This 15 minute cardio workout is an exercise circuit which needs no equipment and can easily be done at home. You don’t just burn calories in a cardio workout – it’s good for heart health too. Regular cardio exercise forces the heart to become bigger and stronger so that it is better at delivering oxygen to the working muscles. According to the World Health Organisation, for health benefits (including weight control), you should aim to do at least 75 minutes of cardio exercise a week.
What is circuit training?
Any workout in which a series of exercises are done for a set time is a circuit workout. Gym circuit classes have everyone do a set time on a machine, following which they move round to the next machine. Studio circuit classes have “stations” which are set up around the room. The stations may use a piece of equipment, or just be a body weight or cardio station. In a circuit workout there can be any number of complete circuits, depending on the time available. The idea is that you do the full circuit without rest between exercises, so intensity should be moderate rather than high.
If you’re doing a no-equipment circuit at home, obviously you don’t need to have stations around the room. You can just do one exercise for the set time, then change to the next one.
How to do this cardio workout
Please read these exercise safety guidelines before doing this workout.
This chart is a summary of the workout, detailed instructions are below:
Because this is a short workout, you won’t have a lot of time for warm-up and cool-down. You should spend a couple of minutes warming up the joints and muscles, however, using the warm up exercises below.
There are 6 exercises in the circuit.
- Complete 30 seconds of each exercise, with no rest between exercises if possible
- March on the spot for 30 seconds to 1 minute until your heart rate recovers
- Then repeat 2 more times
- Once you’ve completed 3 circuits, do a gentle march on the spot until your heart rate returns to normal.
You’ll need some sort of timer, so that you know when your 30 seconds is up. Smart phones have a stopwatch function, alternatively search for an online stopwatch.
Stretching after your workout isn’t essential, but it’s good to do it if you have time. See this post for some leg stretches you can do.
Circuit cardio workout – the exercises
Your muscles should be warm before starting this workout. If you’re warm from another activity, such as walking or doing chores, then that’s fine. If not, use this warm up routine.
Main cardio workout
#1 – Jog on the spot
- Keep your shoulders back and abdominal muscles engaged.
- Focus on jogging in a controlled way, don’t land heavily on your feet.
#2 – Knee lift
- Raise your arms overhead.
- Lower your arms as you lift one knee.
- Raise your arms as you lower the knee.
- Lower your arms as you lift the other knee.
#3 – Lunge pulse
- Your back should be vertical – this means no leaning forward or backward
- Hold your shoulders down away from your head
- Keep you abdominal muscles engaged so that you stabilise your back – see here for more about this
- Bend your front leg to 90 degrees, make sure you can see your foot in front of your knee
- Slide your back foot out behind you – your weight should be on your toes, with your lower leg nearly parallel to the floor. Your upper leg should be a little off vertical.
- Make sure both feet are pointing forwards
- Do small pulses (moving 1-2 inches) in this position for 15 seconds, then swap and do 15 seconds on the other leg
#4 – Jacks
- Keep your abdominal muscles engaged so that you land on your feet with good control.
- It’s important that you don’t let your knees rotate inwards as you land. To help avoid this, turn your toes outwards slightly as you land.
- Allow the knees to flex slightly as you land
#5 – Toe tap behind into knee lift
- To start, take your right leg out behind.
- Tap your toes on the floor behind, then push them off the floor, bringing the knee forwards and up
- Repeat this movement on the right leg for 15 seconds, then swap to the left for 15 seconds
- It’s better if you can do this without support, but if you are wobbling, have a chair by your side to hold on to.
#6 – Small jumps
- Allow the knees to flex slightly as you land
Once you have done 2 circuits of these exercises, march on the spot to bring your heart rate back down. Then, if you have time, do some stretches.
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