When you decide you’re ready to bring some cardio workouts into your life, the process can be a bit overwhelming. The options are endless, but you need workouts tailored to your fitness level to learn the ropes while getting stronger. We’ve rounded up our best beginner cardio workouts for you to try, whether you have access to a treadmill or an elliptical or you’re looking for an equipment-free sweat session you can do at home.
- 40-Minute Walking and Running Workout: The fastest pace in this workout is 5.8 miles per hour, and the running intervals never top two minutes. Plus you can print out this workout to take with you to the gym.
- 60-Minute Workout Mixing Walking and Jogging: Perfect for when you’re ready to push your endurance, this hour-long workout will burn close to 300 calories. The workout alternates between 4 MPH intervals of walking and 5 MPH jogs.
- 50-Minute Hill Walk: While you never go faster than 4 MPH in this workout, you work the incline button — a lot. Adding the elevation works your glutes and hamstrings nicely.
- 20-Minute Elliptical Plan: This plan makes for an excellent lunchtime workout. It’s perfect for beginners and will get you well acquainted with the versatility of the machine.
- 35-Minute Elliptical Workout: This workout is easy on the incline but incorporates the handles to fit in some upper-body conditioning, along with pedaling backward to work the glutes and hamstrings.
- 60 Minutes on the Elliptical: This workout is tailored for beginners but will push you a bit as you play with both incline and speed. All the variations make the hour fly by.
- 10-Minute Cardio and Active Stretch Session: This video workout will get your blood flowing and your body limber. Your heart rate will rise through the first five minutes of cardio, which is followed by five minutes of active stretching.
- 10-Minute Cardio Video: Get ready to hop, skip, jump, and punch your way through this quick sweat session. You don’t need any equipment for this workout, so you can do it anywhere.
- PlyoJam 10-Minute Dance Workout: This workout is more like a party! Bring your sexy as you mix plyometric jumping exercises with fun dance moves.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Kat Borchart
Starting into a workout routine can be very intimidating. There are so many things to consider, and you want to be sure that your time spent exercising is maximally beneficial. Here’s a list of 10 beginner friendly workouts, plus a quick rundown on how to get yourself off on the right foot. PS If you need more help putting an effective program together, we also have a 4 Week Program for Beginners!
1 Low Impact Beginner Cardio Workout – Feel Good Recovery Cardio – The moves in this 26 minute workout are all low impact and easily modified to be easier or more difficult. It uses exercises that build range of motion, cardio endurance, coordination, control of your own body and flexibility. It’s also a great starting point for burning fat and building cardiovascular endurance.
2 Low Impact Cardio and Abs Workout As you can tell by the many low impact routines on this list, they are a great place to start when you’re new to exercising, and they give your body a chance to adapt and get ready for more intense training. This is a core and cardio combo that helps you build a strong base while working up a sweat (with no jumping at all).
3 27 Minute Butt, Thigh, and Abs Pilates Workout Pilates workouts like this one are a great way for beginners to improve core strength and to start to build a mind body connection, which are both imperative to being able to safely push yourself during harder workouts. Need an easier Pilates routine? Try this one.
4 Low Impact Cardio Workout for Beginners – Recovery Cardio Workout with no Jumping – This is one of my favorite low impact routines. Even though I love HIIT & strength, I love doing this workout on days where I don’t feel up to something more brutal. It focuses on range of motion and gentle cardio that makes you feel wonderful. Warm up and cool down are both included. Want to start with something shorter? Try this 10 minute cardio routine.
5 No Equipment Upper Body Workout with Warm Up and Cool Down – Using only bodyweight, this antagonistic routine is a great way to learn how to engage your muscles and perfect form before you start to add more weight. Honestly, it can be very difficult to anyone, as long as they’re pushing themselves, but because you’re working against your own strength, the difficulty is scalable. Once you’re comfortable with form, strength training is an excellent way to burn fat, build muscle, and get fit.
