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21 cardio workouts to maximize your results (& fit into your daily routine easily)

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Summary: Run? Bike? HIIT? Deciphering which cardio workouts work best is daunting. Explore this curated list with expert advice from fitness mentor Ronan Diego.

One foot in front of the other. Keep up the pace. Heart’s banging. Sweat’s dripping. Breath panting. It’s been five minutes…only?  

Cardio workouts can be a real pain in the “you know what.” But they’re also the key to a stronger, healthier version of yourself.

So what can you do to embrace workouts that are essentially two-in-one—bring real results and enjoyment—into your fitness routine? That’s what this no-nonsense guide is for—to help welcome you into the world of cardio.

What are the best cardio workouts?

Granted, there are plenty of exercises claiming to be “the best.” The reality is, the best cardio workouts are those that make you forget you’re working out. For some, it’s a 5KM run. For others, it’s spin class. And others love something with a little bit more intensity, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

They help burn those calories, blending in fun, sweat, and a bit of the “I can do this all day” attitude. What’s more, one study shows that exercise improves heart function, boosts mitochondrial function, and even influences the release of myokines, which help the heart work better.

If you keep your heart rate up for more or less 15 minutes, that will give your brain a signal to adapt your heart’s capability,” explains Ronan Diego, the head of Mindvalley’s Health and Fitness and trainer of the 10x Fitness Quest. And as you increase your conditioning, your heart “will be able to provide your body with oxygen for a higher level of activity.”

So, no matter which activity you choose, the goal is to keep moving, keep smiling, and maybe, just maybe, keep panting just enough to say, “More, please!

7 best cardio workouts to lose weight

Losing weight is one of the top fitness goals, according to a 2024 Forbes Health/One Poll survey. And one way to do so is to integrate cardio workouts into your regime. 

Here are six heart-pumping exercises that can help you torch calories, enhance your cardiovascular health, and keep your fitness journey exciting.

1. Walking

Walking is a gentle yet effective workout, accessible to almost everyone. It’s an activity that you can enjoy alone or in a group.

It boosts your cardiovascular health, aids in weight loss, and reduces stress, all with a lower risk of injury. To up the intensity, you can incorporate varied terrain or hills. 

How to do it: 

  1. Start with brisk walks.
  2. Aim for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. 
Walking, one of the best cardio workouts to lose weight

2. Running (or jogging, whichever you prefer)

Running is a simple yet powerful aerobic exercise. It boosts your cardiovascular health, tones your muscles, and burns calories on the go. Moreover, it’s a stress buster and unlocks that blissful “runner’s high.

The great thing about it is, you can do it almost anywhere—on a track, through a park, on the city streets, or even on a treadmill. All you need is a pair of good shoes.

How to do it: 

  1. Start with a warm-up walk.
  2. Jog or run at a comfortable pace.
  3. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes, gradually increasing intensity and duration over time.
Running

3. Cycling

This one requires equipment, whether stationary or outdoor. But it is an excellent option for weight loss. 

It’s a low-impact way to burn calories, improve leg strength, and boost endurance. It also reduces stress and anxiety levels.

The plus side is, you can choose to go for solo rides for tranquility, group rides for social interaction, or indoor sessions (think spin classes) to push your limits.

How to do it: 

  1. Begin with a moderate pace for 5–10 minutes.
  2. Alternate between high and low intensity.
Cycling

4. Swimming

Swimming increases endurance, muscle strength, and cardiovascular fitness. Additionally, it’s a great way to relieve stress and boost your mood.

The thing about this full-body workout is that it’s easy on the joints, making it an effective workout even for endomorphs

How to do it: 

  1. Start with laps at a comfortable pace.
  2. Mix in different strokes to engage various muscle groups.
Swimming, one of the top cardio workouts to lose weight

5. Jump rope

Snake, Double Dutch, Boxer Step, Criss-Cross… There are so many ways you can use this exercise to pump your heart. 

