility-improving and muscle-toning benefits. You should inhale and contract your abdominal muscles with every twist of your torso while keeping your legs centred in place. You can start off by holding a small exercise ball close to your chest as you get the hang of the movement.

Amp it up by ditching the ball and raising your arms to shoulder height. This increases the mass load on your spine and requires your abdominal muscles to further support and protect your spine.

13. Squat front kicks

If you want to improve your balance, try ending your squats with a high frontal “kick”. Instead of rising to a standing position, bring one of your legs to knee height. Interchange legs after every squat.

Amp it up by increasing the height of your kicks and speeding up the sequence — while keeping to proper form, of course.

14. Arm circles

Want a cardio workout that you can do even on your laziest days? Arm circles, it is! Similar to doing a backstroke or a butterfly stroke but on land, this easy but effective exercise can be done either while sitting or standing. Just make sure your palms are firm and your fingers are pointed outward during the process to preserve balance and provide some resistance to your movement. 

Amp it up by holding some weights to increase resistance. If you don't have dumbbells, filled water bottles are accessible alternatives. 

15. Snow angel

We often joke about exercising while lying on our backs, but what if we tell you it's possible? The snow angel is another easy cardio workout you can do at home. Lie on your back, bend your knees up, bend your elbows up with your arms flat on the ground. Once in position, start sliding your arms up above your head until your hands meet each other. Then slide your hands back down to your sides. Repeat. This works your arms, core, chest, and shoulders. 

Amp it up by trying the wall version. Instead of lying on your back, this exercise can be done with either your back against the wall or your legs propped against the wall for increased core resistance. 

Make at-home workouts more fun by doing them with your friends. Here are some tried-and-tested tips to keep in mind.

Comments, questions or feedback? Email us at [email protected].

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