Ask an Expert: Cardio workouts you can do at home

"I'm a 17-year-old boy, and I'm looking for a challenging cardio exercise that I can do in my apartment. I lift weights three times a week, so I'm looking for something that will let my muscles rest while pumping up my heart rate.”

Answer from Mike Boggs, BS, MBA, CSCS (certified strength-conditioning specialist), fitness specialist, Providence Fitness Services: 

Since I don’t live in the apartment below or next to yours, I recommend that you turn up your music really, really loud and dance, dance, dance. I may be kidding a bit about the loud music (you probably should protect your ears, as well as your relationship with the neighbors), but I’m serious when I suggest dancing – it’s a great cardio workout. Another quick, easy and inexpensive variation on dancing is to jump rope to music. Here are a couple of additional home cardiovascular exercise ideas that could be challenging and fun, without costing a fortune.

Exercise videos or DVDs
Workout videos are a great way to try out new types of exercise. There are videos and DVDs available for everything from general calisthenics to step aerobics, kickboxing, martial arts – even belly dancing! Try them free through your local library first, then purchase a few in the styles that work best for you.

Circuit training
Circuit training is very popular right now. It’s usually done in a group setting with people rotating through exercise stations focused on cardiovascular, strength, and agility training. However, you can modify this concept to create a challenging cardiovascular circuit in your own apartment.

If space permits, set up six to eight stations in your apartment. Designate each station for a different style of cardiovascular calisthenics. For example:
1. Ski hop (a two-foot hop from side to side, as in parallel skiing)
2. Mountain climbing (in pushup position, keeping your hands in place, alternate bringing your knees up under your chest, as if you were running)
3. Jumping rope
4. Squat thrust (also known as “burpees” – still tough after all these years)
5. Side-to-side shuffle (also known as “defensive slides”)
6. Tuck jump (stand, then jump, lifting knees up each time)
7. Jumping jacks
8. Jogging in place Equipment needed: a little space at each station, a clock or watch with a second hand, good music, and lots of energy.

Perform each station for 30 to 40 seconds, using the remainder of each minute (20 to 30 seconds) to transition to the next station. Complete a total of two or three circuits, with water breaks between each round.Your circuit station choices are endless – there are DVDs available for circuit training, too, if you’re looking more ideas.

In addition to cardiovascular exercises, you can incorporate core strengthening, such as abdominal crunches and prone planks, as well.

Keep it interesting
Since most people get bored doing the same routine over and over, you might have the best success using a mix of all of these ideas. And if you want to keep it really interesting, invite your neighbors over to join you!

February 2008