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10 Best Cardio Exercises, From Our Favorite Fitness Trainers

Kristine Thomason
mbg Senior Health Editor By Kristine Thomason
mbg Senior Health Editor

Kristine Thomason is the senior health editor at mindbodygreen.

best cardio exercises

Ready, set, think of a cardio exercise! While running, cycling, swimming, or even dancing might come to mind—cardiovascular fitness (aka aerobic exercise) really involves any type of movement that increases your heart rate. That means you can get a solid cardio sesh in the comfort of your own living room.

Why bother with cardio? This type of workout helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels, manage cholesterol, improve circulation, promote the removal of cellular waste, and aid with sleep. Plus, of course, it has major heart-health benefits (think blood pressure management and heart disease prevention)—which is why the American Heart Association advises getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, or 75 minutes of high-intensity.

To help add more heart-pumping joy to your fitness routine, we've rounded up 10 fantastic cardio exercises, from two of our favorite fitness trainers. Add one of these moves to one of your go-to routines, or choose a few exercises below to create a full cardio circuit:

1. Cross-Legged Jacks

Dino Malvone - Cross-Legged Jacks

Image by mbg Creative

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, with arms at your sides.
  2. Raise and hold your arms out to the sides at shoulder height. At the same time, jump your feet out so they're wider than hip-width apart.
  3. When you jump your feet back in, you'll begin to cross one over the other, alternating with each rep. 
  4. After a few reps, you have the option of adding in a cross-body press with your arms so that they mimic the movement of your feet.
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2. Jump Squat With Heel Click

Dino Malvone - Jump Squats

Image by mbg Creative

  1. Start in a narrow squat position (toes at 11 and 1 on an imaginary clock, knees over heels, tailbone back, core engaged, and shoulders soft).
  2. At the bottom of the squat, squeeze your glutes, press into your heels, then roll through your feet and propel upward off your toes. At the top of your jump, click your heels together in midair.
  3. Land softly on your feet, then use the momentum from landing to move into your next squat. That's one rep. 

3. Skaters

Dino Malvone - Skaters

Image by mbg Creative

  1. Start in a standing position. Bring your feet hip-width distance apart and parallel. Stand to one side. 
  2. Push into one foot, driving deeply into all four corners. Gently, leap to the other side of your mat and land softly on the opposite foot.
  3. Reverse the movement, and repeat on the opposite side. Start slowly to find your footing. Once you feel confident about your balance, you can opt to move faster, for a speed-skater exercise. 

4. Squat to Curtsy Lunge to Tree Pose

Dino Malvone - Squat, Curtsy Lunge, Tree Pose

Image by mbg Creative

  1. Start in a standing position. Bring your feet out wider than hip-distance apart, with toes pointed at 11 and 1. Slowly lower into a squat and return to start.
  2. Step one foot back, crossing that leg behind your opposite leg, and bend both knees slightly.
  3. Step back to your narrow squat. Send your hips back, tailbone up, waist in, and shoulders down.
  4. With that same foot that crossed, rebound up to a modified tree pose—balancing on one leg, with the other foot pressed above or below your standing knee (just not on your knee). 
  5. Land softly on the ground, and bend your knees to find your narrow squat again. Repeat on the other side. That's one rep.

5. Mountain Climbers

CJ Frogozo

Image by mbg Creative

  1. Start in a plank pose, with shoulders over wrists. Pull waist in, drag shoulder blades down the back, and engage the core.
  2. Fire up the belly by pulling one knee in, then the other. That's one rep. 

6. Jumping Jacks

CJ Frogozo - Jumping Jacks
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with arms at your sides.
  2. Raise your arms out to the sides and over your head. At the same time, jump your feet out so they're wider than hip-width apart.
  3. Quickly reverse the movement and return to start. That's one rep. 

7. Jump Squat

CJ Frogozo - Jump Squat
  1. Start in your squat position.
  2. At the bottom of the squat, squeeze your glutes, press into your heels, then roll through your feet and propel upward off your toes.
  3. Land softly on your feet, then use the momentum from landing to move into your next squat. That's one rep. 

8. Curtsy Lunge to Squat

CJ Frogozo - Curtsy Lunge To Squat

Image by mbg Creative

  1. Start in a standing position. Bring your feet out wider than hip-distance apart, with toes pointed at 11 and 1.
  2. Lift one knee up next to your body, then cross that leg behind your opposite leg.
  3. Press your back toes into the ground, and bend your knees. Send your hips back, tailbone up, waist in, and shoulders down.
  4. Lift your back knee back up, place your foot back down into a squat position, then lower down into a squat.
  5. At the top of your squat, lift the opposite knee up and repeat on the other side. That's one rep. 

9. Ski Jump

ski jumps
  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
  2. Jump up slightly and turn 45 degrees to the right. Hinge at your hips and shoot the glutes back. Keep your knees over your heels.
  3. Then jump in the opposite direction and repeat.
  4. Move as fast or slow as you prefer.

10. Side-to-Side Lunges

mbg Moves with CJ Frogozo - Side to Side Lunges
  1. Bring your feet wider than hip-width apart, with your toes facing forward.
  2. Bend one knee and shoot your hip creases back; flip your butt cheek to the sky.
  3. Feel a big stretch in your inner thigh, then switch to the other side.
  4. Incorporate some arm movements throughout.

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