If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that a lot of daily activities can be carried out from the comfort of your own home.
When we were all told to stay inside, most of our lives changed drastically overnight, and with gyms shutting down, many were forced to find alternative ways to exercise at home.
Luckily, with personalities such as Joe Wicks stepping in with live-at-home PE lessons for kids who are stuck indoors, many adults also took on the challenge and ended up enjoying exercising.
However, the pandemic won’t last forever, and with gyms beginning to open again, it’s important to remember that we don’t need to spend money on a gym membership or special equipment to keep fit and healthy and raise our heart rate – there’s plenty that you can still do at home.
How to do a cardio workout at home
For most workouts at home, you’ll need a generous amount of space, especially for cardio which can often include moving around a fair bit.
You may need to push your sofa against a wall, or move some furniture out of the way to give yourself enough space.
If you’re lucky enough to have a private outdoor space like a garden or yard, this might be the perfect place for you to start working out at home, as furniture is less likely to get in your way.
You should also move anything breakable or valuable out of harm’s way – even the most careful of us can end up being a little too enthusiastic during cardio workouts at home, so you might want to move your antique vases or crystal glasses out of the way whilst you’re working out.
Working out at home isn’t all too different to working out at the gym – you just need to be a little more creative on how you can get moving and get your blood pumping without any specialist equipment.
What do you need for a home cardio workout?
Technically, all you need to work out at home is yourself – though there are a few other items that might come in useful for you if you’re planning on starting your fitness journey at home.
You should make sure that you have some comfortable and breathable clothing on hand.
Sweating during a workout can quickly make things uncomfortable, so wearing breathable fabrics can help to save you from chafing and overall discomfort whilst you exercise.
Maybe you have a pair of old leggings or joggers at the back of your wardrobe somewhere which you could pair with a T-shirt.
For women (especially those with larger chests), you might want to invest in a decent support bra to avoid back pain and any injuries brought about by unsupportive underwear.
Whilst you can technically exercise in your everyday bra, it’s not particularly comfortable – especially if you prefer underwired bras.
Luckily, support and sports bras are easily available online and on the high street.
You should also make sure that you have some supportive, comfortable and breathable footwear.
This could just be a pair of cheap trainers – but as long as you’re comfortable and they support your feet, you should be fine.
Suitable footwear reduces the risk of various sports injuries as well as slips and trips, so you should make sure that whichever footwear you choose is well-fitting and comfortable.
Other than the above, the only other thing you should need is plenty of water.
When we exercise, our body loses fluid through sweat, which means that we’re more likely to become dehydrated if we don’t replace lost fluid.
Drinking water throughout your workout should be enough to make sure that you don’t become dehydrated.
As long as you have all of the above, plus a big enough space for you to get to work, you’re all ready to start working out at home!
What is cardio exercise?
Cardio exercise is sometimes called aerobic exercise.
Essentially, it’s any kind of physical activity that raises your heart and breathing rates.
Cardio or aerobic exercise has been proven to be great for keeping excess weight off in the long term, but it can also decrease your risk of various health problems such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and by keeping your weight down through exercise, you’re also reducing your risk of obesity-related complications.
Cardio exercise isn’t just good for weight loss, but it’s also good for our overall wellbeing.
It keeps us and our joints moving, it helps to strengthen muscles, and it burns off some of the energy that you accumulate.
It also has some amazing benefits for your mental health, and it’s a great way to let off some steam when you’re feeling stressed or short-tempered.
Cardio doesn’t focus on weights, but it focuses on elevating your heart and respiration rates which is necessary for burning higher amounts of energy.
Whilst feeling short of breath isn’t the most pleasant sensation in the world, it’s important to remember that exercising is strengthening your body, and as you gain stamina, you’ll have to do more to feel short of breath.
Cardio vs weights
Weights are great for toning and strengthening muscles, but they don’t do a great deal for increasing your heart rate which is needed for sustaining weight loss.
However, it’s important to remember that exercise isn’t just about changing the shape or appearance of your body – it’s about movement, celebrating what your body can achieve, and helping yourself to become healthier by including more physical activity into your life.
If you enjoy weight training, then you should absolutely incorporate it into your workout plan.
