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Cardio Workout for Fat Loss and Fitness Conditioning

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

A woman taking part in a cardio workout. She is running down stairs.

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Few people look forward to the weekly cardio workout. For many an hour of sweating on the treadmill or cross-trainer is tantamount to torture. Like paying insurance or taking the car for a service, cardio is seen as a necessary health and fitness chore begrudgingly completed because it’s good for us. And this is certainly true: cardio exercise is essential for heart health and supporting optimum body weight.

But don't take it form me, listen to what the NHS has to say on the benefits of cardio training.

‘Aerobic activity helps to protect and maintain heart, lung and circulatory health thereby reducing your risk of ill health as well as enhancing your mental health and wellbeing and helping you to maintain a healthy body weight,’ (NHS – 2022).

It’s for these benefits, and a few more besides, why we must keep committed to our cardio training.

Cardio workouts can be enjoyable

And here’s the thing, you can have your cake and eat it. That is, you can reap the many health benefits of cardio training without enduring a mind-numbing workout.

With a bit of imagination that weekly cardio workout doesn’t have to be a laborious drag. The four cardio workouts below have been designed to be enjoyable, engaging, and beneficial.

If you can find a space in your general routine for these cardio workouts, here are some of the health and fitness benefits you could bag.

Cardio workout benefits

  • Improves heart health

  • Engages major muscle groups

  • Facilitates fat loss

  • Burns calories

  • Improves body composition

  • Promotes a sense of wellbeing

4 Cardio Workouts

The following four cardio workouts can each deliver some, if not all, of the health and fitness benefits listed above. Of course, this is only a possibility if the cardio workouts are conducted regularly.

Heading each individual cardio workout is an explanation of how to complete it. In addition, the key points of the workout have been outlined.

Cardio workout #1: skipping for weight loss

In answer to the frequently asked question What’s the best cardio exercise? I always say rowing and skipping. But my answer, strictly speaking, is inaccurate. According to Wilmore and Costill (1999), the best cardio exercise for increasing aerobic capacity and burning calories is cross-country skiing. But few have access to skis and snow.

As well as being a far more accessible cardio alternative to cross-country skiing, skipping can deliver very nearly the same fitness and fat-burning results. Bruce Lee famously said that 10-minutes of skipping was the equivalent of 30-minutes of running.

Related: You need a Skipping Rope for this Cardio Workout

This cardio workout has been designed almost exclusively around skipping. It incorporates the two training methodologies continuous and HIIT (high-intensity interval training).

In addition, body weight exercises have been enlisted to break up the skipping bouts. It’s worth remembering that you can include resistance exercises into your cardio workout without limiting the benefits.

Key points

  • Ensure that you thoroughly warm the calves and Achilles before commencing the workout.

  • Progress through the session plan taking one stage at a time.

  • The sequence is as follows: continuous, body weight, HIIT, repeat.

Skipping workout

  • 5-minute warm-up: ankle rotations, knee bends, and shallow plyometric jumps.

  • 10-minutes continuous skipping: start slow and aim to build up to a moderate intensity.

  • 5-minutes body weight AMRAP: 5 reps press-ups followed by 5 reps burpees; complete as many sets as possible in the allotted time.

  • 20 X 20-second high-intensity intervals: after each interval take a 20-second rest.

  • 10-minutes continuous skipping: maintain a moderate intensity.

  • 5-minutes body weight AMRAP: 5 reps press-ups followed by 5 reps burpees; complete as many sets as possible in the allotted time.

  • 20 X 20-second high-intensity intervals: after each interval take a 20-second rest.

  • 5-minute cool-down: low-intensity skipping.

Related: Try this 20 Minute HIIT Workout

Cardio workout #2: interval training

Interval training is widely used to promote anaerobic capacity – which is the opposite of what we want. But, as Wilmore and Costill remind us, ‘this training format can also be used to develop the aerobic system’ as well. ‘Repeated, fast-paced, brief exercise bouts with short rest intervals between bouts achieve the same aerobic benefits as long, high-intensity, continuous exercise,’ (Physiology of Sport and Exercise – 2nd Edition).

In addition to promoting aerobic performance, interval training offers a more engaging exercise experience. Unlike continuous training, where we maintain a moderate-intensity pace for extensive durations – 15-plus-minutes – interval training consists of relatively short exposures separated by rest periods.