6 Upper Body Strength & Cardio Interval Workout (with Low Impact Mods) – Speaking of lifting, here’s a great strength training workout that will help build muscle and boost your metabolism, even while resting. Adjust as you need to, always focusing on form.
7 10 Minute Butt and Thigh Workout At Home – No Equipment – These 10 minutes pack a punch, and are a great place to start to get comfortable with basic bodyweight exercises for the lower body. There is no warm up or cool down on this video; make sure you always do both for every workout session.
8 At Home Cardio Workout to Burn Fat and Tone (High & Low Impact Modifications) – Once you feel like you need more of a cardiovascular challenge, try our cardio workouts that show both low and high impact mods; do the harder version for as long as you can before switching to the easier version.
9 Fitness Blender’s 5 Day Challenge – Strong and Lean – Day 1 This week long challenge takes out all of the guesswork by laying out an entire week’s worth of workouts. These workouts are intense, but both low impact and advanced modifications are shown.
10 3 Day Flexibility Challenge Day 1: Fluid Full Body Stretches for Flexibility & Stress Relief – Blow off stress, increase flexibility and range of motion with this gentle 3 day challenge that focuses on feeling good.
What now? How do you start and what do you need to know before you jump in?
Do some research upfront – Not all training is smart training and there’s a lot of bad information out there. Make sure that you are choosing reliable resources for your information and make sure you pick an approach that trains the body comprehensively, in a way that is balanced, and focused on good health.
Pace yourself, and start slowly if you need to – The most common mistake I see beginners make is being way too aggressive in their training, way too soon. Take time to build a strong base for yourself; if you go 110% right out of the gate, you’re likely to end up hurting yourself or burning yourself out on a commitment that needs to be lifelong. Getting fit takes time and hard work – try to become comfortable with that concept; tell yourself that you’re in this for the long haul and so there is no reason to rush along your training in a way that puts your health or new good habits at risk.
Make it work for you – Similar to the point above, you have to realize that this is YOUR journey. It doesn’t matter how fit someone else is, or where you think you should be, you have to be willing to start where your body needs you to start, and make modifications as you need to so that nothing ends up being a roadblock to progress. Come across an exercise interval that’s too hard? Jog in place until it’s over. Really struggling and need a break even though the interval is not over? Take a couple seconds to rest & recoup before you push yourself again. Don’t be afraid to work hard, but also know that’s it’s your responsibility to make it work for you.
Commit – There will be good days and bad, setbacks and successes, but you have to commit to showing up and working hard. You won’t always feel like it, and it’s okay to miss workouts occasionally, but for the most part, you want to focus on building & sticking to the habit.
Keep self talk positive – There’s no reason to talk down about yourself, no matter how unfit you might be. There is no shame in any starting place. In short; don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend.
Keep goals positive & action focused – Instead of “I will lose 10 lbs”, say “I will workout for 30 minutes 4 times a week”. Instead of “I will tone my flabby arms” say “I will gain strength and be able to lift things that I couldn’t before”. Try to focus less on end result, and more on the actions that you are responsible for (that will likely ultimately lead you to your goal more effectively, anyways).
Don’t be afraid to push yourself, but listen to your body – Sweating, feeling out of breath, burning muscles – all of these things can be part of a great workout. It’s important to learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, but there are also some things that you shouldn’t just push through (real pain, chest pain inability to catch breath, etc). Stay tuned in during your workouts to walk the line between challenging yourself, and respecting the messages that your body is sending you. Watch: How to “listen to your body”
Don’t make yourself hate exercise – There are so many different types of training and so many variables that one can adjust to their liking; find something that you enjoy, that makes you feel good. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym, you don’t even need a gym membership! You don’t need fancy equipment or supplements, you just need smart workouts, good nutrition, and motivation.
Keep an eye on nutrition – Nutrition is just as important as exercise, and the two really benefit one another. Focus on eating a diet that is as fresh and nutrient dense as possible, avoiding fad diets and processed food as much as possible.
