It’s a common misconception that workouts have to be long and grueling. Fitness experts are all about mini exercise sessions, and research has found intermittent bouts of movement throughout the day are just as beneficial as longer workouts. That’s all to say: If you don’t have a ton of time, you can squeeze in a great 10-minute cardio workout into your day, whether you want to get your sweat on before work, on your lunch break, or real quick in the evening before watching Netflix.
While yes, it’s super-short, a mere 10-minute cardio session does a lot for your body and your mind. “It is incredible how quickly you can get your heart rate up if you ‘hit it’ right from the start,” says Jennifer Conroyd, an ACE-certified trainer. If you really give it your all after warming up, Conroyd says even the most micro of workouts has the potential to boost your mood, focus, and energy levels — while also improving heart health.
Shorter cardio workouts are also a great way to ease into a new routine without overwhelming yourself. “For example, it's a lot easier to mentally wrap your mind around a 10-minute workout versus a 60-minute workout, especially if you have a really busy day and life,” says certified strength coach Jake Boly, M.S., CSCS. If you just aren’t feeling it, starting off with a simple 10 minutes of movement might even inspire you to keep exercising for longer.
Whatever your reason for keeping it short and sweet, here are some fun and effective cardio workout ideas that come in under the 10-minute mark.
1. Do A HIIT Circuit
If you only have 10 minutes, try this HIIT routine from Conroyd to get your heart rate up fast.
- Do two-handed kettlebell swings for 15 seconds.
- Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat four sets.
- Run up and down a flight of stairs or run in place doing high-knees for one minute.
- Rest for 30 seconds.
- Do push-ups for 15 seconds.
- Rest for 15 seconds, then repeat four sets.
2. Go On A Fast-Paced Walk
- Walk one block slowly while concentrating on a heel-toe motion with each stride.
- Walk the next block a bit faster with your arms pumping at your sides.
- Walk the next block as quickly as you can.
- Repeat the cycle for 10 minutes.
3. Hike The Stairs
Stair climbing is another good option. Here’s how to make the most of your 10 minutes, according to DePatie.
- Walk or jog up one flight of stairs.
- Go down two.
- Walk or jog up two flights.
- Go down one.
- Walk or jog up three flights.
- Go down three.
- Repeat circuit for 10 minutes.
4. Dance Around
One easy heart rate-boosting idea that DePatie loves? Dancing. “You can pick a few songs that will end up equaling 10 minutes and just boogie freestyle.” But if you need a little extra instruction, pull up a dance workout on YouTube or try to incorporate these moves to ensure a legit sweat.
- Do a step-touch motion with your feet.
- Add in a few jumping heel jacks.
- Shake your hips.
- Shimmy your shoulders.
5. Try HIIT On An Elliptical
Certified personal trainer Jennifer Fidder, M.A., CPT, CPPC says she’s a big fan of 10-minute HIIT workouts, too — and you can do them on an elliptical machine. “This one will not only get you sweating, it’ll also keep your metabolic rate elevated for hours after your workout,” she tells Bustle.
- Warm up by pedaling at a medium pace for two minutes.
- Pedal as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Crank the resistance up to a five or six to really feel the burn.
- Slow down and pedal for 30 seconds.
- Repeat this pattern for six rounds.
- Follow up with a two-minute cool down by pedaling at a slower pace.
6. Do A Bodyweight Circuit
Here’s a cardio circuit that’s perfect if you don’t have any equipment on hand. To ensure you get a cardio boost, Boly recommends focusing on your perceived rate of exertion, which is basically how winded you get on a scale of one to 10.
- Do side shuffles, three to the left, then three to the right for 20 seconds. Aim for a four out of 10 on your exertion scale.
- Jog in place for 30 seconds. Aim for five out of 10.
- Do jumping jacks for 20 seconds. Aim for a six out of 10.
- Jog in place again for 30 seconds. Aim for an eight or nine out of 10.
- Perform this circuit for as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes.
7. Move Through A Cardio-Strength Circuit
Here’s a cardio workout with a hint of strength training from the trainers at AKT. “Your goal is to increase your intensity each round, so aim to get in more reps of each exercise from one round to the next,” AKT tells Bustle. You could also make the moves bigger or faster to get your heart rate up higher.
- Do curtsy lunges with an added pulse, alternating sides for 30 seconds.
- Do booty kicks, kicking your heel to your butt while holding a squat for 30 seconds.
- Do standing marching mountain climbers with a thoracic twist for 30 seconds.
- Do a side step into a squat for 30 seconds.
- Repeat each exercise for 20 seconds, then 15 seconds in the next set, going harder each time.
Jenkins, E.M. (2018). Do stair climbing exercise “snacks” improve cardiorespiratory fitness? Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30649897/
Jennifer Conroyd, ACE-certified trainer
Jake Boly, M.S., CSCS, certified strength coach
Jeanette DePatie, certified fitness trainer
Jennifer Fidder, M.A., CPT, CPPC, certified personal trainer