Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor rush-hour lines at the gym should keep you from getting your cardio in for the day.
You can still get a great cardio workout at home — just put on your gym clothes and press “Play.” (Boom. Cardio = done.)
With some know-how, you can get a great cardio workout in your living room.
But before we get into the nitty-gritty of cardio workouts at home, it’s important to first determine what you want to achieve.
That starts with understanding the different types of cardio exercise out there and which one is best for you and your goals.
What Is Cardio?
Anything that places sustained stress on your cardiopulmonary system qualifies as cardio, explains exercise physiologist Fabio Comana, NASM-CPT, CES, and PES.
In practice, that basically means that if you’re doing something that elevates your heart rate for an extended period of time, you’re doing cardio.
Jogging is the classic example, but any sort of steady-state aerobic activity (e.g., cycling, rowing, swimming) qualifies.
So does intense, intermittent exercise that alternates between extreme exertion and active rest, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
And while you might feel your heartbeat faster after a tough set of deadlifts or hammer curls, traditional weightlifting doesn’t qualify as cardio, as your heart rate doesn’t remain elevated.
What Is the Best Cardio for Weight Loss?
Weight loss is the benefit most often associated with cardio, but there are plenty of other reasons to add it to your weekly routine.
“Regular cardiovascular exercise can also boost energy levels, increase endurance, strengthen your heart and lungs, reduce stress, and, if the intensity is high enough — think sprint, circuit, and interval training — even build muscle,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S. and Beachbody’s senior manager of fitness and nutrition content.
“But if your goal is fat loss, and you’re already in decent shape, high-intensity cardio is your best option,” he adds.
Benefits of High-Intensity Cardio
If you’ve ever done HIIT, you’ve felt the deep muscle burn.
And the reason you’re feeling that burn is because your body has shifted from slower, oxygen-based (aerobic) energy production to faster, oxygen-independent (anaerobic) energy production to meet your muscles’ increased demand for fuel.
In short, you’ve crossed the anaerobic threshold, and there’s a price to pay for that.
“Metabolic waste begins to accumulate faster than your body can clear it,” says Thieme. “As it does, your muscles start to burn, and you move ever more quickly towards exhaustion.”
Unlike slow to moderate steady-state cardio, high-intensity cardio isn’t sustainable.
But here’s why it’s still a better option for fat loss: Exercising above your anaerobic threshold sends your body into what’s called “oxygen debt.”
The greater that debt, the longer your metabolism stays elevated after you exercise in an effort to pay it back.
Known as the “afterburn effect” — or, more technically, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) — it can keep your metabolism humming at a higher level for more than 48 hours.
“So don’t be fooled by the ‘fat-burning zone‘ on cardio machines,” says Thieme. “You might burn more calories during a longer, steady-state cardio workout, but you’ll burn more calories overall with a shorter, high-intensity one.”
And the benefits don’t stop there. “Studies show that HIIT can produce many of the same training adaptations as longer, steady-state workouts — including an increase in aerobic capacity [the amount of oxygen your body can process during exercise] — in significantly less time,” says Thieme. “The only catch is that you have to be fit enough to exercise above your anaerobic threshold.”
In short, it’s not for beginners.
But once you build a strong aerobic foundation, high-intensity cardio can be a powerful tool for achieving most cardiovascular fitness and fat loss goals.
How to find your anaerobic threshold
There are a few ways to determine your anaerobic threshold and reap these benefits. If you have a heart rate monitor, it’s approximately 80 percent of your max heart rate.
If you don’t, you can use the Borg rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale, which goes from 6 (no effort, as in watching television) to 20 (max effort, sprinting full-tilt up a steep hill). “You’ll hit the anaerobic threshold at around 15 on that scale,” Thieme says.
Or simply try the talk test: “If you find it difficult to speak even in short sentences, you’re likely anaerobic,” Thieme says.
At-Home Cardio Programs on Beachbody On Demand
All of that scientific stuff aside, how do you get in a great cardio workout at home? “You don’t need a single piece of equipment,” Comana says. “Your body is a [cardio] machine.”
The more equipment (weights, resistance bands, etc.) you have at your disposal, the greater your exercise and workout possibilities are, of course.
But no matter how large (or small) your equipment arsenal is, or how fit you are, or whether you prefer dance-based workouts or HIIT, there’s a program for you and your goals on the list below.
Start streaming one of these workouts right now on Beachbody On Demand:
Andrea Rogers’ cardio-dance program includes 15 workouts that are the perfect combination of cardio and targeted sculpting:
Sweat workouts: Think low-impact HIIT, but with a unique twist.
These workouts alternate between cardio-dance intervals that are packed with fun and simple steps to get your heart rate up and keep you moving, and sculpting intervals that focus on slower, more controlled muscle-defining exercises.
These focus on your upper, lower, or total body with challenging moves that target specific muscle groups to help you strengthen from head to toe.
6 Weeks of THE WORK
Beachbody’s newest Super Trainer Amoila Cesar is famous for getting celebrities in crazy-good shape and training some of the world’s best in professional sports.
6 Weeks of THE WORK is relentless functional training — minute after minute of raw, uncensored, nonstop hustle.
The workouts are brutal so don’t be surprised if Amoila and the cast use explicit language while they sweat it out. If that’s not your style, there’s a clean version available.
