Making time for an exercise routine is almost as difficult as actually sticking to the routine, but if you know what exercises to focus on you can get fit even with short sessions. In fact, focusing on shorter periods of intense exercise has been shown to help you melt the body fat away even faster.
Try these exercises on for size:
1. Get on the Stairmaster
The Stairmaster is one of the most powerful cardio machines at any gym. Remember to start at your own pace. Do 10 minutes at a lower speed for one week, then 20 minutes the next week and 30 minutes the week after. Once you can comfortably do 30 minutes on a given speed you can start thinking about moving to the next speed.
2. Go for a bike ride
A bike ride is a great way to get in some cardio while also building your core and leg strength. Aim for about a mile a day. Once you’ve gotten back into practice you’ll find it won’t take you very long at all to complete your circuit.
3. Get skipping
Remember all those jump rope games kids played in school? Maybe it’s about time you brushed up on them. Skipping is one of the best cardio workouts you’ll ever get and it also helps you build up your leg strength and improve your reflexes. You can also do it pretty much anywhere and a good jump rope won’t cost you more than $10.
4. Go rowing
While we’re on the subject of exercise machines, have you ever tried out the rowing machine at your gym? These machines provide an impressive cardio workout that unlike other machines works out your entire body, allowing you to really get the muscle tone you want. Rowing is also a low impact exercise excellent for severely overweight people or anyone with existing knee problems. If there’s only one machine you have time for, the rowing machine is an excellent option. Just make sure you get somebody who works at the gym to give you a quick tutorial on proper rowing form so you can avoid injury.
5. Use the elliptical
If you’re the kind of person who only works out at the gym you need to be getting on the elliptical machine. This machine provides a somewhat more intense workout than a treadmill and is also easier on your knees, making it a great choice for people at any level of fitness.
6. Shadow boxing
It looks kind of silly but shadow boxing is a great cardio workout that strengthens your entire body, improves your balances and makes your reflexes faster. You can also do it anywhere without the help of any expensive equipment. Try doing brief bouts during commercial breaks in your favorite TV show.
7. Jumping jacks
These might not be your favorite exercises from gym class but jumping jacks are certainly effective and once again you can do them anywhere. Do sets of at least fifteen to really get your heart rate up.
8. Ski jumper
Now we’re getting into more specific exercises. For this one start standing with your feet in a skiing stance. Jump from one side to the other while moving your legs as little as possible. Your weight should shift with each jump.
9. Jump squat
This powerful exercise is exactly what it sounds like: go down into a squat and immediately jump into the air, reaching towards the sky. Lower yourself back into a squat as you land and immediately jump back up. Do this at least fifteen times to really feel the burn and get your heart rate up.
10. High knees
All right, this one isn’t so great if you’ve got an existing knee problem but pretty much anyone else can get massive benefits from this exercise. Start with your feet shoulder width apart. Bring your right knee up as high as you can in a small jump. Once your right foot hits the floor immediately bring your left knee up as high as you can. Alternate between legs, making sure you do the motion with each leg at least ten times.
11. Interval lunges
You can turn regular lunges into an excellent cardio workout simply by lifting yourself out of the lunge and switching legs more quickly. When using lunges as a cardio exercise you should time yourself and do them for 3-5 minutes depending on your fitness level & goals.
If you’re trying to build up a cardio routine and strengthen your lower body you shouldn’t overlook this simple exercise. Whether you’re jogging through the neighborhood or on a treadmill you can really burn off the pounds this way. Try interspersing your regular jog with 30-40 second spurts of running at top speed to get even more out of your jogging workout.
13. Invisible jump rope
It sounds a little ridiculous and might even look a little bit ridiculous, but the great thing about this exercise is that you can do it in the comfort of your own home even if your ceiling is too low to accommodate a proper jump rope. All you have to do is set a timer and do regular, small jumps as if you’re actually leaping over a rope. Who knows, you might even find this easier than jumping over the actual thing.
14. The butt kick
No, we’re not talking about the proverbial butt kicking you have to give yourself to start exercising, we’re talking about literally kicking your own butt. Make sure you switch legs with each kick, incorporate a little bit of jump and switch legs as fast as you can. This is an incredible workout for your calves as well as being an impressive cardio exercise.
15. Join a soccer league
If you have a little more time and you’ve always enjoyed sports, why not sign up for a casual soccer league? Games are usually around 45 minutes and most teams have one weekly practice that lasts about the same amount of time. Of course, there are also casual leagues in pretty much any other sport you can think of, but soccer is one of the best if you’re looking for a truly intense cardio workout that also happens to be fun.
The truth is no one exercise will ever work great for everyone. Your workout plan should be tailored to your individual needs and goals, but these exercises are a great place to start. Try mixing and matching different exercises until you find the perfect routine for you!