The high intensity helps improve your cardiovascular health as well as strength, particularly in the legs, arms, and core. Keep in mind, though, that it does take some coordination and agility, but once you get to the swing of things, you’ll definitely feel the burn. 

How to do it: 

  1. Begin with short sessions of 30 seconds of jumping.
  2. Follow up with 30 seconds of rest.
  3. Gradually increase the duration as you get more comfortable.
Jump roping

6. High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

HIIT cardio workouts are a powerhouse for burning fat, but not in the way that running, swimming, and cycling do. This anaerobic exercise is high-intensity, short-duration, and relies on energy sources stored in the muscles rather than oxygen for fuel.

It builds lean muscle mass, improves bone density, and enhances speed and power. What’s more, it boosts your metabolism, helping you burn more calories during and after the workout. 

How to do it: 

  1. Sprint for 30 seconds.
  2. Walk or jog for one minute.
  3. Repeat for 15 to 20 minutes.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

7. Circuit training

But if all the above isn’t what you fancy, Ronan’s got something for you from the 10x Fitness Quest: it’s called circuit training.

When we say circuit training, what it means is that we’re going to have a succession of exercises divided by parts of the body,” he explains. This’ll keep your heart rate up long enough to turn up the heat on fat-burning while keeping your muscles strong and ready. 

How to do it: 

  1. Create a circuit of five to six exercises (like squats, push-ups, lunges, and planks).
  2. Perform each for 30 seconds to a minute
  3. Move quickly to the next.
  4. Repeat the circuit up to three times.
Circuit training

7 Cardio Workouts to Try at Home

Going out and doing some form of fitness training takes effort. If you often find yourself with a tight schedule, consider trying out these cardio exercises that you can do in the comfort of your own home.

8. Burpees

Burpees make for a great full-body workout. It combines a squat, push-up, and jump into one quick, powerful movement that makes your heart beat fast, helping you burn calories and get stronger. 

How to do it: 

  1. Start standing.
  2. Drop into a squat and put your hands down.
  3. Jump your feet back into a push-up position and do a push-up.
  4. Jump your feet back to your hands.
  5. Leap into the air with your arms up.
  6. Repeat.
Burpees

9. Mountain climbers

This exercise is what it sounds like—it mimics the motion of climbing a steep slope. Essentially, you’re running in place while you’re on your hands.

Mountain climbers speed up your heart and work out your belly, arms, and legs. 

How to do it:

  1. Start in a plank position. 
  2. Rapidly draw one knee at a time towards your chest.
  3. Alternate your legs quickly as if running in place, keeping your upper body stable and your hands planted on the ground.
Mountain climbers, one of the best cardio workouts to try at home

10. Skaters

Skaters are a dynamic cardio exercise. This heart-pumping exercise simulates the side-to-side movement of an ice skater. 

In doing so, it boosts your heart rate, enhances lateral movement and balance, and tones your legs, core, and glutes. 

How to do it:

  1. Start by standing on one leg.
  2. Leap sideways to land on the opposite foot, allowing the other leg to swing behind you without touching the floor.
  3. Alternate sides, maintaining a slight bend in the knees throughout.
Skaters

11. High knees

High knees are like running in place but lifting your knees…well, high. This move gets your heart going and strengthens your legs. 

How to do it: 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Rapidly lift one knee to at least hip height.
  3. Quickly switch to the other knee, continuing the motion in a running or marching manner. 
  4. Pump your arms to keep the upper body engaged. 

To maximize the workout’s intensity, amp up the pace.

High knees

12. Shadowboxing

You don’t have to be Muhammad Ali, but shadowboxing is good for your heart and helps make your arms and shoulders stronger.

It’s a simple workout, really, where you punch the air as if fighting an invisible opponent. And best of all, it doesn’t require any equipment. 

