Cardio Exercises For Beginners You Can Do At Home

These days, no-one feels like they’ve had a good workout unless their heart is racing and they need to crawl out of the door by the end of the session. I’d like to think that most of us know this isn’t true though… right?! But, those pulse raising, calorie burning cardio exercises do have their place.

And you don’t have to go running, or spend endless amounts of time on a cross trainer in the gym to get the results you want. You can just as easily get your cardio hit by incorporating these basic cardio exercises that you can do at home without equipment.

Cardio Exercises For Beginners You Can Do At Home

What Does Cardio Even Do?

99.9% of the time when someone is talking about ‘cardio’ (short for cardiovascular) fitness they’re referring to what is known as aerobic fitness. It all boils down to how good your heart and lungs are at supplying blood full of oxygen to your working muscles. So when we do cardio, the goal is to increase the strength of our heart so it’s able to pump more blood and we can do more ‘work’ due to the increased oxygen levels. Win, win?

The ultimate measure of aerobic fitness is known as a VO2 max test. If you’ve done one before you’ll know it’s a lung buster. Most machines in the gym give you estimates all the time for your VO2 max but these should be taken with a pinch of salt because to get your exact result you need to be hooked up in a lab.

How Much Cardio Should You Do?

According to the NHS, adults aged 19-64 should try to be active daily and be doing at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week. We should also be doing strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscle groups.

You can of course mix up the moderate and the high intensity. The NHS suggests that 1 minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as 2 minutes of moderate activity. So you kinda get more bang for your buck time-wise when you go harder!

Is Walking A Good Form of Cardio?

Yes, it is. But you goto put some welly into it! Brisk walking counts as moderate aerobic activity whilst running counts as vigorous aerobic activity. Walking can easily be added into your daily routine – i.e during your commute to work, running errands or just choosing to get away from your desk during your lunch hour.

If you’re keen to try running though, you can use the run / walk technique. Start with 1 min intervals of running followed by 2 or 3 minute intervals of walking. Gradually decrease the amount of time walking, whilst increasing the amount of time running… aiming for something like 3 minutes running to 1 minute walking until you find the formula that works for you. The walking interval gives you a chance to recover a little and give a little more for your running interval.

So let’s get down to business! These three exercises are simple but effective. I would put them in the high intensity bracket so you don’t need to do them for excessive lengths of time to feel like you’ve had a workout! As with most exercises though, you get out what you put in…


Starting in a plank / push up position, drive one knee forwards towards your chest between your arms, using your core to keep your foot elevated off the ground.

Whilst maintaining the plank position by keeping the weight above your shoulders and over your wrists, return the first leg to the start position while driving the other knee towards your chest.

Switch feet back and forward as quickly as possible. Ensure you keep correct form, especially keeping your hips in line with your shoulders, not allowing them to go too high.

Try This:

  • Beginner – 30 seconds
  • Intermediate / Advanced – 60 seconds 


Start from a neutral standing position… feet hip width apart, shoulders down and relaxed, arms by your side.

Pump your knees toward your chest alternating short, quick steps either on the spot, or moving forward if you have space.

Use arms for extra momentum. I always say that “the faster your arms move, your faster your legs will go!”

Land on the ball of your feet.

“As well as being one of the best cardio exercises out there, high knee runs are also great for the lower body, speed and flexibility.”


Try This:

  • Beginner – 3 x 10 seconds with 10 seconds light jogging in between
  • Intermediate / Advanced – 2 x 30 seconds with 10 – 30 seconds light jogging in between


Starting with feet hip width apart, step one leg forward into a lunge position.

Bend your knees as you lower your hips down toward the ground until you are in a low lunge position. From the low lunge position, jump in the air as high as you can; alternate your legs in a scissor before landing.

Control your jumps by landing softly to prevent injury, and keep switching your feet as fast as possible

“Scissor jumps are a great cardio exercise to increase heart rate which also increases leg strength and flexibility.”


Try This:

  • Beginner – 30 seconds
  • Intermediate / Advanced – 60 seconds 

Get more workout inspiration with these Drill Packs:

Want more cardio exercises you can do at home?

Here is a list of other great cardio exercises you can do at home, at the gym or even outdoors.

10 Minute At Home Cardio Workout

Give this simple workout a go! No equipment needed.

45 seconds of exercise, 15 seconds recovery, 2 rounds (optional break between rounds

  1. High knee runs
  2. Squats or squat jumps
  3. High knee runs
  4. Plank or mountain climbers
  5. Scissor jumps

I think I’ve covered the basics of cardio exercise, what you need to know, how much you need to do and given you some good ideas for cardio exercises you can do at home! These exercises can be done almost anywhere though as not much space is needed!

Let me know, how do you like to get your cardio fix?!


P.S Safety always comes first. If you are new to exercise ensure you seek advice from your GP. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, wear appropriate clothing and carry out drills in a suitable space. Technique is paramount, and nothing should hurt. Should you experience pain, discomfort, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath etc, STOP and consult your GP. 



  1. Jen
    April 30, 2020 / 09:49

    What a great list! Mountain climbers definitely work up a sweat! I’ll have to try scissor jumps next!

    • Elle
      August 11, 2019 / 18:22

      thanks Sandra! …prob would wipe the floor with myself if I tried it lol

  2. July 8, 2019 / 12:49

    I love scissor jumps! Whenever we get these in my cross training classes I’m in my element. Strong legs, weak arms – that’s me! Love how happy you look in these pics too!

    • Elle
      August 11, 2019 / 18:21

      haha thanks Lauren! Also, scissor jumps I have found to be as unpopular as burpees! ha!

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