Plus, if you’re losing weight, toning your muscles can help to reduce any sagging skin which can often happen with rapid or drastic weight loss.
You do need muscle strength for cardio exercise, so weights are a great place to start with strengthening your arms and legs.
It can also be a nice gentle introduction to exercise if you’re a complete beginner.
Cardio and aerobic exercise burns more energy in the same amount of time than if you were just using weights, so it’s generally recommended for helping you to lose weight or sustain weight loss in the long term.
Cardio for beginners
If you’re a beginner to exercise, then the idea of being out of breath or hot and sweaty can be off-putting – but if you start gradually, you might find that you enjoy cardio more.
It’s important to start at a level that suits you.
The government recommend doing at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, which might seem like a lot at the moment, but once you start incorporating it into your daily routine and making exercise a habit, you should find that it just becomes another part of your day or something that you don’t have to think about much.
When the term “moderate exercise” is used, it can often cause some confusion about what exactly moderate is.
The fact is that “moderate” exercise looks different for every person.
A common analogy that’s used is that when you do moderate exercise, you should be able to hold a conversation but not be able to sing.
In other words, you should have just enough breath to talk, but be too out of breath to sing a song.
For someone that’s very fit and has a lot of stamina, they would need to work harder in order to feel like this, but for a beginner, a brisk walk would probably be enough to reach a moderate level of activity.
It’s important to start slowly with cardio if you’re a beginner and try not to compare yourself to others.
If someone else is able to do more without becoming breathless, don’t get yourself down – you’ll get there yourself one day!
The main thing is moving your own body at a pace that’s right for you.
If you try to keep up with someone that’s able to do more, you may end up doing more harm than good and either damaging your muscles or making yourself sick.
If at any point during exercise you feel pain or as if you’re struggling to breathe, you should stop, take a break and drink some water.
Putting your body under too much strain at once can put a lot of stress on your heart, so pacing yourself with cardio as a beginner is incredibly important.
With exercise, you have to keep working at it like with any skill in order to improve, and the more you move, the better you’ll become.
Exercise shouldn’t feel like a chore – it should make you feel good, so it’s also important to choose an activity that you enjoy.
Cardio exercises at home
With cardio workouts at home, it doesn’t necessarily matter how you move, as long as you’re making sure that your heart rate is elevated and you’re breathing faster than normal.
When you’re working out at home, you might want to crank up the volume to 11 and dance to your favourite tunes.
The best thing about working out at home is that it doesn’t matter if you think you look daft, as nobody else can see you.
In fact, many beginners feel better working out at home as self-consciousness can play a part in discouraging people from exercising in public.
Having a one-person dance party in your living room is a great and fun way of getting some cardio into your day.
If you’re a morning person, you might even want to start your day with a mini disco to get the blood pumping before a shower, or perhaps you might prefer dancing off the pent up energy after a day at work.
If you live in a house or building with stairs, you could even try some stair training exercises.
Just walking up and down a few times can be enough to get your heart pumping faster.
Stairs are also great for warm-up and cool-down stretches as you can use them as a tool for stretching your legs.
Many home cardio exercises can be done on the spot, such as jumping jacks (or star jumps), press-ups, sit-ups, skipping, burpees, running on the spot, squat jumps and lunges.
Because these exercises don’t take up much room, it’s great for people that live in smaller buildings such as an apartment, flat, or shared housing.
If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space, your options for cardio exercise at home increase, as you can use your garden for running laps.
Sir Captain Tom Moore can do it and so can you!
If you have a little bit of money, you might decide to install a basketball hoop which can be a great way of letting off some steam as well as increasing your heart rate.
Another idea is enough to excite adults and children alike – a trampoline.
That’s right – using a trampoline the right way is also a kind of cardio exercise – though if you haven’t used one before, you might want to do your research on how to exercise on a trampoline.
Although they’re incredibly fun, they can also be dangerous if you aren’t sure on the best way to work out on them.
You should also look into trampolines with the right weight limit, as if you buy one that’s built for children or has a low weight limit, it could be dangerous.
If you’re still stuck for ideas on cardio exercises that you can try at home, the NHS has some great ideas where you can start, and if you missed PE with Joe during the first lockdown, the good news is that all of his sessions are still available on Youtube if you fancy giving them a go!