Best Cardio Workouts

Cardio is one of the most important things you can do for your body, whether you want to lose weight, burn fat or improve your health.  The great thing is, there are plenty of choices for cardio exercise.  Anything that gets your heart rate into your target heart rate zone will work, but there are some exercises that give you a little more bang for your buck.

There's no 'right' cardio exercise and the best choice is the one you enjoy and the one you'll work hardest at, but below are some of the best cardio workouts you can do to burn calories and fat.

30-60-90 Mixed Interval Workout

Plyo jacks
Ben Goldstein

This 40-minute workout takes you through a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout that not only burns tons of calories but helps you build endurance and increase your anaerobic threshold. You'll be switching between 30, 60 and 90-second intervals with equal resting periods, taking you to through different levels of intensity including very hard, e.g., Level 9 on this perceived exertion scale, moderately hard, e.g., Level 8 and somewhat hard, e.g., Level 6. 

You can do this workout on any cardio machine or with any outdoor activity.

Burn 300 Calories in 30 Minutes

Woman running on treadmill in gym
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These three workouts show you how to get the most out of your cardio machine workouts.

  • Workout 1 - This treadmill workout has you increasing and decreasing your incline throughout the workout to help you burn more calories and stave off boredom.
  • Workout 2 - This uses an elliptical trainer where you'll gradually up your resistance/ramps for 6-minute intervals, lowering them for 2 minutes, giving you a killer interval workout.
  • Workout 3 - If you like the stationary bike, you'll spend 2 minutes increasing resistance, 2 minutes reducing resistance and then inserting 1 minute to really get your heart rate up.

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40-20 HIIT Circuit Workout

Ben Goldstein

One of my favorite HIIT workouts for burning a crazy amount of calories includes a variety of high impact exercises such as burpees, sit and stands, and long jumps. Do each exercise for 40 seconds and resting 20 seconds in between. You get 4 sets of exercises, so this is one of my all time favorites for burning fat and calories

Elliptical Interval Workout

Getty Images/andresr

Want to make your elliptical workout more fun and more effective?  Try an interval workout.  You'll spend 35 minutes alternating 1 minute of very hard work with 1 minute of rest and, as the workout goes on, you'll find those rest periods aren't nearly enough time to get your heart rate down.  But, that's what you want if you want to burn calories and lose weight.

High Intensity Aerobic Intervals

Plyo lunges
Ben Goldstein

The best way to burn more calories is by incorporating interval training, but you don't always have to go all out.  Aerobic intervals can be just as effective, allowing you to stay in a more comfortable place while still pushing you just out of your comfort zone.

For this workout, you can use any machine and you'll spend 4 minutes at a moderate-high intensity, then 2 minutes at a recovery level, repeating that for an extra long 64-minute workout.

Tabata Cardio Workout

Mountain climbers
Ben Goldstein

Tabata training is one of the best cardio workouts, taking you through very short, very intense intervals that only last 20 seconds.  That doesn't sound like much, but put together 4 exercises with only 10 seconds of rest in between and you'll really feel this one after 4 minutes.

Outdoor Circuit Workout

Outdoor Workout
Outdoor Workout. Dan Kitwood / Staff / Getty Images

Outdoor workouts tend to revolve around a few basic activities:  Walking, running, and cycling.  Those can all be effective, calorie-burning exercises, but one way to ensure that is to try adding some intensity to your usual routine. Incorporate some tough strength moves to get your heart rate soaring and help you burn more calories.

Make Your Own Workout

Getty Images/Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

Sometimes, the best workout is the one you make up on the fly.  This workout has 19 cardio exercises you can do at home with no equipment needed.  Try all of them, doing each for one minute, or mix and match your favorites for your own personalized workout.

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