How to do it:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Punch forward alternately with your arms, incorporating different boxing moves like jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts.
  3. Move around to engage your legs and mimic a real boxing match, focusing on speed, form, and the power of your punches.
Shadow boxing

13. Standing oblique crunches

This fitness exercise targets the oblique muscles, which are located on the sides of your abs. It helps strengthen and tone these muscles, which helps make your core stronger, your posture better, and your waistline slimmer.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Place your hands behind your head or on your hips. 
  3. Lift one knee towards the corresponding elbow, bending your torso slightly to the side to engage the obliques. 
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

To maximize engagement of the oblique muscles, make sure your movements are controlled.

Standing oblique crunches, one of the top cardio workouts to try at home

14. Stair climbing

If you’ve got stairs in your house or if you live in a walk-up, climbing stairs is a great way to get your cardio in. It boosts your endurance, burns off those calories, and, ultimately, helps shed those pounds (or kilograms, whichever system you use).

It’s great for your legs, core, and butt. Not only that, research has found that it can also help lower your risk of heart disease.

How to do it:

  1. Find some stairs.
  2. Go up and down at a pace that you’re comfortable with.
  3. You can skip steps if you’re looking for more of a challenge.
Stair climbing

7 Cardio Workouts to Try at the Gym

Gyms are great because they’re equipped with equipment that might not be available at home. So if you have a gym membership (or have access to one), here are a few cardio workouts to try that can help with weight loss.

15. Kettlebell swings

If you frequent the gym, chances are you’ve seen these colorful cannonball-type things with a flat bottom and a single-looped handle on top. These are kettlebells.

They come in various sizes and weights, which allow for dynamic movements. So it’s a more versatile workout for your whole body, helping to increase your heart rate, blast fat, and strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and core. 

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell with both hands in front of you.
  2. Bend slightly at the knees and hinge at your hips to swing the kettlebell back between your legs.
  3. Then explosively thrust your hips forward to swing the kettlebell up to chest height, keeping your arms straight.
  4. Control the kettlebell as it swings back down.
  5. Repeat the motion.
Kettlebell swings

16. Battle ropes

Battle ropes are these thick, heavy ropes anchored at one end to a wall or a sturdy object. And if they look tough, it’s because they are.

With them, you try to create waves with the ropes. Even this “simple” movement can skyrocket your heart rate and work your arms, shoulders, and core. 

How to do it:

  1. Stand facing the anchor point with a rope in each hand.
  2. Begin making waves with the ropes by rapidly lifting and lowering your arms. 

You can vary the exercise by changing the motion of your arms, such as by moving them in circles, slams, or alternating waves. This helps target different muscles and add intensity to your workout.

Battle ropes

17. Box jumps

Box jumps are literally what it sounds like—jumping on a box. The point of it is to use gravity as your cardio buddy.

By doing so, you strengthen your legs and core while improving your heart health.

How to do it:

  1. Stand in front of a sturdy box.
  2. Squat down.
  3. Jump up onto the box with both feet.
  4. Step down.
  5. Repeat.
Box jumps

18. Elliptical intervals

The elliptical can be your best friend or your frenemy, depending on how you use it. The thing is, it mixes fast and slow intervals, and that helps improve endurance and burn calories like crazy. 

How to do it:

  1. Go all out for 30 seconds.
  2. Then, cruise for 1 minute
  3. Repeat and enjoy the ride—or endure it.
Elliptical intervals

19. Rowing machine sprints

Row, row, row your boat fiercely down the gym. Mimicking the rowing movement, these high-intensity intervals are designed to push your cardiovascular and muscular systems to their limits in short bursts of effort.

This total-body scorcher works almost every major muscle group in the body, including your legs, back, arms, and core, enhancing both aerobic and anaerobic fitness. And heart rate-wise? It sends it through the roof. 

How to do it:

  1. Start by setting yourself up on the rowing machine with proper form.
  2. Sprint as fast as you can, pulling the handle vigorously while pushing with your legs for a set distance or time (e.g., 100 meters or 20 seconds).
  3. Then take a rest or continue with light rowing.
  4. Repeat for multiple intervals, focusing on maintaining intensity and proper technique throughout each sprint.
Rowing machine sprints

20. Spinning

Spin class: where you ride a bike that goes nowhere, but you end up everywhere. This aerobic exercise is typically done in a group, led by a certified instructor who guides the class through various cycling routines. 

