Top 10 Cardio Exercises and Tips on How to Get Peak Results

Fit people continue to work out regularly even after they’ve lost weight and gotten down to a size and weight they’re happy with.  Many continue to do daily cardio routines because they can boost mood and energy and generally make them feel better about themselves and life.  They help to maintain the muscle you’ve already built and burn calories so the body maintains a higher metabolism. Cardiovascular workouts are designed to keep the circulatory system and heart healthy.
There is a huge choice of cardio activities you can do, and if you want to lose weight or just stay healthy choose the ones you enjoy so you’ll stick at it.

If you don’t want to join a gym or fill your house with exercise machines there are a few things on the list that will cost you little or nothing to do.

Jumping Rope
When you see boxers working out, very often it’s with a simple jump rope.  As a kid jumping rope was all we did on the playground. If like me you haven’t jumped rope for a couple of decades it won’t take long to notice, it’s hard work!  What used to come as second nature now required quite an effort but its awesome exercise. I’m around 140 pounds and if I jumped rope for 30 minutes I’d burn over 300 calories.

You can take a rope just about anywhere, on vacation, business trips or to the park. If you get bored just vary your routine. Do ‘the scissors’ while you jump or what I used to love to do as a kid “bumpers” – raise your knees, jump high and pass the rope under your feet twice before you land.  You can alternate jumping with one leg or the other or run while you’re jumping.

Running is another great cardio activity for which you don’t need to buy equipment. You’ll need to have reasonably healthy knees, feet and ankles and a pair of decent running shoes.

Running safely depends on where you live. If there’s lots of traffic or its dark never run alone.  It’s great to run with an iPod but also dangerous. Running with a buddy can be a safe alternative.

It’s a high impact cardio exercise so it helps you build bone strength, strong leg muscles and connective tissue. You can burn nearly as many calories as you will jumping rope for 30 minutes and it will get your heart thumping.

Running isn’t for everybody, especially those with bad knees, feet or ankles. For those who are not up to running for 30 minutes, it can be incorporated into an interval training program. Alternate walking briskly for a few minutes and then running.  If you have hills around you it will be a much better workout.

If you do have problems with your lower joints, the alternative might be to purchase a treadmill.  Good quality treadmills have cushioned surfaces designed to reduce impact on lower joints. They also have speed and incline adjustments and many include a heart monitor. They’ll tell you how long you’ve been running, how far you’ve gone and how many calories you’ve burned.

Inside on a recumbent exercise bike or zipping over puddles on a mountain bike, cycling is fun and healthy and will give you a great cardio workout. It’s a great way of getting the whole family together and staying fit.

Like treadmills a good exercise bike can be adjusted so resistance can be increased to give you a better workout.  Just as if you were going uphill on a normal bike.  You have the choice between an incumbent or upright exercise bike.  Don’t think the incumbent bikes look uncomfortable – they actually give your back better support.  Most modern bikes don’t look anything like their older predecessors. They come with a computer containing pre-programmed workouts to keep you working hard an interested. Half an hour on an exercise bike, at a moderate speed and resistance burns roughly as many calories as running or jumping rope.

Elliptical Machines
Ellipticals have greatly increased in popularity over recent years. They are designed to allow your body to move naturally and if you have problems with lower joints and can’t run or use a treadmill; an elliptical is your best alternative.  There is very little impact to lower joints.

You can increase resistance just like an exercise bike and many have a choice of built in programs you can follow.  Most come with a heart monitor that allows you to see that you’re staying within your target heart zone and how many calories you’ve burned.

Swimming is probably my most favorite way of keeping fit and children love being in the pool too. On hot days you can exercise and keep cool and get a whole body workout, whatever kind of stroke you use to get around.  If it’s raining – who cares?

Alternate butterfly with crawl and then breast stroke and you’ll be using a whole range of muscles.  The elderly will benefit from swimming as there is no impact to the joints, as can those with any joint injuries. It stimulates the circulatory system and is great for the heart and what’s more – it’s fun.

Step Aerobics
If you enjoy working out to music, try step aerobics. You can do it at home and have a really good workout and burn lots of calories. It offers a great way to tone up your legs, posterior and hips.  If you like dancing, try starting with a few classes and you’ll soon get the hang of it.  Heck you may have so much fun you keep going back to the classes!

Cross Country Skiing
If you live in a region where you get a good amount of snowfall every year, you probably know what great exercise cross country skiing is.  You’re encountering different levels and gradients in the terrain and you’re using your core muscle to stay balanced.  All your other muscles are used to keep moving. It only takes a few minutes to get your heart pumping and your lungs filled with that cool, fresh air.

