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6 of the Best Cardio Workouts

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What is a cardio workout? 

Cardio (or cardiovascular exercise) is another word for aerobic exercise, which covers any kind of workout or fitness routine that increases your breathing and raises your heart rate. This can be anything from running up the stairs, a quick HIIT session before work, through to a spin class at the gym. Cardio is great for boosting your heart health, and benefits your entire cardiovascular system, helping to improve your fitness and endurance. There’s no end to the options for exercises to choose from, whether you want to fit in a quick 10 minute workout, or are running a marathon. 

Check out this guide for advice on how to boost your cardio performance, or read on for 6 of the best cardio workouts, covering: 

  1. HIIT Cardio Workouts
  2. 10 Minute Cardio Workouts
  3. 15 Minute Cardio Workouts
  4. 30 Minute Cardio Workouts
  5. Low Impact Cardio Workouts
  6. Home Cardio Workouts

6 of our favourite styles of cardio workouts

1. HIIT Cardio Workout

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and is an effective and convenient way of squeezing a full workout into a short amount of time. In fact, many HIIT workouts tend to sit at around 15 - 20 minutes and can be just as effective as a 45 minute or hour long fitness session. You can also integrate many different kinds of movement into the HIIT format, whether that’s running, cycling or functional training. 

For a workout to be considered HIIT, it will involve periods of very high intensity movement, followed by periods of lower intensity, or even full rest. For example, you might choose to try HIIT running - a good approach would be sprinting for 1 minute and walking for 90 seconds, 10 times. Or, perhaps Tabata workouts, which involve performing a movement such as mountain climbers or squats at full intensity for 20 seconds, followed by a 10 second rest. While this may not sound like much, when you piece these together into a 15 minute workout (and if you’re performing at the right level of high intensity!) then you’ll definitely be feeling the burn by the end. 

And it’s not just the convenience that makes HIIT cardio so great; it’s also proven to have a wealth of health benefits too. We have a guide that explains more about the benefits of HIIT training, so go check that out for more information. 

Our Best HIIT Workouts for You Guide has plenty of excellent ideas for cardio workouts, but a good cardio option could be: 

  • 40 seconds jumping jacks, followed by 20 seconds rest
  • 40 seconds mountain climbers, followed by 20 seconds rest
  • 40 seconds high knees, followed by 20 seconds rest
  • 40 seconds reverse lunges, followed by 20 seconds rest
  • 40 second plank, followed by 20 seconds rest
  • Repeat the above all the way through five times

2. 10 Minute Cardio Workout

Not everyone has bags of time to work out throughout the day. Including even a small amount of exercise in your day is going to be more beneficial for you than doing nothing, so if you only have 10 minutes to spare, a quick HIIT cardio workout could be what you need. Just remember, when you’re tight on time, keep those rest periods at a lower intensity rather than stopping altogether. You want to keep moving throughout to make the most of this snappy fitness session. 

Choose any type of cardio you prefer - whether that’s running, cycling or even dancing around your living room, just make sure you’re giving it your absolute all in those ‘hard to maintain’ moments. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down before and after your workout! Then, stick to the following formula for a 10 minute, effective cardio workout: 

  • 2 minutes steady pace
  • 1 minute hard to maintain pace
  • 2 minutes steady pace
  • 1 minute hard to maintain pace
  • 2 minutes steady pace
  • 1 minute hard to maintain pace
  • 1 minute easy recovery pace

3. 15 Minute Cardio Workout

15 minutes is a fantastic amount of time to work out. You can work up a sweat, build up your heart rate and get the blood pumping, all without taking too much time out of your day. Want to squeeze a fitness session into a lunch break, before work, or while dinner is in the oven? A 15 minute workout is easily manageable! And, whilst any amount of exercise is by far better than none, including 15 minutes into your day can boost life expectancy by 3 years and reduce mortality by 14% (according to this study in the Lancet). 

We may sound like a broken record, but if you’re limited on time and want to get the most bang for your 15 minute buck, then HIIT cardio is still the best approach. The mix of high intensity and lower intensity movement has been shown to be the most beneficial in a shorter amount of time. 

Give the 15 minute workout below a try - it includes high energy movements that are great for a cardio workout, in a punchy HIIT format. You’ll be working through seven different exercises, including high knees, burpees and reverse lunges, in the Tabata style of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest, for four rounds. 

4. 30 Minute Cardio Workout

The NHS recommends getting around 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week. While you can split this however you prefer, fitting in five 30-minute workouts a week is an excellent approach. A 30 minute cardio workout gives you plenty of time to incorporate different movements or styles into your day - or simply focus on one type of exercise if you prefer.

A 30 minute run is a fantastic way to build endurance, or for seasoned runners it’s a good amount of time to focus on speed work. Looking for a low-impact cardio workout? 30 minutes cycling on your own bicycle or the gym exercise bike is a great way to raise your heart rate in a joint-friendly way.

Many fitness classes are also between 30 - 45 minutes, and often incorporate interval training which is an effective way to build cardio endurance.  

Check out some of our favourite 30 minute cardio workouts below: 

5. Low Impact Cardio Workout

If you’re recovering from an injury, suffer from problems with your joints, or just prefer to place less pressure on your body while you workout, there are still plenty of low impact options for your cardio workout. Plenty of the exercise machines at the gym, including the elliptical, rowing machine and exercise bike, offer opportunities to burn energy and boost your heart rate without exerting too much force on your bones and joints. 

Likewise, most functional or HIIT workouts can be adjusted to suit a more low impact approach. For example, you can still perform burpees, but rather than jumping your feet backwards into the plank position, you can step each foot back in turn before returning to standing. You’ll still feel the fantastic benefits of this high energy movement, but in a way that’s more gentle on your body. 

We’ve created a low impact cardio workout that you can do at home or in the gym, so check out the video below to give it a try. This includes the following exercises: 

  • Step burpees
  • Squat to reach
  • Lunge to knee drive
  • Marching
  • Plank toe taps

6. Home Cardio Workout

The gym provides access to a wide range of equipment, machines and classes, all of which can help add variety to your cardio workouts. However we can’t always get to the gym, and in some cases people simply prefer not to. Most cardio workouts can also be performed at home or outside, meaning you can build your fitness, even if space is limited. You don’t even need any weighted equipment - your own bodyweight is a fantastic workout tool that can be used to build strength effectively. 

Our home workout guide provides tips and advice for approaching exercise away from the gym, or you can check out these at home HIIT workouts for ideas

Head over to our Free Workout Videos Hub for plenty of at home cardio workout ideas, like the upper body strength and sculpt routine below. 

Ready to begin working out? Why not head to your nearest PureGym and start today? For more workout inspiration, download the free PureGym app. Or, if you’re still not sure where to start, perhaps consider booking a personal trainer session - our expert PTs will be able to help you whether you’re a beginner or workout pro. 

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