Know that any effort put towards your health is always worth it!
The 15-Minute Cardio Workout Perfect for Beginners Trying to Lose Weight
We’ve all been there. You have the best intentions of being one of those people who consistently work out, and then life happens. Whether you’re just getting started or you’re jumping back into the workout world after a brief hiatus, this routine is a great place to start. Cardiovascular fitness is an important part of getting healthy-whether you want to lose weight or not.
A common misconception with cardio is that it has to be done on a treadmill, elliptical, or stair machine at the gym, and that it has to be boring AF. Trainer Sarah Kusch, who created this workout, says, “Not true!” Cue up this routine anywhere, anytime for a 15-minute cardio blast that’ll have you sweating without counting the minutes until you can be done. Plus, unlike a conventional cardio machine at the gym, these dynamic movements get way more muscles working-which means more calories burned in the process.
You’ll need: No equipment is needed for this workout. An exercise mat is optional.
How it works: Work through the warm-up-and don’t skip the recovery stretches at the end.
Want more? Get the entire series of videos that will help you jumpstart your journey with Weight Management Jumpstart, at-home classes by Sarah Kusch on Grokker. Shape readers get 30 percent off with promo code SHAPE9, so you can start toning your body today.
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Chances are you’ve at least heard of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), if not participated in a workout yourself. And there’s a reason why HIIT workouts are so popular — science proves that they work.
Workouts that alternate between short, but intense, bursts of exercise (where you go all out for a period of time) and less intense active recovery, have been shown to be more effective for heart health, fat loss and strength gain than traditional cardio and strength training. And the kicker? You get all those results in less time.
Compared to longer stretches of moderate-intensity running, cycling, or other aerobic exercises, studies show show that HIIT improves cardio fitness nearly twice as much among people with heart disease. In terms of strength improvements in the body, not only have HIIT workouts proven to yield as much strength gain as more traditional resistance training in a shorter amount of time, but in some cases there were also greater improvements in strength compared to traditional resistance training. If your goal is to lose weight, research shows that HIIT workouts may outperform traditional cardio when it comes to fat loss. This is because HIIT workouts can increase fat burning and energy expenditure for hours after exercise.
As a weight-loss coach, I encourage all of my clients to engage in HIIT workouts. If you’re short on time, equipment or motivation, all it takes is a few minutes to squeeze in a full-body workout, anywhere. Ready to give it a try? We’ve got a full HIIT program for March that’ll take you 15 minutes a day, 3 days a week. That’s only a commitment of 45 minutes a week for a program that will help speed up your metabolism, aid in weight loss, and build muscle to tighten and tone your entire body.
THE WORKOUT STRUCTURE
We’re breaking down the exercises into two circuits. You will start with circuit 1 the first week, move on to circuit 2 the second week, and then begin alternating between them (while increasing intensity for some of the moves). Listen to your body and make the suggested modifications as necessary — dialing it back to a beginner move or kicking things up a notch with an advanced progression.
In addition to performing a circuit 3 days a week, pick a 4th day to perform 20 minutes of interval cardio (30 seconds slow, then 30 seconds fast), whether that be in place (running, jumping jacks or high knees) or moving (running or biking). After 2 weeks, add in another cardio day, to total 5 workout days per week (still no longer than 20 minutes each!)
