The best cardio workouts will always be the cardio workouts you will do.
Cardio is a fantastic way to lose weight, get in shape, or get healthy. It can also be a great way to maintain your current fitness level. Cardio can also be very social, done together in groups.
Cardio in 2023 is much the same as always. We have the best cardio ideas in this list that will be very familiar to you and some that perhaps you haven’t considered before.
When I started doing cardio, I found myself bored with the repetition. I was doing the same cardio workouts over and over. I hated it. So, I started looking for the best cardio workout ideas in 2023 to see what else was out there. I wanted new and exciting workouts to keep my routines fresh.
I discovered many old and new cardio options that I had either previously ignored or didn’t even know existed.
This article will cover the best cardio ideas to help you find new ways to work out and get in shape. If you want to lose weight, get in shape, feel healthier, or just want to feel better about life, this is the guide for you.
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which provide me with a small commission at no cost to you.
What are the Best Cardio Exercises?
Here is a list of the best cardio exercises to help you with your workouts.
1. Running Outside
Running is the most well-known type and the best cardio for many people. Outdoor running adds an extra benefit, allowing you to breathe the natural air and have your feet hitting earth or pavement. Not to mention, the ever-changing scenery of outdoor running helps keep your runs exciting and fresh.
Whether it’s a short run or a 5k, running is an easy way to get started.
2. Running on a Treadmill
Treadmill running is great for those who may not have an outdoor option. It’s also better for those easily distracted by outside distractions. Treadmills allow you to get into a zone and stay there.
3. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT is one of the best cardio tools. It means you do an exercise for a specific amount of time (often 30 seconds or 1 minute), and then rest a similar time, for a series of rounds. Use an app like Seconds to track your intervals for you on your watch.
4. Jumping Jacks
Classic and easy, jumping jacks are an absolute beast when it comes to the best cardio workouts. This might seem silly, but try 3 minutes of jumping jacks and get back to me.
5. Wacky Jacks
The uglier cousin of the jumping jack, the wacky jack takes the same motion but adds in alternating side crunches mid-jump. Not for the faint of heart or faint of balance.
6. Jumping Rope/Skipping Rope
We didn’t take this exercise seriously as a kid but trust me; it’s serious. Jump rope is an all-out assault on your legs and shoulders. And a jump rope is not expensive. I got this Degol rope from Amazon for less than $10.
7. Stair Stepper
If your gym doesn’t have one, you need a new gym. If you’ve never tried one, go in easy. Walking 500 stairs at even a slow pace is a challenging workout.
8. Toe Taps
Sticking with stairs, or any elevated surface, it’s all about the up up down down. Step up and down and keep that heel up for a max workout. Just watch your step and your pace.
The best cardio cousin of the treadmill, the elliptical is a full-body workout that will make you feel like you are running on clouds. Very sweaty clouds. Some coordination is needed, but like riding a bicycle, once you know, you know.
10. Rowing Machine
Easily underestimated but never defeated, the rowing machine is one of the few options for a full-body workout while seated. Keep your back straight, find your steady pace, and watch the calories burn.
11. Outdoor Walking
Similar to outdoor running, being outside for a walk exposes your body to the sun, and the air, and still burns calories, even at a leisurely pace.
12. Treadmill Walking
Take step 11, and move it indoors. If it helps, put a TV in front of you to pass the time.
13. Incline Treadmill Walking/Running
This is one of the best cardio workouts around. Even the slightest incline increases heart rate and calories burned. Not to mention, a better butt workout. Just make sure not to hold the sides of the treadmill so that your legs are doing all the work.
Do you want to sweat and imagine beating the snot out of someone simultaneously, all from the comfort of your living room? Then this is the workout for you. Don’t forget to bob and weave for extra core exercise.
Using free weights at the gym can be a great cardio option. Just keep the weight VERY light, and do high repetitions. One hundred high-speed bicep curls will have you begging for a break.
16. Ice Skaters
You’ll be walking on thin ice after 15 minutes of skaters. Enjoy the back-and-forth glide motion while your legs scream for mercy. Don’t forget to keep the back from arching for the optimal position.
