Up until recently, for many, cardio routines consisted of hopping onto an elliptical or treadmill machine for 20 minutes or going on a long outdoor run or morning spin class. However, the recent turn of events has forced everyone to rethink their daily regimens, including how they stay active and healthy. Luckily, there are some great at-home cardio alternatives that'll help you reach your target heart rate without having to step on a treadmill.
Now, in case you're wondering, the typical purpose of cardio workouts like running, cycling, and swimming is to reach an aerobic state in which your heart rate goes up, increasing blood flow to the muscles and back to the lungs. According to Healthline, the overall benefits of regular aerobic exercise can include, but are not limited to, lowered and improved blood pressure, mood boosts, activated immune system, reduced fatigue, and increased stamina.
For reference, your target heart rate in an aerobic state is generally a percentage, usually between 50 percent and 85 percent, of your maximum safe heart rate. (The maximum rate is based on your age, as subtracted from 220.) And while the aforementioned workouts are arguably the most commonly known and popular, there are definitely alternative cardio-focused exercises to get your heart pumping. Ahead, four to try at home ASAP.
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Cardio Alternative: Banded Workouts
Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott, founders of health and fitness company Tone It Up, love booty bands for sculpting and cardio. “[Booty bands] are one of our favorite pieces of equipment for total body sculpting and staying fit on-the-go," says Dawn. "They’re perfect to toss in your gym bag, take on vacay, or keep at your desk to sneak in a few quick moves."
Scott suggests choosing high-intensity moves such as banded squat jacks and plank jacks to get your cardio in. The pair also loves using supersets with the booty bands as another way to get the cardiovascular system revving. “Try alternating between two moves with no rest in between, and you'll feel your heart rate spike in no time,” suggests Dawn.
In addition to boosting heart rate, Scott explains the benefits of banded workouts include upping the resistance and intensity of basic bodyweight moves. “With that extra resistance around your calves and thighs, you get the ultimate booty burn, plus you’ll strengthen your core, quads, and hamstrings, too," she says. "It’s a total-body workout with one simple, super portable piece of equipment."
Cardio Alternative: Lagree Method
Unlike traditional Pilates, the Lagree Method places a large emphasis on circuit training, which means you move quickly from one exercise to the next for a prescribed number of sets or time limits. This allows you to achieve both cardiovascular and strength benefits as the heart, lungs, and muscle groups are concurrently working. “The heart rate increases progressively as the moves are held for a certain duration," explains Lisa Hirsch, founder of Lagree-based The Studio (MDR). "Generally, this can be for one to two minutes — the first 30 to 45 seconds are the pre-exhaust, while the remaining time is the cardio portion of the move."
Hirsch also explains that effective tension over time and quick transitions in between moves also provide a window of opportunity to elevate the heart rate. “Some of my favorite moves that offer a fast transition at a slow controlled pace that increase heart rate are the elevator lunge and the Xpress lunge,” says Hirsch. While the Lagree Method typically requires the use of a megaformer (similar to the Pilates reformer machine), The Studio (MDR) is currently offering virtual workouts that can be done at home seven days a week.
Cardio Alternative: Kettlebell Workouts
Kettlebells can seem intimidating if you don’t know how to work with them, but celebrity trainer Stepanie Watson loves to use them with clients like Kate Bosworth. “Kettlebell workouts are a great way to incorporate cardio-like training," says Watson. "Kettlebells vary in weight, enabling you to incorporate strength or high-volume training which are both beneficial to your cardiovascular system. My go-to kettlebell exercise is a kettlebell swing. When performed correctly, this exercise opens your hips, engages your core and glute muscles, improves your posture, and gives you really high-calorie burn.”
Watson incorporates this move in a circuit with other exercises such as skipping, Heismans, and reverse burpees. Other kettlebell exercises that Watson recommends for cardiovascular health, as well as stability and posture improvement, are deadlifts, single-leg deadlifts, squats, weighted burpees, reverse crunches, and weighted cycling crunches.
Cardio Alternative: HIIT Workouts
Naomi Campbell’s trainer and founder of THR33, Chase Weber, is known for his 3-3-3 method incorporating both cardio and weight- training clusters. The method follows HIIT (high-intensity interval training) which is a training technique in which you give all-out, 100 percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods. This type of training gets and keeps your heart rate up and burns more fat in less time. “HIIT workouts can be comprised of different forms," explains Weber. "It’s most important to keep up the intensity of the workout while doing the movement at 100 percent with just a minimal rest period."
He loves this HIIT series that can be done at home (in five rounds): 15 pushups, 15-second mountain climbers, 15 air squats, 15 jump squats, and 15 sit-ups. The five rounds usually take no more than 20 minutes to complete. Weber also shares how to integrate HIIT if you are needing a boost in traditional cardio, “With the Stairmaster, the same rule can apply," he says. "Go as fast as you can for 10 two-minutes intervals with 30 seconds of rest in between. The same with sprints, 20-second sprints with 10 seconds of rest in between. It’s all about the ratio. Remember HIIT is essentially cardio but in a dynamic form.”