But don’t let the music blasting, sweat dripping, heart pumping, crowd cheering scare you. Even in one session, you’ll feel a boost in your cardio, a burn in your calories, and strength in your legs and lower body.

How to do it:

  1. Follow the instructor’s lead.
  2. Pedal hard.
  3. Don’t be shy to turn up the resistance.
Spinning as one of the top cardio workouts

21. Zumba

Take “Despacito” and dance, and what do you get? The global cardio workout craze is called Zumba. 

The classes are known for their energetic atmosphere and vibrant music. It’s really more like a dance party than a workout session.

It alternates between fast and slow rhythms, so you improve your cardiovascular fitness, burn calories, and tone your body. It’s an effective (not to mention entertaining!) way to enhance coordination, flexibility, and overall physical health.

How to do it:

  1. Follow the instructor’s choreographed dance moves. 
  2. Let loose and have fun!
Zumba, one of the top cardio workouts

FAQ

What do cardio workouts do?

Cardio, short for cardiovascular exercise, gets your heart rate up and keeps it there for a period of time. One way to look at it is that it’s like a power-up for your heart, lungs, and overall stamina because it helps you burn calories, shed fat, and boost your mood.

How long should cardio workouts be?

Cardio length isn’t a one-size-fits-all. With that being said, workouts typically range from 20 to 60 minutes, depending on your fitness goals and intensity level. That’s the time most of us believe we need to spend to really see results.

But here’s a twist: Mindvalley’s 10x Fitness Quest flips the script on traditional cardio lengths. Why? Because it taps into the adaptive response mechanism—a smart, efficient way your body evolves to meet physical demands. 

Two 15-minute sessions a week is all it calls for. As Ronan puts it, 10x Fitness is “a protocol that gives the results, not by working out harder and for longer, but from working out smarter and for less time.”

What workouts are considered cardio?

Cardio workouts are all about getting your heart racing and your breath quickening. Running, biking, dancing, swimming (or any of the others listed above), if it boosts your heart rate and keeps it there for a while, best believe that it’s cardio.

Awaken your unstoppable

Cardio workouts don’t have to be a chore. With Ronan Diego’s guidance, it can be part of a total fitness program that incorporates not only cardio but also mobility and strength training.

This is what Mindvalley’s 10x Fitness Quest is all about. With just two 15-minute workouts a week, you can trigger your body’s adaptive response, sculpting a stronger, fitter you faster than you thought possible.

It’s not only a time saver, but it also optimizes your fitness journey. Because, sometimes, less really is more.

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Written by

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. She brings a wealth of experience in writing and storytelling to her work, honed through her background in journalism. Drawing on her years in spa and wellness and having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Picture of Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. She brings a wealth of experience in writing and storytelling to her work, honed through her background in journalism. Drawing on her years in spa and wellness and having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Ronan Diego, holistic health mentor, creator of Body Mastery and HoloBody Certification
Expertise by

Ronan Diego is a holistic health mentor, creator of Body Mastery and HoloBody Certification, and co-founder of the groundbreaking 10X Fitness Quest.

Recognized as a leading authority in health, fitness, longevity, and well-being, Ronan has been a prominent figure on stages such as Mindvalley University, A-Fest, and LifePlugin. He coaches thousands globally, impacting lives through his innovative approaches to fitness and nutrition with his HoloBody project.

Additionally, Ronan is the trainer for Mindvalley’s Beyond Fasting and 10x Fitness quests and leads the Mindvalley HoloBody Coaching Certification program, which helps individuals achieve transformative health and fitness results.

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Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.

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Fact-Checking: Our Process

Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. 

We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. 

The Mindvalley fact-checking guidelines are based on:

To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.