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Ten-Minute Cardiovascular Workout

Dr. Mike Esco has a Ph.D. in exercise physiology and has over 20 years of experience in the health and fitness industry.

Running or walking up stairs or bleachers for 10 minutes provides great cardiovascular exercise.

Running or walking up stairs or bleachers for 10 minutes provides great cardiovascular exercise.


When you are over-worked and don’t have enough time to exercise, doing a cardiovascular workout can be daunting. Just getting started is difficult. Most people think that a good cardio workout involves running or biking for a long time. Though that will surely provide a wonderful conditioning stimulus to the heart, it isn’t for everyone, myself included. I have discovered that you can actually get a great cardio workout in just 10 minutes.

A few years ago, my research group determined how many calories could be expended doing high intensity interval training, or “HIIT”, for a 10 minute period. We used college-aged men and women as subjects. The subjects performed a circuit structured working that involved 9 body weight exercises performed back-to-back with a “sprint-in-place” at the end. While they exercised, they breathed into a tube that was hooked up to a metabolic analyzer, which measured oxygen consumption and calories expended. They also wore heart rate monitors. The results showed that on average, the subjects expended around 10 calories per minute and kept their heart rate just over 80% of maximum [1].

What about typical exercise, like running? Think of this. You burn approximately 100 calories for every mile that you jog. So, if you build up to jogging a mile to a mile and a half in 10 minutes, you can expend 100 to 150 calories.

In addition, other research has shown that short but intense cardio workouts take advantage of a process called “excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption”, or “EPOC” for short [2,3]. EPOC basically means that an elevated amount of calories are being expended after the workout ends. In other words, there is a “post-exercise-burn” that follows. The harder you work in a given period of time results in a greater EPOC [4].

Quick workouts may not benefit someone who has an advanced level of fitness, like an athlete training for an endurance competition. However, most people will experience significantly improved cardiovascular fitness following this type of a routine. Keep in mind that quick workouts will be especially beneficial if they are performed in addition to increasing your overall physical activity. It is very important to combine short workouts with accumulating more steps per day.

Be sure to check with your physician before engaging in any exercise program, especially if you have health issues or concerns.

Ten examples of 10-minute cardio workouts

Here are ten examples of quick, 10-minute cardio workouts. The first four workouts involve variations of “typical” aerobic exercises, like jogging, swimming, biking, etc. How you approach these workouts depends on what you have access to. However, a good pair of shoes is really all you need. The last 6 workouts are HIIT routines that just involve your body weight. You can do these workouts pretty much anywhere, like at home, at work, or in a hotel. For each routine, you will need a stopwatch to make sure you don’t go over the 10-minute period, unless of course you feel motivated to do so.

Selected Exercise Demonstrations

A few of the exercises mentioned in the HIIT examples below may be new to you. With this in mind, I linked a few YouTube videos throughout the article that demonstrate the proper technique of some of the moves. Please note: I had no input on the creation of these videos. They were are public YouTube videos created by other experts. The videos will show the following exercises:

  • Squat Thursts
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Squat Jumps
  • High Knee Jog in Place
  • Alternating Jabs
  • Alternating Kicks
  • Steps Ups on an Elevated Surface (like a chair)

If there are any other exercises listed here that are difficult to understand, or you'd like more information in general, please comment at the end of the article and I will respond.

1) Cover the greatest distance in 10 minutes

With this option, you’ll perform an aerobic exercise for a 10-minute period. The activity can be anything aerobic in nature, such as brisk walking, jogging, biking, swimming, elliptical machine, etc. At each workout, your goal is to cover the greatest distance possible within 10 minutes. Each time you do this workout try to slightly increase the distance from the previous workout. For example, let’s say you walked 0.5 mile in 10 minutes during the first week. Next time, try to walk a little faster to cover a slightly greater distance. Continue this until reach a comfortable distance, such as jogging 1 mile in 10 minutes.

2) Pyramid

A pyramid is a method of training in which you will increase the intensity (or pace) from minute to minute during the workout. It can be performed with any aerobic exercise. Begin at an easy pace for 1 minute. Then steadily increase your pace every minute over the course of the workout. So your intensity "pyramids" upward every minute. By the time you reach the eighth and ninth minute, you should be cruising at your fastest pace or working at the highest intensity possible. Then ease back for the last minute of the workout to cool-down. If you are working on a treadmill, then the speed and/or incline can be increased every minute. If a bike or elliptical machine, then adjust your resistance. If you use a stair climber, increase the speed. Or maybe you prefer to exercise outside. The pyramid is great for activities like running, biking or swimming. Simply increase your pace every minute until you reach a near maximal level toward the end of the 10-minute workout.

3) Interval training

Pick your favorite aerobic exercise. Start by doing 2 minutes at a comfortable pace. Then, give an all-out, high intense effort for 1 minute, followed by 1 minute back at a comfortable, moderate intense pace. Repeat 4 times.

