The home cardio workout for weight loss is pretty simple, you can do it anywhere at any time. It doesn’t require any fancy equipment or even special clothing, and I’ll show you how to set up your home in a way that makes it very easy to do this. Don’t worry it’s not messy or anything, I’ll give you tips on how to set this up in the opportune area of your home while still maintaining a sense of style and decorum. Of course, once I’ve shown you how to setup this home cardio workout, I’ll tell you exactly what exercises you need to do with slow and fast methods so that you get the most out of this.
What does the term cardio actually mean?
‘”Cardio” is short for cardiovascular exercise and simply means any type of exercise that increases your heart rate and maintains it,’ explains Yumi Nutrition’s strength and conditioning coach Kate Whapples. ‘It’s also sometimes known as aerobic exercise as it relies on your body’s ability to utilise oxygen to maintain efforts for a significant amount of time.’
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of cardio for weight loss, we’d also like to add that there are a myriad of cardio benefits, including regulation of appetite, heart health and protecting your immune system, so keep those front and centre when planning your exercise.
Don’t forget: Standing on the scales is just a snapshot of your body in that moment – what’s more important is your overall health and how you feel throughout the day/week/month.
How does cardio contribute to weight and fat loss?
Losing weight comes down to being in a calorie deficit – this means expending more calories than you consume. Being in a calorie deficit can be done by adjusting your diet or your exercise, but the best approach tends to combine the two. (This handy calorie counter will help you calculate how many calories you need to eat to reach a healthy weight.)
But how can cardio help you stay in a calorie deficit? Whapples explains:
‘People lose weight when their energy input is less than their energy output. If someone is consuming the recommended amount of calories but burning more calories than that by doing cardio workouts, their output would be larger than their intake, resulting in weight loss.’
Word to the wise: If you’re already at a healthy weight for your height, a calorie deficit is not something you should be chasing. Similarly, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, taking prescription medication, have an adrenal-related medical condition or a teenager or child you should absolutely not try to maintain a calorie deficit.
Learning how to lose body fat, however, is a slightly different kettle of fish. When people talk about weight loss they’re often referring to the number on the scale going down – fat loss is more specific, explicitly referring to lowering your body fat percentage and not losing mass from muscle tissue or water retention. If you’re trying to lose fat, adding in regular resistance training to your workout routine, alongside your cardio, will be important – more on this later.
Cardio alone works in favour of fat loss as it increases your heart rate and, once your HR is high enough (and you’ve used all the usual blood sugars and carbs up), your body is forced to convert fat into energy.
Best cardio exercises to do at home
The following are calorie-burning exercises that a person can do at home with minimal equipment.
These exercises can form a cardiovascular exercise program.
For example, a person could do each exercise for 45 seconds to 1 minute, rest for 30 seconds, and move on to the next set.
As their fitness levels increase, people may wish to perform these exercises in circuits.
To perform circuits, a person completes 30–60 second rounds of each chosen exercise in succession before resting for 30–60 seconds. They then perform the entire course again, as many times as they prefer.
Beginner exercises do not require previous experience of physical activity or special training to perform. A person can usually increase the intensity as they advance in their cardiovascular ability.
Marching in place
Marching in place can elevate the heart rate, making this exercise a suitable choice for a warm-up or single cardio activity.
To increase the intensity, a person can increase the speed they march or raise the knees higher.
Single leg stand
This exercise works the abdominal muscles.
- Start with the feet together or no more than 3 inches (in) apart.
- Bend the knees slightly and lift one leg 3–6 in off the floor.
- Hold this position for 10–15 seconds and return the foot to the floor.
- Repeat for the opposite leg.
To increase difficulty, a person can lift their leg higher off the floor or jump from one leg to the other more quickly.
Jogging in place
Jogging in place is a simple and effective exercise to increase heart rate. This is also a suitable beginner warm-up activity.
To perform, bounce lightly from one foot to the other. At the same same, swing the arms from side to side.
Air jump rope
The air jump rope requires a person to “swing” an imaginary jump rope in the air. The exercise provides an alternative to jogging in place and is suitable as part of a warm-up routine.
To perform, stand with the feet together and jump up and down while swinging the arms in a circular direction.
Can cardio burn belly fat?
If you’re trying to shift stubborn fat (including trying to get rid of back fat or, case in point, to lose belly fat), a routine that combines cardio for calorie burn and resistance training to preserve lean muscle tissue will serve you better than a cardio-only programme.
You might also need to get more granular with your nutrition as losing body fat can be manipulated by tinkering with where you’re getting your energy from. Focusing on getting enough protein or learning how to calculate the best macros for fat loss for you is a good place to start.
Best cardio for weight loss workouts
As we said, cardio exercises to lose weight should be complemented by strength training and proper recovery (the three S’: sleep, stress management and stretching) if you want to lose weight well. The following types of cardio are great to underpin your workout schedule but make sure to mix it up too.
