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Skip the Gym: 5 Cardio Workouts You Can Do at Home

You don’t need a gym membership or a walking-friendly neighborhood to improve your heart health and master your metabolism. While there’s no way around the fact that working out is hard, it doesn’t have to be hard to fit it into your life. Turn your living room into your exercise studio and quell your excuses.

Unless you absolutely love the gym atmosphere, there’s no rule that says you have to spend an hour on a treadmill to improve your cardiovascular fitness. Save your money and work out at home with these five effective home-based cardio workouts.

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High intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the fastest ways to see improvements in cardiovascular fitness. The concept is that you alternate between high and low periods of intensity for the entire course of your workout. This achieves two things: 1) It forces your heart and lungs to work harder during the high intensity bursts, ultimately enhancing your heart and lungs’ ability to pump blood through your body and 2) it keeps your heart rate pumping fast, even during rest periods, which increases your total workout calorie burn. The best part is that you can actually achieve more in a shorter workout because of the physiologic benefits that HIIT training provides.
Try this 30-minute routine:
  • 0:00-5:00: Warm up for five minutes by performing varied dynamic exercises, such as walking in place, running in place, jumping jacks, walking lunges and knee push-ups.
  • 5:01-6:00: Run in place as fast as you can.
  • 6:01-7:00: Do half squats.
  • 7:01-8:00: Perform jumping jacks as fast as you can.
  • 8:01-9:00: Do alternating half lunges.
  • 9:01-10:00: Jump rope as fast as you can, or pretend to jump rope if you don’t have a rope.
  • 10:01-11:00: Walk in place at a steady pace.
  • 11:01-12:00: Do full squats as fast as you can with good form.
  • 12:01-13:00: March in place with high knees at a steady pace.
  • 13:01-14:00: Do full alternating lunges as fast as you can with good form.
  • 14:01-15:00: Slide laterally back and forth at a steady pace.
  • 15:01-25:00: Repeat minutes 5:00 through 15:00.
  • 25:01-30:00: Cool down by marching and then walking in place.

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Jump rope is right up there with running in terms of tough cardiovascular workouts — you have to physically propel your entire body weight up and off the ground repeatedly. While jump rope might not be appropriate for those with bad knees or ankles, it’s a great way to break a sweat without leaving the comfort of your home. 

Because jump rope is incredibly hard, especially when you’re just getting started, treat it as a HIIT routine. Jump for 30 seconds straight, then rest for 15 to 30 seconds before jumping again. Keep at it for a minimum of 15 minutes, then round out your workout by doing walking lunges or other heart-pumping strength exercises. As you improve, lengthen your intervals so that you’re performing 60 or 90 seconds of jumping, alternating with 30 seconds of rest.

Granted, slide boarding does require special equipment, but a $200 slide board is a lot less expensive than a $1,000 treadmill. Plus, slide boarding forces you to slide laterally back and forth across the board, as if you were speed skating, which works your hips and thighs in a way that helps balance your lower body and improve total core strength. 

Think about it: Most of your day is spent walking, running or otherwise moving in a forward-backward manner. This neglects the muscle groups that enhance side-to-side motion. Slide boarding provides a fun and easy way to perform cardio at home while strengthening and toning otherwise neglected muscle groups.

Laura Williams is a fitness expert and personal trainer. In 2010, she finished her master’s degree in exercise and sport science from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. In 2014, she received her health fitness specialist certification from the American College of Sports Medicine. She is now a writer, entrepreneur and the “Sporty Girl CEO” of Girls Gone Sporty

A version of this article was originally published in January 2014.

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