Day 1: Straightforward HIIT
Day 2: REST
Day 3: Sideways HIIT
Day 4: REST
Day 5: Straightforward HIIT
Day 6: REST
Day 7: Sideways HIIT
Day 8: REST
Day 9: Sideways HIIT
*Try an advanced move
Day 10: REST
Day 11: Straightforward HIIT
*Try an advanced move
Day 12: REST
Day 13: Straightforward HIIT
Day 14: REST
Day 15: Sideways HIIT
*Complete an additional round
Day 16: REST
Day 17: Sideways HIIT
Day 18: REST
Day 19: Straightforward HIIT
*Complete an additional round
Day 20: REST
Day 21: Straightforward HIIT
Day 22: REST
Day 23: Sideways HIIT
*Increase side plank hold to 30 secs each side
Day 24: REST
Day 25: Straightforward HIIT
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*Hold your plank for 45 secs
Day 26: REST
Day 27: Straightforward HIIT
Day 28: REST
Day 29: Sideways HIIT
Day 30: REST
Day 31: REST
CIRCUIT 1: Straightforward HIIT
This circuit is comprised of exercises that keep you moving forward, back, up and down, and focus on the front and back of the body. Hence the name, “straightforward HIIT.” Repeat this circuit 3 times for a total of 15 minutes.
Jumping High Knees
In place, bring one knee up to your chest as you press your arms up in the air; lower that leg and then bring the other knee up to your chest. Alternate, and once you feel comfortable you can add in a bounce so that this turns into jumping high knees.The purpose of this is to get your heart rate up! Perform for 60 seconds (30 high knees on each leg).
Beginner: Marching. Simply march one leg at a time, bringing the knee up towards your chest and pressing your arms up towards the ceiling. This is a low-impact way to get your heart rate up.
Stand with your feet as wide as your shoulders, toes pointing forward. Pull your naval in towards your spine, and then sit back by bending at your knees and reaching your glutes back as if you’re sitting in a chair. Press down through your heels and then stand back up. Repeat this 10x.
Beginner: Half squat. Perform the regular squat but only sit down halfway.
Advanced: Jump squat. Instead of pressing back up to a standing position at the end of each squat, add in a jump. When you land, softly bend your knees and then sit back into the squat. Repeat 10x.
Start on your hands and knees, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders. Pull your naval in towards your spine and then tuck your toes under, pushing back into a plank position. Look two inches in front of you and bend your elbows out to the sides to lower down into a push up, then press back up. Repeat 10x.
Beginner: Push ups on knees. Perform the same exercise except lower down onto your knees. Make sure your knees are slightly behind your hips (not directly underneath them), so that your body is in a straight line from your head to your knees. Repeat 10x.
Advanced: Burpee. From the push up position, perform a push up and then jump forward in between your hands. Jump up into a high jump, then jump back into a plank position. Repeat this 10x.
Ab lower & lift
Lying on the ground, pull your naval in towards your spine and lift your legs straight up to the ceiling. Lower the legs down a few inches or halfway down towards the ground, and bring them back up to the starting position. Keep your low back pressing into the ground for the duration of this exercise. Repeat 10x.
Beginner: Use bent knees. Lying on your back, bend your knees so that your legs are in a table top position. Keeping your knees bent, lower the legs down towards the ground, and then bring them back up to the starting position. Repeat 10x.
Start on hands and knees and then press up into a plank position. Reach forward through the crown of your head and reach back through your heels while pulling your abs up and in. Hold this for 20 seconds.
Beginner: Plank on your knees. Modify plank by lowering down onto your knees from plank, and holding for 20 seconds.
Advanced: Burpee. Perform another set of burpees here to kick it up a notch!
CIRCUIT 2: Sideways HIIT
This circuit is comprised of exercises that keep you moving laterally, side to side, and focus on the right and left sides of the body. Hence the name, “sideways HIIT.” Repeat this circuit 3 times for a total of 15 minutes.
Side to side runs
Standing up, jump to the right, landing on the right foot and using your abs to pull your left knee up, engaging the obliques. Then jump to the left, landing on the left foot and pulling your right knee up. Alternate between them for 60 seconds.
Beginner: Toe taps. For lower impact, stand in place and tap the right foot to the right then back to center; then tap the left foot to the left and then back to center. Alternate for 60 seconds.
Standing, step your right foot to the right a few feet and sink back as if you’re sitting into a chair with your right glute. Keep the left leg straight. Push down through the right heel to press yourself back to the starting position. Then switch to the left side. Repeat 10x on each side.