Make like Jessica Alba’s Honey Daniels (#throwback) and step and slide your way through cardio for weight loss. You’ll learn some new skills and get lost in the routine which can really help make the workout go by that bit quicker.
- Why you should try it: New skills; improved dance technique; meet new people.
Circuit training is one of the most effective ways to improve your cardio and build muscle at the same time, while building muscle contributes to fat loss, so this one’s a triple win. Circuit workouts can be done with or without home gym equipment and in the gym or at home.
- Why you should try it: Scalable; easy to do at home or in the gym; builds stamina and strength.
Skipping workouts are up there with the best (and most inclusive) forms of cardio for weight and fat loss as they can be made harder or easier depending on the way you choose to skip. Slow and steady will keep your heart rate consistently raised or you could try an interval-style workout where you intersperse quick skipping with rest periods to get your breath back.
- Why you should try it: Skipping ropes are cheap and easy to travel with; burns a high number of calories in a short amount of time.
Have a hankering to get outside? Well, if you live near some green and grassy areas, hiking might be just the thing for you. You’ll clear your mind and get your heart rate up too – exactly the kind of cardio-combo we love at WH.
- Why you should try it: Visit new areas; time outside.
A machine that most gyms seem to have hundreds of, the elliptical (sometimes called the cross-trainer) is a low-impact form of cardio for weight loss. Whether you choose to add or remove resistance or make it a slow and steady or fast and furious workout, there’s nothing quite like plugging into a podcast and getting it done on a machine.
- Why you should try it: Available at most gyms; low-impact; can be made harder or easier depending on ability.
No fear, you don’t need to be on a body of water to reap the rewards of a rowing workout. Hop on any rowing machine as a solid form of cardio for weight (and fat loss), and you’ll build strength through your arms, shoulders and back, as well as your lower body, thighs and glutes, too.
- Why you should try it: Full-body workout; builds upper and lower body strength; easy to get into a rhythm.
Workout For Beginners
At some point, everyone is a beginner at any given talent or skill. When it comes to exercise, it is no different. For beginners, though some people may have a fuzzy memory of playing sports as a child, getting into (or back into) working out may seem overwhelming.
No matter which category you identify with most, starting into a physical fitness program and feeling like a beginner can seem like a scary and daunting task. With that in mind, we made this video specifically for those who have no formal training or experience following an exercise routine as a way to ease into working out. We have chosen exercises that can be modified to be easy, but can also be modified to be difficult so even if you are starting with very little strength, this routine can work for you and if you are starting from having some strength but just a bit out of shape then this routine can also fit your needs as well.
For example, if you know you are particularly weak in your legs then you can limit the distance you move with each exercise motion to make that particular exercise easier to complete. Where if you know you have strong legs then you can attempt a more full range of motion as long as you can comfortably control your body through that full range. Everyone is different so everyone will need to start at a different level of difficulty and the only way you can decide what is right for you is by trying it and listening to your body.
In this video we go through two set of 10 repetitions, meaning we will do 10 motions of each exercise, pause for a small rest then complete another 10. Now, though that is what we use in the video you do have to or need to start there. In fact it would be better to start with just a few repetitions (4-6) and only do one set until you know how your body will react to the entire routine. If you are not sore or in discomfort the next day then by all means add more repetitions or sets until you do start to feel a small amount of soreness the next day. Once you hit that point try to focus on improving your form by completing a more full range of motion every time you do this video again. And once you can do this exercise with perfect form and full range, then you can add additional weight to make each exercise harder.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give to beginners is this; no matter how quickly you want to see results take your time and progress slowly. If you start well below what you think you are capable of and slowly increase it will not only improve your chances of sticking with an physical fitness routine but it will also drastically reduce your chances for injury and overtaxing yourself and giving up.
Low Impact for Beginners
(1 Set of 20 Seconds for each motion)
Total Body Strength and Toning
(2 Sets of 10 repetitions for each movement)
- Alternating Lunge
- Push Up
- Bent over Arm Circles
- Ice Skaters
- Lateral Arm Raises
Core (Abs, Obliques, Lower Back)
(2 sets of 10 repetitions for each movement)
- Side Hip Raise (Left)
- Side Hip Raise (Right)
- Pilates Swimmers
(1 set of ~20 seconds each stretch)
Tips on getting the most out of cardio
A person who wants to get the most benefit out of cardio exercise can try the following:
- making sure they warm up before and cool down after every workout session
- giving their body time to recover between workouts
- eating a healthful, balanced diet
- creating a weekly exercise routine
- setting realistic goals
- starting slowly, and gradually building up strength and stamina
There are many cardio exercises available for a person who would like to reach or maintain a moderate weight or become healthier.
A person should be aware of their limits and make sure not to push themselves too far. If a person has any concerns with regard to their exercise routine, they should speak with a doctor.
It is important to note that being healthy and reaching or maintaining a moderate weight requires a combination of a balanced diet and exercise.