7 Fun Cardio Workouts to Try at the Gym (for Every Fitness Level)
Exercise shouldn’t be a chore.
These days there’s a focus on joyful movement—finding ways to move the body that doesn’t feel like work—so a healthy lifestyle is built gradually and naturally instead of a grueling uphill battle.
We know you want to have fun while working up a sweat, and we know that cardio is a great way to reap amazing health benefits. So let’s explore the benefits of cardio gym workouts and reveal nine fun ways to get your heart rate up.
3 Benefits of Cardio Gym Workouts
The easiest way to understand why cardio workouts at the gym are so beneficial in the first place is to remember that the cardiovascular system is fueled by a hard-working muscle: the heart. Stronger muscles mean better performance, and a stronger heart means better blood circulation, leading to all sorts of benefits throughout the body.
While it would be nearly impossible to list all the benefits of regular cardio gym workouts, we’ve narrowed it down to a few of our favorites.
- Lower Heart Rate and Blood Pressure. A lower heart rate means your heart works less to keep blood flowing easily. Plus, according to the American Heart Association, regular cardio workouts at the gym can help lower blood pressure for about half of U.S. adults who struggle with high blood pressure.
- Lower Risk of Heart Attack and Diabetes. Cardio gym workouts ensure you’re at a lower risk for heart attack and other heart diseases. Spending only two hours a week on cardio workouts can drastically lower your risk of diabetes, which affects 11.3% of the U.S. population. And a few weekly cardio exercises can improve metabolism, making healthy weight maintenance—a proven way to reduce the risk of diseases—much more manageable.
- Better Quality of Life. Weekly cardio exercise is a healthy way to occupy the brain and care for the body. When your heart rate elevates, pumping blood throughout your body, your brain releases endorphins, like dopamine, which make you happy. These endorphins further lead to other mental health benefits, such as lower levels of stress and fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. With time, cardio workouts lead to a higher quality of life.
7 Fun Cardio Workouts at the Gym
It’s clear that exercise offers many benefits to your overall health, but applying it to everyday life can be tricky. One way to make exercise a part of your daily routine is to find an activity you enjoy. Finding an enjoyable cardio gym workout makes it easier to stick with a routine. Here are our seven favorite fun cardio workouts for the next time you’re wondering what how to raise that heart rate at the gym.
1. Rowing Machine
The rowing machine is another excellent option for a low-impact, full-body workout that can be done at home or in the gym. It provides a great cardiovascular workout while also building strength and endurance.
Plus, rowing is full-body cardio that can become a type of meditation. Next time you sit at the machine, imagine yourself practicing to join the most elite rowing crew in the world, and the next race offers a $10,000 reward—for real, this race exists! Plus, rowing is a high calorie burner. For example, 30 minutes of rowing will burn about 377 calories for a 185-pound individual.
2. Explosive Circuits
Explosive circuits are high-intensity workouts that involve explosive movements such as jumping, sprinting, and plyometrics. They are designed to improve power, speed, and agility while burning calories and building muscle. Gyms will often offer circuit classes and suggestions to enjoy the benefits of circuit training.
HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training, which involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise. It's a form of cardio exercise that offers a lot of variety, so it's easy to stay interested and motivated in your workouts while effectively burning calories in 20-30 minute sessions.
4. Power Walking
Power walking is a low-impact cardio gym workout that can help you stay active, improve longevity, and assists with weight management. Beginners should start with 10 minutes daily and gradually increase to 30 minutes a few times weekly. Maintaining good posture, engaging your core and glutes, focusing on quick, smooth strides, and engaging your arms for total body exercise and up to 10% more calorie burn.
5. Cycling Sprints
Cycling sprints—short bursts of intense pedaling followed by a brief recovery period—are an effective form of interval training that improves cardiovascular fitness and builds leg strength.
If you're a novice on the bike, positioning is key for a comfortable and efficient ride on indoor bikes. Seat positioning should ensure that the legs are slightly bent during the pedal stroke and that the front pedal is directly below the knee. Elbows should be slightly bent, and the back should be straight with the core engaged. Investing in a good quality pair of cycling shoes helps to become one with the bike and have a smoother and more controlled pedal stroke. If this is your first time trying cycling, check out this helpful guide to cycling for beginners.
6. Jumping Jacks
Jumping jacks are a great way to increase your heart rate and work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. In case you somehow missed this growing up, to perform a jumping jack, start with your feet together and arms at your sides, then jump while simultaneously spreading your legs apart and raising your arms above your head. This exercise is a great place to start when looking for new cardio workouts at the gym.
7. Step Mill
The step mill machine is a popular one in most gyms. The rotating steps on this machine allow for a combination of strength and cardio work. As you gain experience and endurance, you can safely increase your speed and the benefits you’ll see from regular aerobic exercise. Check out this beginner step mill workout.
Lastly, remember not to overdo it. Since your heart is like any other muscle, it also needs rest. No one should always be working out—knowing your physical activity limits is essential. Watch for signs of overexertion, such as nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, or sudden chest pains.
If you experience any of these symptoms or are simply a beginner to fitness, build your fitness routine slowly. Moving straight from zero weekly cardio activities to 150 minutes a week is not wise. It’s better to start small and grow gradually rather than over-extend yourself.
Keep cardio fun—join Planet Fitness to get started. Or get started now for free on the PF App.