Fitness & Exercise

14 cardio exercises you can do anywhere

Mix and match these moves to create your next great cardio workout. Try them at home, outside, or at the gym!

Want to switch up your cardio routine, or build a new workout from scratch? Whatever your level of fitness and ability is, we’ve got you covered with more than a dozen heart-pumping moves to sample.

The exercises here are divided into low- and high-impact options. “Impact” refers to how much force an exercise requires your body to produce and absorb, and there are different benefits (more on those in a sec) of each type of move.

Try incorporating a couple of these options into your current routine, or use a handful of the exercises to create your own do-anywhere workout. Here’s how: Do each move of your choice for a minute, take a minute to catch your breath, and repeat the series once or twice more.

OK, ready to sweat? Read on for 14 surefire ways to do it.

7 low-impact cardio exercises

Low-impact activities are relatively easy on joints, which makes them ideal for beginners and people recovering from an injury. (Always get your doctor’s approval before starting any new exercise program.) Want to crank up the intensity? “Exercise for a longer time, increase the load or incline, or pick up the pace,” says Noam Tamir, a certified strength and conditioning coach and the owner of TS Fitness in New York City.

Swimming, cycling, walking, and using an upper-body ergometer are all examples of low-impact cardio exercises. Here, 7 more:

1. Step-up

Stepping onto a raised surface strengthens the muscles of your glutes and legs.

How to do it:

  • Stand facing a step, platform, or thick book.
  • Place right foot on the step, and then step left foot up beside it.
  • Reverse the motion, stepping back down with right foot, followed by left foot.
  • Repeat, alternating the starting foot each time.

2. Marching

Like step-ups, marching challenges the glutes and legs.

How to do it:

  • Sit or stand with feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides, elbows bent and hands in fists.
  • Lift right knee in front of you as you bring left arm forward and push right elbow back.
  • Switch sides: Returning right foot to the floor as you lift left knee in front of you, bringing right arm forward and pushing left elbow back.
  • Continue, alternating sides.

3. Side step

Your thighs power this move. The deeper your squat, the harder they have to work.

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees as if you’re sitting back in a chair; place hands on hips.
  • Keeping knees bent, take a step to the right with right foot; then immediately step left foot to the right, beside right foot.
  • Next, step to the left with left foot, and then immediately step to the left with right foot.
  • Continue, alternating direction and staying in a squat position.

4. Mountain climber

This is a total-body exercise that challenges every muscle from your shoulders to your ankles.

How to do it:

  • Get in a crawling position on the floor with arms extended, hands aligned under wrists. Extend legs straight back behind you, balls of feet on the floor, so you’re in plank position (the top position of a push-up.) Your body should form a line from the back of your head to your heels.
  • Bend right knee and bring it toward your chest.
  • Extend right leg back to the starting position; and bend left knee, bringing it toward your chest.
  • Extend left leg to starting position and repeat, alternating legs.

5. Heel tap

This alternating leg move strengthens your lower body.

How to do it:

  • Stand or sit with feet hip-width apart and hands on hips.
  • Extend right leg in front of you, tapping right heel on the floor. Return right foot to starting position and repeat with left foot.
  • Continue, alternating feet each time.

6. Speed bag

Going a few rounds with an imaginary speed bag strengthens your shoulders, back, and arms.

How to do it:

  • Stand or sit with feet hip-width apart.
  • Bend elbows, make fists with hands, and raise arms high in front of you. Hold fists at eye height in front of you, left above right and palms facing the floor.
  • Keep upper arms still as you move fists in a forward circular motion around each other, gradually picking up the pace.

7. Front kick

This kickboxing move challenges your balance, while strengthening your core and legs.

How to do it:

  • Stand or sit with feet hip-width apart and hands on hips.
  • Shift weight to left foot, and in one motion, raise right knee to hip height in front of you and extend right leg straight out.
  • Return to starting position and repeat on opposite side.
  • Continue, alternating legs each time.

7 high-impact cardio exercises

Running and jumping rope are both examples of high-impact cardio activities—exercise that requires your joints to absorb a strong force (usually from your feet hitting the floor). These types of moves generally burn more calories than low-impact exercises. “It takes a lot of energy to produce and absorb force,” Tamir explains.

High-impact exercises might not be safe if you’re just starting to work out or recovering from an injury. But if you’ve gotten the all-clear from your doctor, these types of moves can be an efficient way to burn calories while increasing your endurance. One safety note: If you can’t maintain good form, move more slowly or take a break.

1. High knees

This exercise is a more intense version of jogging in place. Driving your arms forward and back will help power you.

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart; arms at your sides, elbows bent and hands in fists.
  • Shift weight to left foot as you jump, lifting right knee high in front of you as you bring left arm forward and push right elbow back.
  • Immediately switch sides, lifting left knee high in front of you as you bring right arm forward and push left elbow back.
  • Continue, alternating legs and moving at a running pace.

2. Jumping lunge

This lower-body cardio exercise strengthens your glutes and thighs while challenging your coordination.

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet a stride’s length apart, right in front of left. Bend knees until right thigh is parallel to the floor (this is a lunge).
  • Jump up as you switch leg position, landing in a lunge with left foot in front of right. Immediately jump again and repeat.
  • Continue at a quick pace, alternating legs each time.

3. Butt kicker

This move can be done in place, or while moving up and down the length of a room or field.

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, elbows bent at your sides.
  • Shift weight to left foot as you bend right knee, bringing right heel toward your butt. Jump as you switch legs, placing right foot on the floor as you bring left heel toward your butt.
  • Continue at a quick pace, alternating sides each time.

4. Side skater

This exercise is particularly effective for strengthening the muscles of the glutes and outer thighs.

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, elbows bent at your sides.
  • Bend knees and push off left foot as you jump to the right with right leg; landing with knees bent, right foot on the floor and left foot raised behind it.
  • Immediately jump to the left, landing with left foot on the floor and right foot raised behind it.
  • Continue at a quick pace, moving from side to side.

5. Jumping jack

Not only do your legs get a workout from this PE-class favorite—your shoulders and arms get in on the strengthening too.

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet together and arms at your sides.
  • Bend knees and jump as you extend legs wider than shoulders and raise arms overhead.
  • Bend knees and jump again, to return to the starting position. Repeat.

6. Burpee

Lying down and then propelling yourself back up uses multiple muscles, which increases the heart rate for a maximum calorie burn.

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulders.
  • Squat and place hands on the floor in front of you; jump as you extend legs straight back.
  • Bend elbows, lowering chest toward floor, then extend arms to push up.
  • Jump feet forward, just outside your hands; and then jump straight up, extending arms overhead.
  • Immediately repeat the entire sequence.

7. Jump squat

Like a regular squat, this version strengthens the muscles of the glutes and thighs—but thanks to the jump, it gets the calves in on the action too.

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulders.
  • Bend knees and push hips back as you reach your arms behind you; then jump straight up as you extend arms overhead.
  • Immediately repeat.

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Amy Schlinger is a National Academy of Sports Medicine–certified personal trainer. She has more than a decade of experience writing about health, fitness, and nutrition.

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This article was reviewed for accuracy in July 2021 by Tiffany Bullard, PhD, manager for clinical research at WW. The WW Science Team is a dedicated group of experts who ensure all our solutions are rooted in the best possible research.

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