Morning Meltdown 100
Morning Meltdown 100 is the newest workout program from Beachbody Super Trainer and CORE DE FORCE co-creator Jericho McMatthews.
Every morning, she leads you through a 20- to 30-minute workout that can help you rev up your metabolism, burn fat all day, and build your best body ever — all working toward helping you live your BEST LIFE.
There are 100 unique workouts in total, and yep, each one is designed to help you transform your body.
80 Day Obsession
Program length: 13 weeks
Super Trainer Autumn Calabrese will help you build a strong, lean body — including a firmer butt and more sculpted abs — with 80 different unique workouts.
You’ll do six workouts per week, each lasting between 27 and 60 minutes. The workout themes always remain the same (Booty, Total Body Core, AAA, Legs, Cardio Core, and Cardio Flow), but Autumn changes how you perform them each week, so you never do the same workout twice.
LIIFT4 with Super Trainer Joel Freeman is an efficient, no-nonsense workout that combines weightlifting and calorie-burning high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
The moves are based on classic lifting techniques that let you isolate, stabilize, and focus each rep on the muscle group you’re working.
Every workout ends with a quick core routine for a full-body build and burn that leaves you shredded.
There are no gimmicky moves, no overly complicated routines, and no opportunity for boredom because you’ll do all 32 workouts of the program in real-time with Joel and the cast, never doing the same workout twice.
Shaun T is back and his latest program will transform your body and your mind in just 20 minutes a day.
Transform :20 will scorch fat, help flatten your stomach, and get you stronger and leaner, 6 days a week for 6 weeks.
You’ll work everything — legs, upper body, glutes, and core. To get your mind right and keep you motivated, Shaun T is also creating weekly videos for your rest days to help you sharpen your focus, visualize your goals, and push you to finish strong.
CORE DE FORCE
Each workout cycles through three-minute rounds that alternate between fight combinations and lung-busting cardio moves to build strength, torch fat, boost endurance, and increase power in just 27 to 47 minutes a day.
If you can dedicate 25 minutes a day to exercise, you’ll get results from this fat-incinerating program that combines cardio and strength training.
During T25’s first half, or Alpha phase, Shaun T will guide you through various forms of interval training intended to help you build a foundation of strength, speed, power, and endurance, without equipment.
You’ll add weights to the equation in the second, or Beta, phase, which features harder exercises, more explosive (plyometric) movements, and more resistance training.
Chris Downing‘s athletic training program alternates between strength and cardio workouts that increase in length, intensity, and complexity each week to help you ramp up steadily to a new level of fitness.
Designed with athletes in mind, it’s also packed with drills that build agility, power, and coordination. Bonus? Chris added four additional workouts to take the “shift” to a whole new level.
You’ll still use his breakthrough “ramp-up” method of increasing your daily workout by 10 minutes every week, but this time we’ve added a Prep Week and new workouts designed to test your speed and strength as you get faster and stronger.
You’ll start Prep Week with 15-minute Quick Shift workouts that give you a taste of what’s ahead and two Proving Grounds workouts that score your starting performance.
22 Minute Hard Corps
This boot camp-inspired program uses minimal equipment and a military-style cadence to work your entire body with basic, uncomplicated moves that get results — fast.
All you need are dumbbells and a pull-up bar (or resistance bands with a door attachment) to get started. The program isn’t easy — and Super Trainer Tony Horton demands that you give everything you’ve got to every rep — but if you can commit to completing all eight weeks, you will emerge stronger, slimmer, and fitter.
The Shaun T program that helped popularize high-intensity interval training (HIIT) will test the limits of your endurance (and accelerate the pace of your transformation) with brutal, bodyweight-only cardio workouts that will leave your legs shaking, lungs heaving, and body drenched in sweat.
This program isn’t for the faint of heart. But those who complete every 40- to 60-minute workout during the two-month program will emerge with the heart and body of an athlete.
21 Day Fix
Do a different workout each day of the week with Autumn Calabrese’s wildly popular fitness program, which combines cardio and strength training to achieve dramatic results in just three weeks.
It’s also a good introduction to interval workouts, and each week is capped off by a yoga session to optimize recovery. Some workouts require dumbbells. Others only require your body weight.
But every single one will challenge your strength, endurance, and grit. Do multiple rounds of the program to build the body you’ve always dreamed of having.
Get ready to have the most fun you’ve ever had sweating like crazy with this dance-based cardio program. Shaun T breaks down each move step by step, gradually building on them to create a full routine.
Once you have them all mastered, it’s time to do the full dance to a popular song.
21 Day Fix Extreme
For those who’ve graduated from 21 Day Fix with honors, or already have a solid fitness base, this more challenging version of Autumn Calabrese’s breakout program promises even more dramatic results.
You’ll use some form of resistance (weights, resistance bands, etc.) in nearly all of the workouts, which range from high-intensity cardio to strength training to build explosive power and create a leaner, more defined physique.
INSANITY MAX: 30
Another grueling program from Shaun T, this series of intense cardio and Tabata-style strength workouts pushes you to work as hard as you can for as long as you can — and then just a little longer each day — until you can go the full 30 minutes.
Two things you can dispense with for this program: equipment and ego. This is body weight only. And it’s hard as hell.