I was recently asked my opinion on the best at-home exercise equipment for cardio workouts.
Frankly, I have no great love for cardio machines in general. Unless you’re a hardcore “cardio” lover, I don’t think any single machine is worth purchasing – there are better things you can do with your time and money. (Admittedly, there is an element of personal taste here – I simply get bored using them!)
But you can do cardio at home. It’s a great option, you just don’t need special equipment! My favourite cardio workouts actually require zero equipment. That’s right, none. You see, your own body is a great tool for getting your heart rate up. It is the first and last cardio machine you’ll ever need, regardless of your fitness level. Even if you need to keep your workouts low-impact, your body is still one of the best tools around.
How Does Bodyweight Cardio Work?
A quick overview of aerobic exercise: Your muscles need oxygen to contract, relax, move you around, and otherwise function. So when you exercise in any way, you use more oxygen. Your lungs supply this, but it’s your cardiovascular system that actually transports oxygen molecules to your muscles. The more your muscles contact and move you around, the more oxygen they need. If you maintain movement for more than a few minutes, your body will respond by increasing your breath and heart rate. In other words, you’ll be doing cardio.
Since maintaining any movement for more than a few minutes will start to increase your heart rate, you’re not limited to the traditional “cardio” exercises. Of course, you can go running or go for a walk – those are great options that you can do from home. But if you don’t want to leave the house, there are other options, both high-impact and low-impact:
High Impact Bodyweight Exercises For Cardio
Any variation on jumps or hops will quickly get your heart rate up, giving you a cardio workout with no equipment needed. You’ll find many of these options in high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and they can definitely be hard. Some exercise options are:
- Bunny hops
- Long jumps
- Tuck jumps
- Jump squats
Low Impact Bodyweight Exercises For Cardio
Lots of bodyweight strength or resistance training exercises can increase your heart rate into the “cardio” zone. You can tailor them to your own abilities and fitness levels, and modify to keep them pain free to get a good workout with minimal stress. Some great options are:
- Prisoner squats to a bench or chair
- Pushups, or incline pushups on a table or countertop to make it a little easier
- Reverse lunges
- Stair steps or step ups
- Shadow boxing
Of course, any exercise can and will get your heart rate up and give you an aerobic workout, if you structure the workout well. If you want to combine the high- and low-impact options you can. I always recommend alternating exercises that are harder-easier-harder-easier, so that you can keep yourself moving as continuously as you can. And of course, this advice is general and you should always talk to your doctor if you are looking to start exercising for the first time. Lastly, if something hurts, skip it, try something else, and if needed, get yourself to a good physio or physical therapist!