Interval training ‘involves repeated, short efforts lasting from 30 s to 5 min . . . performed slightly more slowly than race pace, but with very brief rest intervals (5-15 s),’ (Physiology of Sport and Exercise).

The following workout has been organised around this formulaic framework.

Key points

  • Warm-up well prior to starting the cardio workout.

  • When you’re warmed and ready, ascend the interval pyramid as prescribed in the plan below.

  • The objective is to improve your performance with each successive interval.

  • When you reach the top of the pyramid, progress to the next cardio exercise.

Interval workout

2000-metres steady-paced jog. Over the final 500-metres complete 10 Fartlek intervals: 50-metres high intensity/50-metres low intensity.

The Hungry4Fitness cardio workout interval training plan. The plan shows a series of cardio workout interval training sets for running and rowing.

Cardio workout #3: aerobic exercise at home

You don’t need the fancy trappings of a gym to get a good cardio workout. As we show in our three-part article on Outdoor Fitness, roads, paths, and parks are all perfect cardio training playgrounds.

Instead of providing you with a prescriptive workout, we’ve outlined three simple ways that you can participate in aerobic exercise at home. Each workout is fully customisable and can be adapted and modified to suit your training goals.

Key points

  • Ensure to warm-up before each workout.

  • Select the distance, timing, and rep range suitable for your current level of fitness.

  • Have a go at each workout and focus on just doing the best you can.

Workout 1: Depending on your current cardio fitness, plan a 3, 5, or 10-kilometre running route around your local area. Use the first and final kilometre as a warm-up and cool-down. For the middle section of each of the above distances, you will be interval training. Set a repeat 10, 20, or 30-second timer on your sports watch or phone, and complete as many high-intensity/low-intensity intervals as you can before you run out of gas.

Related: The Fitbit Versa 3 is the Ultimate Smartwatch

Workout 2: Using your local park as a running track, roughly pace out 800-metres. After completing one lap of the track, progress through the following body weight exercise sequence: 10, 15, or 25 reps of burpees, press-ups, air squats, and plank (count reps as seconds). Aim to work through as many laps as you can in 45-minutes.

Workout 3: Have a go at this Hill Sprint Workout.

Cardio workout #4: low impact cardio

The final cardio workout is suitable for people that cannot participate in impact exercise. Such low impact workouts enable those suffering from injury or infirmity to enjoy the benefits of cardio training.

But it’s also good practice on occasions for those who can take part in impact exercise to incorporate low impact workouts into their routine. By interchanging your high impact run with a low impact row or swim, you will reduce wear and tear on the joints.

Swim 1600-metres

Swimming is arguable the best non-impact cardio exercise available. The act of imitating a fish stimulates all the major muscle groups. Also, swimming is a great cardio-respiratory conditioner that contributes to the increased efficiency and strength of the heart and diaphragm. Furthermore, swimming can train breathing discipline and mental focus.

However, swimming a mile can be a bit mind-numbing. So, to break the monotony, this workout has been structured into an ascending and descending pyramid.

The objective is to progress up then down the pyramid as quickly as possible. After each completed step up the pyramid, you are to take a short rest. (The following format is based on a 25-metre pool.)

Lengths: 2 – 2 – 4 – 6 – 8 – 10 – 10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2 – 2

Row 10,000-metres

Much like swimming, rowing is an excellent whole-body low impact cardio exercise. When rowing the legs, back, and arms are engaged. Because such a wide range of muscle groups are stimulated, the cardiovascular and respiratory systems are forced into action to fuel the working muscles.

Thus, after only a few minutes of steady rowing, you’ll start to feel the body respond to the demands of the exercise: your heart rate will be up, and you’ll be sweating profusely.

Rowing 10,000-metres is a serious physical undertaking that requires considerable aerobic fitness. However, if you know that the distance is a bit much for you at present, reduce it. Instead, aim for 7500 or 5000-metres.

Alternatively, break the distance down into more manageable chunks. For example, incorporate the distance into a gym workout and aim to complete 2000-metres at a time.

The final method of attack is to complete the 10,000-metres with a partner. Using the same rowing machine, relay the distance. If you opt for this approach, the optimal interval length is 500-metres.


Enjoyed these cardio workouts?

Get your hands on 70 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 2.

Cardio workout blog concludes with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits Vol 2.


About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and wellbeing practitioner. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam at

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