17. High Knees
Running in place and gradually raise your knees higher and higher. The higher the knees, the higher the heart rate and the better the workout.
18. 4-Way Running
In one direction, run forward ten steps, turn to the left and shuffle for ten steps, turn again to run backward for 10, then turn to the left once more for a full rotation run, ten steps at a time.
Any activity which is part of the Iron Man Triathalon should not be overlooked. Full-body motion in the elements. Combine that with a need for proper breathing and heart rate monitoring, swimming is one of the best cardio options.
20. Battle Ropes
Battle Ropes are just as much about your core as your arms. But make no mistakes; they are called “Heavy Ropes” for a reason. You WILL feel this workout the next day.
A painful name and a painful workout.
I don’t know anyone who enjoys burpees, but I know many people who do them faithfully. Which means they work.
22. Squat Jumps
Don’t underestimate what a crouch and jump will do to your quads. To get the most out of this best cardio option, stand with feet hip width apart, keep the crouches low, and the jumps high.
23. Running In Place
Some of the best cardio is running and going nowhere. Great for those with limited space or who just want the ability to workout anywhere at any time. For a small upgrade, add a couple of light barbells in.
24. Mountain Climbers
Take the running motion, combine it with a plank, and you have mountain climbers. Great core engagement and cardio exercise. Keep the legs close to the chest if possible for the best cardio workout
25. Prisoner Squat Jumps
Similar to the squat jumps mentioned above, but slightly harder as now your hands are interlocked behind your head. You will quickly notice how much harder your jumps are without being able to swing your arms for momentum.
26. Long Jumps
Feet together. Jump as far as you can. Now do it again. And again. Just make sure you regain your balance after each jump and keep it moving quickly.
27. Plyo Lunges
If you were going to try to run in place while holding a lunge form, you would have the plyo lunge. Not just the best cardio exercise for many, but also a great balance exercise.
28. Other Plyo Jumps
There are a lot of variations of plyo jumps. Plyo jumps require a quick burst and some form of balance and stability. Get creative.
29. Lunge with Front Kick
Get into a lunge position. Now take your back foot, bring it forward to a front kick, and back to where it started. Great cardio when done with speed, and another best cardio exercise with a balance bonus.
30. Jumping Jacks with Resistance Bands
Add some weight resistance to your standard jumping jacks by adding some resistance bands. Hold an end in each hand, place the bands under your feet, and get moving. I use these bands from Amazon.
31. Butt Kicks
At a fast pace, jump in and try to touch your heel to your butt. This means your jumps need to be high enough to allow your feet time to go up and back down. If done quickly, this is a challenging exercise.
32. Tuck Jump
Standing in place, jump and bring your knees to your chest. At the same time, create a “hug” around your knees while they are elevated. It’s a jumping exercise, but it’s a full-body too.
33. Superman Banana
Silly name, not so silly workout. This isn’t a speed cardio workout but a full-body, full-balance cardio workout. Lay on the ground, belly down, and raise your hands and feet for 10 seconds. Now flip on your back and do it again. Ouch.
34. Crescent Chair Kicks
Place a chair in front of you, and with one leg, kick over the back of the chair, from one side to the other, and then back again. Do this with both legs. Be careful not to kick the chair, or your balance will suffer.
35. Wall Ball Throwing
Wall balls are designed for throwing against a wall with force, over and over. And coming in different weight options, there is a size for everyone. I have this one from Amazon, and I love it.
36. Slam Balls
Similar to wall balls, but designed from straight down to the floor slamming. Great for explosive and intense sessions of absolute cardio slamming.
37. Trail Running
Trail running is a different beast than other running. The runner’s terrain on trails requires additional effort and balance to navigate the run. Not to mention more hills. More hills = more calories burned.
38. Side to Side Shuffle
Similar concept to how basketball players play defense. Quick sprints of side-to-side shuffling, but with no crossing over your feet. The faster the feet, the better the workout. Just remember, keep your hands up.