4) Stair climbing

“Take the stairs instead of the elevator” is a common phrase for physically active people. It is true that stair climbing is one of the best cardiovascular conditioning exercises you can do. If you have stairs in your home, office, local park, or wherever, you can use them for an effective 10 minute workout. It is simple. Just, walk up and down the stairs for 10 minutes without stopping. Each time you do this workout, increase the number of stair climbs within the 10-minute period by going at a slightly faster pace.

5) HIIT Body Weight Circuit 1

Perform the following circuit 5 times:

  • Jog in place (30 seconds)
  • Squat thrusts (30 seconds)
  • Jumping jacks (30 seconds)
  • Mountain climbers (30 seconds)

Squat Thrusts Demonstration

6) HIIT Body Weight Circuit 2

Perform the following circuit 4 times:

Scroll to Continue
  • Jump rope (1 minute) – with or without an actual jump rope
  • Jog in place with high knees (1 minute)
  • Squat jumps (30 seconds)

Squat Jumps Demonstration

7) HIIT Body Weight Circuit 3

Perform the following circuit 2 times:

  • Jog in place (30 seconds)
  • Squat jumps (30 seconds)
  • March in place (30 seconds)
  • Squat jumps (30 seconds)
  • March in place (30 seconds)
  • Mountain Climbers (30 seconds)
  • March in place (30 seconds)
  • Squat thrusts (30 seconds)
  • March in place (30 seconds)
  • Squat thrusts (30 seconds)

Mountain Climbers Demonstration

8) HIIT Body Weight Circuit 4

Perform the following circuit 2 times:

  • Jog in place (1 minute)
  • Squat thrusts (1 minute)
  • Jumping Jacks (1 minute)
  • Squat jumps (1 minute)
  • Mountain climbers (1 minute)

High Knee Jog in Place Demonstration

9) HIIT Body Weight Circuit 5

Perform the following circuit 1 time:

  • Jog in place (1 minute)
  • Jumping Jacks (1 minute)
  • High knee jog in place (1 minute)
  • Alternating jabs (1 minute)
  • Alternating kicks (1 minute)
  • Mountain climbers (1 minute
  • Alternating jabs (1 minute)
  • Alternating kicks (1 minute)
  • Squat jumps (1 minute)
  • Jog in place (1 minute)

Alternating Jabs Demonstration

Alternating Kicks Demonstration

10) HIIT Body Weight Circuit 6

Perform the following circuit 5 times:

  • Jog in place (1 minute)
  • Step-ups on a chair (1 minute)

Steps Ups on an Elevated Surface Demonstration

How Many Days Per Week is Best?

The answer to this question depends on your overall fitness goals. If you would like to improve your cardiovascular fitness, then at least 3 days per week of aerobic exercise are needed [5].

If you are also engaged in strength training, then the 10-minute cardiovascular workouts mentioned here will provide a nice complement. They can be alternated with your resistance training days. Three days per week of resistance training with 3 days per week of short-intense cardiovascular conditioning provide a well-balanced fitness routine.

If you are wanting to lose body fat, then these workouts will certainly help. But you must also strive to eat a well-balanced diet with an appropriate amount of calories to suit your body composition goals.

Important note: Brief, intense workouts are great. They stimulate cardiovascular conditioning within a short time, so they easily fit into a busy schedule. However, for the most optimal results in your pursuit toward healthier and fitter person, being physically active when you are not exercising is vital. The 10-minute cardiovascular workouts mentioned here on top of accumulating 10,000 steps throughout the day is a recipe for success.


My intention with providing the workouts above is to give you quick and easy routines that can be performed pretty much anywhere. But I also hope they stimulate your “fitness-creativity” allowing you to personalize your own structured routine. Either way, I think you will discover as I have, you can get a heart pumping, calorie expending workout in just 10 minutes!


[1] Snarr, RL., Esco, MR., and Nickerson, BS. Metabolic and cardiovascular demands of a high intensity interval exercise bout utilizing a suspension device. J Sport Human Perf 2014;2(3):1-8.

[2] Schleppenbach, LN, Ezer, AB, Gronemus, SA, Widenski, KR, Braun, SI, Janot JM. Speed- and circuit-based high-intensity interval training on recovery oxygen consumption. Int J Exerc Sci 2017;10(7):943-953.

[3] Schaun CZ, Alberton CL, Ribeiro, DO, Pintom SS. Acute effects of high-intensity interval training and moderate-intensity continuous training sessions on cardiorespiratory parameters in healthy young men. Eur J Appl Physiol 2017; 117(7):1437-1444.

[4] Sedlock, DA, Fissinger, JA, Melby, CL. Effect of exercise intensity and duration on postexercise energy expenditure. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998; 21(6):662-666.

[5] Garber, CE, Blissmer, B, Deschenes, MR, Franklin, BA, Lamonte MJ, Lee, IM, Nieman, DC, Swain, DP; American College of Sports Medicine. Position Stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2011; 43(7):1334-1359.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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