This 15 minute cardio workout is a cardio endurance circuit which needs no equipment and can easily be done at home. You don’t just burn calories in a cardio workout – they’re 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 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 circuit
Please read these exercise safety guidelines before doing this workout.
There are 6 exercises in this circuit. The instructions are below, together with a link to a downloadable printable. 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 exercises below. Once you’ve completed the 2 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 minute is up. Most mobile phones have a stopwatch function, alternatively you can find one online. Stretching after your workout isn’t essential, but it’s good to do it if you have time. See below for a link to download a stretch chart for the leg muscles.
Circuit cardio workout – the exercises
Side bends – to warm up the spine/back and core muscles
- Stand with feet hip distance apart, then reach your right hand down towards the right foot
- Make sure you don’t lean the body forwards or backwards, try to imagine you are in a narrow gap between 2 walls
- Come back up to the centre and then repeat to the left
Hamstring curls – to warm up the knee joints and leg muscles
- Start with feet a bit wider than hip width
- Shift your weight to your left foot and flex your right knee so that you lift your foot behind
- Bring your foot back to the floor and repeat on the other side
Toe taps behind – to warm up the hip joint, muscles at the back of the leg
- Stand with feet hip distance apart
- Take your right leg out behind your body and tap your toes to the floor
- Bring your leg back to starting position and then repeat on the left
Heel taps in front – to warm up the hips, ankles and muscles at the front of the leg
- Start with feet hip distance apart
- Bend the left leg a little as you take the right foot in front and tap the heel to the floor
- Bring the foot back and repeat on the other side
Main cardio workout
- Complete 1 minute of each exercise
- March on the spot for 30 secs to 1 minute until your heart rate recovers
- Then do the whole circuit again
#1 – Jog on the spot
#2 – Knee lift
#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 30 seconds, then swap and do 30 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 30 seconds, then swap to the left for 30 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 the stretches on the chart.
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