39. Kettlebell Swings
With a lightweight kettlebell, swings can become very intense and very fast. Kettlebell swings require both upper body strength and lower body strength and stability to support the body’s motions from the swings.
Macebells have become very popular over the last couple of years, and with good reason. They are a great workout, build strength, and are just cool-looking.
The closest workout to looking like a Viking, macebells do require some training, skill…and caution when using. I have this one from Amazon.
41. Weighted Vest Walking/Running
Turn your workout into a weighted vest workout with a weighted vest. Adding extra pounds to any workout can increase your results, and being able to wear the weight versus holding the weight is paramount. I have this one from Amazon.
42. Speed Walking
It’s not a run. It’s not a walk. It’s somewhere in between, and it works. Find a pace that feels too fast for walking, pull back just a smidge, and go—great workout with a surprise calorie burn.
Not typically considered the best cardio exercise, those who have done it know the truth. This is a heart rate elevating, intense cardio option. While it might not be fast-moving, it’s sure to increase your heart rate.
Another combat workout, kickboxing, is a lesson in lower body explosive movement and core activity. The whole body gets a workout here, even the arms, which will wear out simply from being raised. Plus, kicking stuff feels SOOO good.
The standard sit-up is on the best cardio exercise list, even though many don’t consider it as such. Even with a partial sit-up or crunch, speed can be increased, and intensity level improved.
Excellent core exercise guaranteed to make you work hard.
Since the 70s, dance cardio has been a major part of the fitness world. But, you don’t have to join a class or buy a program to participate. Just turn on your favorite songs, and get moving. Coordination is not required.
While standing, bend over and touch the ground with your fingertips. Now, slowly move your hands forward with your feet planted until you are almost in plank position. Then, reverse it back up. Your core will hate you now, but thank you later.
I’m not sure there is another workout that will make you work hard while doing nothing.
The plank is a full-body workout with zero motion, making it one of the world’s most unique, effective, and best cardio workouts.
One of the best cardio workouts.
49. Tap Ups
From the push-up position, raise one hand, touch the opposite shoulder, and switch to the other side. This doesn’t need to be fast to be effective. The mix of the plank position, combined with the needed balance to touch your shoulder, will have your body on fire.
50. Hip Thrust
Hip thrusts usually get lumped into booty workouts, but at its core, it’s a cardio workout. There are a couple of variations for which angle to place your body, but this is effective at raising the heart rate (and the booty) in any position.
51. The Plank Jack
If the plank and jumping jacks had a baby, this is it. From a plank position, move your legs as if doing a jumping jack. Absolute killer cardio exercise.
52. Box Jumps
Like other plyo jumps, the box jump is literally what the name implies. Jumping onto a box and back down. The taller the box, the more explosion and energy needed.
Note: don’t try this with any box; use caution when jumping onto anything.
53. Plank Get-Ups
From the plank position, go down to the floor with your elbows. Now, straighten one arm, then the other, back to a plank. Then back down to your elbows, one at a time. This one will hit you hard and fast.
54. Hula Hooping
Another activity from childhood that works well as an adult. It’s not as intense as other options on this list, but I guarantee it’s more fun than others and will still burn calories.
55. Trampoline Jumping
Whether a full-size in the backyard or a mini-trampoline in your house, trampolines are a great way to blast while shedding weight. The smaller versions are more intense due to faster and shorter bursts, but both are a blast.
I’ve talked a lot about best cardio options similar to push-ups, but I would be ignorant not to mention the OG. Cardio and strength building in 1 exercise. It should be a building block and foundation of all workouts.
57. Russian Twists
Sitting on the floor, sit as if you are at the top of a standard situp. Now take your fingertips on both hands and touch the floor on the right of your body, now over to the left. Over and over.
Thank me later.
Another “basic” movement and another of the few that build muscle strength is the best cardio movement. If you have gym access, you can try the pull-up assist machine, go lightweight, and do longer sessions.
The ultimate heart racer.
60. BOSU Ball Planks
Flip a BOSU ball over, and hold onto its base with your hands while in a plank position. Similar to a plank, more balance adjustment is required to stay up.