Beginner: Half side lunge. Instead of lowering all the way down into the side lunge, lower your glute halfway down and then press back up to center.
Advanced: Side lunge then jump. To step it up, side lunge to the right and then return to center, jump straight up towards the ceiling landing in a squat. Side lunge to the left and then return to center, jump straight up. Repeat 10x each side.
Sitting on the ground, reach your hands behind you, palms on the ground with your fingertips pointing towards your butt. Press down firmly with the palms of your hands. Bend your knees in front of you, and press yourself up onto your feet and hands, so that your butt is hovering above the floor. Bend the elbows straight back to dip down, and then press back up. Repeat 10x.
Beginner: Halfway dip. Only lower down halfway before pressing back up.Repeat 10x.
Advanced: Straight legs. To make this more challenging, straighten your legs out while performing the exercise.
Lying on the ground, bring your knees up to a table top position. Pull your naval in towards your spine, and place your hands behind your head. Curl up, reaching your left elbow to your right knee as you extend the left leg on a 45 degree angle. Switch side and crunch the right elbow to the left knee as you extend the right. Do this 10x to each side.
Beginner: Head on ground. Keep your head placed on the ground and neck relaxed while you perform this exercise.
Advanced: Legs lower. To step it up, perform the bicycle abs with the extended leg reaching lower than 45 degrees(closer to the floor) to make it more challenging for the abs.
10 seconds side plank then switch sides
Starting in a plank position, turn your body towards the left as you balance on your right hand and the outside edge of your right foot. Stack your legs on top of each other, and reach your left arm straight up towards the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds, move through plank, and then switch sides, turning your body towards the right and holding for 10 seconds.
Beginner: Side plank on knees. Come into a plank position, and then drop onto your right knee as you turn towards the left. Same as regular side plank except you’re using your right knee as a kickstand to make this less challenging.
Advanced: Lift top leg. To make this side plank more challenging, lift the top leg up off of the bottom leg and suspend in the air while in side plank.
TRY THESE FITNESS ROUTINES
- Back to basics: Your one-month treadmill workout
- A one-month resistance band workout you can do anywhere
- 10 core exercises that are better for your back (and body) than crunches
- A 10-minute cardio workout you can do at home
- 5 complex exercises that will give you a full-body workout
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Getting in efficient cardio workouts at home with no equipment can be a bit challenging due to lack of focus, boredom, the vicinity of the couch and tv, and the limitations that one encounters when trying to get the heart rate up in the space of a living room.
The good news is that cardiovascular exercise can be broken up into smaller increments to make for even more effective home cardio workouts that boost metabolism and burn extra calories. Case in point; 15 minutes of anything that gets the heart rate up four times a day for a total of an hour long workout actually burns more calories than doing a full hour in one fell swoop. It’s a great example of a time when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
How to do this routine
Do each of these exercises for 60 seconds. Here’s the important bit of info about this workout; it’s hard. You will likely need to stop before completing a the indicated time period of reps for some of these exercises. That’s just fine, but start right back into the exercise as soon as you possibly can in order to finish out the full 60 seconds.
Warm up: Jog in place for 2 minutes
1 Minute of Each:
Cool down and Stretch
Depending on your fitness level, you may want to break this home cardio workout into intervals smaller than one minute long. For example, it might be easier for someone relatively new to fitness to do repetitions for 30 seconds at a time and go through the entire routine twice, rather than trying to complete a full minute of the same exercise.
However you break down your time intervals, remember that it’s important to do the exercises to exhaustion, giving yourself a (very) quick rest before jumping right back into the exercise to complete the predetermined time period of reps. Do push yourself, but also listen to your body and be careful not to overdo it.
Do this at routine 2-4 times a day intermittently and you will notice an increase in your energy levels and likely start to notice your waistline shrinking. Combined with a healthy diet, something as simple as this short cardiovascular workout (done several times a day) is a near foolproof way to start dropping weight and getting into shape.
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