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Woman exercising on yoga mat

When you think cardio, particularly if you’re just starting to get active, it’s natural to focus on four main activities: jogging, swimming, cycling, and walking. All four are great options, but they aren’t always convenient, especially if it’s hot, cold or raining outside.

Here’s the thing about cardio, though: anything that gets your heart rate up and the cardio respiratory system pumping will deliver the main benefits, and you can do that with any activity that gets the large muscles in your arms, legs, and hips moving.

For those of you looking for a way to start a regular cardio routine without lacing up the running shoes, we’ve picked out four exercises – all suitable for beginners – which can be done in the privacy, and shady comfort, of your home. Just work through these four exercises in sequence, taking a short break between each set, and build up to the recommended number of repetitions over time.

Once you’ve mastered the basics listed here, you can work your way through the set a second time – and if you find yourself digging the no-running approach, try our full no running cardio workout.

Before you start a new physical activity routine, check in with your GP and other health professionals about what’s right for you, especially if you’ve been inactive for a while, have heart disease, a close relative with heart disease, any other major health conditions, injuries or are pregnant. If it’s been awhile since you exercised, you can also read our 10 things to know if you’re planning to start exercising guide to help you get started.

Advanced jumping jacks

Aim for: 20-30 repetition per set

You’re probably familiar with the good old jumping jack from PE classes at school, or warm-up sessions before playing sport. That makes it easy to underestimate its benefits as an exercise on its own – a jumping jack hits all those big muscle groups we mentioned earlier, which makes them surprisingly effective at burning kilojoules.

Step-by-step instructions (or see a video):

  1. Stand with your feet together, knees slightly bent, and arms at your sides.
  2. Jump while raising your arms and separating legs to the sides.
  3. Land on your forefoot with legs apart and arms overhead.


Man stretching arms in front of window

Lateral hops

Aim for: 20-30 repetitions per set

Lateral hops look simple – they are, after all, just jumping from side to side. But if you do them right, you’ll be working a bunch of big muscles in your legs, your butt, and your torso that add up to some simple and effective cardio.

Step-by-step instructions (or see a video):

  1. Keeping your legs together, jump from side to side, jumping over an imaginary obstacle.
  2. Land with soft knees.
  3. Try to remain on the balls of your feet.


Squat reach and jump

Aim for: 10-15 repetitions per set

If you think you’re noticing a theme here, you’re not wrong. Jumping is great cardio activity, which is why there is so much skipping in the training montages of 80s sports films. The squat reach and jump sets aside the skipping rope and focuses on the core of the activity, adding in the squat to give a workout to the muscles above and below the knee.

Step-by-step instructions (or see a video):

  1. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and perform a squat by bending at the knees to lower yourself downwards.
  2. Make sure your knees don’t pass over your toes.
  3. From the squat position, straighten and jump upwards, reaching both arms forward.


Woman exercising on yoga mat


Aim for: 10-15 repetitions per set

The superman stretch will contribute to your cardio, plus it also has the added benefit of improving your overall strength and increasing muscle definition. Getting some cardio into your routine is important, but gradually building up your strength and balance are also important long-term goals if you’re aiming for a healthier lifestyle.

Step-by-step instructions (or see a video):

  1. Start on your hands and knees, with your back straight and core muscles tight.
  2. Keeping your hips low, simultaneously raise your right arm and left
    leg straightening at your elbow and knee.
  3. Pause then lower to the starting position before alternating

Want to take a few more steps towards a healthier lifestyle and add more movement into your day? Check out our fitness guides, or try some of our other great home workouts.