61. VR Fitness Games
New technology has offered new ways to work out. The Oculus Quest 2 has several fitness-themed games, its most famous being Supernatural. Workout in other worlds in virtual reality.
62. Dog Walking
Even leisurely walks get a bit more intensive with a dog on a leash. Another excellent option for clean air, calories being burned, and one-on-one time with your best friend.
Basketball is one of the few sports that can be played alone and get you a great workout. A few jump shots and fade-aways will have your heart rate up and breaking a sweat (and ankles) in no time.
64. Front Kick Toe Touch
As the name implies, kick one leg up and try to touch your foot with your hand; alternate feet and hand sides for increased difficulty.
Don’t think of this as how a baby crawls. Think of it as….creepy crawling. Staying on your hands and feet only, move forward ten steps, then back, quickly.
This exercise is designed to be fast-paced, so get moving, baby.
The celebrated college football move has become its workout, and a good one at that. Do the Heisman pose, switch to the other leg, and reverse it to the other side. It takes a little practice to get it down, but it’s trophy-worthy when it’s right.
67. Single-Leg Hops
Difficulty: low. Payoff: High.
Hopping on one leg. It’s beautiful because it’s simple.
68. Carry Anything Heavy
Have you ever helped someone move? It’s hard carrying anything heavy for long. Find something heavy and carry it for 5 minutes. 10 minutes. Find something heavier. Do it again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
69. Leg Scissors/Leg Lifts
Laying on the floor, lift both feet barely off the floor. Now with a straight leg, lift it in the air, and as you bring it back down, lift the order. Do it over and over, in a scissor motion. Hurt now, smile later.
70. Crunchy Frog
Pull your knees into your chest from the top of the sit-up position. At the same time, wrap your arms around your knees to touch your hands together.
Open your arms wide, stretch your legs out, and stay off the floor. Repeat.
71. Pole Dancing
The amount of strength and effort required to do pole dancing is insane. You WILL sweat. Add the bonus of doing it to music; the enjoyment factor is through the roof for this best cardio workout.
72. Circuit Training
Most Gyms have a section for circuit workouts, but even if not, you can do this at home. A circuit workout is just a series of consecutive cardio exercises done in a short burst, similar to HIIT. Do one exercise for 1 minute, rest for 1 minute, and do the next exercise. Keep it moving along; timing is everything.
Over the last few years, sandbag workouts have become very popular. While some learning and skill are needed at a high level, beginners can also benefit from basic movements and swings.
I know, this sounds silly. But, try to skip for 1 minute straight and then tell me how it was…when you catch your breath.
75. Forward/Backward Sprints
One of my favorites of the best cardio workouts, running forward for ten steps, then backward for 15, not only gets a great workout but also helps increase your burst time switching directions. Just be careful running backward; it can get tricky.
Boarding of either variety is a workout. Not only does it test your leg strength, but also your balance and coordination.
Similar to above, but a different workout comes down to it. There are no hills with roller skating and blading; there is not much coasting.
You must keep moving your feet, or else you lose momentum. And, of course, a great way to increase balance and coordination.
What is Cardio? What is a Cardio Workout?
In a recent article on the website Openfit, cardio is explained as the following:
“People tend to think of cardio in terms of steady-state exercise, like jogging,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S. and Openfit’s senior manager of fitness and nutrition content. “But really, cardio is anything that A) raises your heart and breathing rates, and B) improves the function of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system.”
The best cardio is the cardio you will do. This is often a combination of your enjoyment of the workout, how it makes you feel, and the result you get from doing it, constantly losing weight and getting lean.
Aside from the physical benefits, the mental benefits are enormous as well.
Best Cardio Workout Ideas Summary
This list will give you plenty of options and ideas to help you find the best cardio idea and best cardio workout for you.
The goal is living and feeling better and healthier, and with so many options, you are sure to find the best cardio workout from the list above to help you on your health and fitness journey at any age.
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Rob is a Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. For the past 10 years, Rob has been navigating the health and fitness landscape to better himself and those around him, focusing on tools such as calorie and macro counting, intermittent fasting, and HIIT training techniques.