To reproduce that at home you’ll need a cross-training machine such as an Arc trainer or anything that has a way to keep your arms moving with some resistance. It’s not quite as much fun but it’s still a great workout.

Rowing can look deceptively easy, especially watching a trained team shooting a skull down a river.  In fact it’s highly demanding physically and rowing uses most major muscle groups.

There are some excellent rowing machines available today that can be used at home. They use water resistance to give the feel and the sound of rowing and some use mechanical resistance so you can adjust your workout to your needs.  Some of the home rowing machines fold up for storage.

If you are starting on a cardio regime you may find rowing a little hard for starters.

We all walk every day, some more than others.  Take every opportunity to walk. Park your car at the far end of the parking lot and walk to the store. Walking is low impact and your heart won’t get such a good workout as if you were running, but if you have hills around you, that can increase resistance and get your heart pumping a little more.

Walking is great for older folks and moms with small children. Remember to maintain correct posture and walk quickly and with purpose, swinging or pumping your arms as you go.

Boxing and KickBoxing
Either of these workouts can burn calories, improve co-ordination and work all the major muscle groups. With kickboxing you get to work your legs as well.

Boxing was once strictly a male sport but is becoming more popular with women.  Punchbags can help to build strong shoulders and arms and you’ll always be moving on your feet, so the heart will be working hard and your core muscles will be constantly be working to keep you balanced.

I meet people every day who are “thinking about” exercising or losing weight. If you work out regularly you probably know how much you enjoy working out.  It doesn’t take long to turn exercising into something you look forward to doing. Encourage others to join in the fun so we can a healthier, leaner America.



  1. Ruth Martin says:

    Walking and running are my favorite cardio exercises. I love to do it outdoors, though in winter it can get tough to get out when it is cold. So I also have a small rebounder/trampoline in my house. I can jog/jump and exercise on there. Jumping rope does not work well for me – I have trouble with it hurting my ankles from the impact.

  2. hi,

    Impressive list, thank you. I would like to do some cardio @home .. not outside with not very costly equipment ..

    What do you suggest? From your list, rope jumping is one option. What are the others??

  3. Stacy Peterson says:

    I am a big runner, but I realize that cardio is not the only answer to be in shape. You need to do weight lifting of some type or your body will be out of balance. It makes a huge difference when you implement both workouts.

  4. Personally, I can’t stand cardio but you have laid it out in such a way that almost makes it seem enjoyable. Yay cardio! I think it will be back in my life now.

  5. Cycling definitely tops my list for cardio exercises. It’s low impact, gets your heart rate up, and it’s free to do! This is a great list and all of these are low impact exercises when it comes to your knees!

  6. Alistair Mant says:

    I think walking and swimming is best for people with busy lives. I walk to work, which is pretty close and is practically my exercise for the day and I swim on the weekends to help with my asthma.

  7. I tried running for the first time in nearly 10 years and I learned so disappointingly that I’m no longer in shape to even run a block. I think I can rule out any intense exercise for the moment, but maybe I can give cycling and swimming a try since those are the two things I’ve done when I was younger. Maybe I’ll start running or even boxing when I lose about 50 pounds.

  8. Jumping rope was much fun when I was a kid that I didn’t realize how much it helped me workout. Now that I try it as an adult I realize just how much energy it takes just to do it.

  9. I was very impressed when I ran into this site called body rock. It is about a workout revolution that is happening with home based fitness workout routines. And the most exciting thing about these workouts is that they are short and intense. Some of the longest routines last only 12 minutes. It is great news for busy people. No more excuses about not having time for the gym.

  10. These are great exercise tips, but I will go further by saying that today, there are a myriad of fitness routines, many of which are both effective and brief – some last 30 minutes and some can even get results in just 15 minutes. I also agree if you’re going to put in the sweat equity, you should also invest a little bit of money in a fat burning supplement. I’m buying Green Coffee Bean extract.

  11. I find that diversity is a major help in keeping your body balanced so that too much stress is not put on any one muscle group. For instance, I do Yoga, which works the entire body; I also run which is a leg workout, but I also do Kempo Karate which spreads the stress to all muscle groups. I also ride the cycle, but if that was all I did, my legs would be gone.

  12. I haven’t jumped rope in so long I don’t even remember how to do it. According to this article though if I can figure it out again then I would just have to jump for around 30 min. to burn 300 calories? Or is that determined by how much you weigh already? Can you post the calculations for that so I can figure out if it would be worth it or not?

  13. Christopher says:

    Cardio is my worst exercise subject because I hate it. I don’t like getting winded and I can’t jump for long period of time without my bladder leaking so cardio is not a lot of fun for me. I am going to try kick boxing thought because that sounds like a lot of fun. You can do all kinds of things if you learn proper technique etc. and you can use it as self protection.

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