At-Home Fat Loss Cardio: Indoor, Small Space, No Equipment

by | Cardio, Exercise, Weight Loss

Staying active is key if you want to get lean. But what if training outside or in a gym is not an option?

Maybe you should give up. Accept the fact you’ll get out of shape. Keep gaining fat and let your weight keep increasing…

Or you can do something about it.

People who really care about their fitness and health don’t give up that easily. There are plenty of solutions. In fact, many cardio exercises can be done at home.

Find out how to burn fat fast without leaving your place. No fancy cardio equipment required. Get lean even if you live and work in a tight space.

Note: To immediately review specific cardio routines click here to go to the exercise section.

Important: What Is Cardio & How Does it Affect Fat Loss?

Most people, maybe even you, confuse cardio with anaerobic training. Many activities promoted as cardio engage totally different bodily systems. And sometimes non-traditional exercises are a great form of cardiovascular training.

Excerpt from “Best Fat Loss Cardio for Men” – “Aerobic exercise (cardio) is a low to moderate-intensity rhythmic activity that engages large muscles. The energy required is provided via aerobic metabolism. The primary fuel for that process is fat. The nature of aerobic metabolism allows maintaining stable activity levels over a long period.”

Bottom line, it comes down to 2 things:

  • Movements are repetitive and can be sustained for a long period.
  • The intensity is rarely high, your muscles are not working hard.

Practical Implications for Indoor Training

ANY activity that fits that criteria above can pass as cardio. Running the stairs can be cardio if you maintain a slow to moderate pace. But it’s no longer cardio if you start maxing out muscle engagement and burn out quickly.

You can perform a variety of different activities. This means the environment, and equipment access are not limiting factors. You just need to nail the right amount of intensity and session length.

However, does it even matter whether you’re doing aerobic or anaerobic training?

Aerobic vs Anaerobic Training

Here are the main differences:

Aerobic training (cardio):

  • intensity: low to moderate
  • initial effort sustainability: more than 2-3 mins
  • primary source of energy: fat
  • performance limited by the max oxygen intake: yes
  • calories burned per unit of time: low to moderate

Anaerobic training (bodyweight only or using external resistance):

  • intensity: high to maxed out
  • initial effort sustainability: up to ~2 mins
  • primary source of energy: carbs
  • performance limited by the max oxygen intake: yes
  • calories burned per unit of time: moderate to high

Here’s the kicker. All these differences barely affect fat loss. It doesn’t matter if you use carbs or fats for energy. Both dietary fats and carbs can be used as fuel.

Both can be stored as body fat. The more you use up one nutrient, the more you store the other one. What’s your primary fuel source is irrelevant. It mostly matters how much you use up.

The energy in fats and carbs is measured in calories. More calories used up during exercise means faster weight loss rate.

What’s More Effective: Cardio or Resistance Training?

Weight loss results are usually similar. Aerobic training burns fewer calories per unit of time. But sessions can be long and frequent. Anaerobic exercise burns more on average. But sessions are harder. Hence shorter and less frequent.

Total energy expenditure over a long period is usually similar in both cases.

You can train however you want. Choose the type of activity that appeals to you the most. Then balance intensity, frequency, and session length based on your goals.

Important: The information here is only relevant if your goal is fat loss. Sports performance is significantly affected by the type of training. Cardio training has a major (positive) impact on endurance.

What’s the Fastest Way to Lose Fat with Home Exercise?

There are a few major criteria you need to consider first:

  • the type of activities you enjoy the most
  • preferred session length
  • the maximum frequency of training

Some training protocols burn more calories than others. Also, training hard and frequently leads to faster results. However, your preferences and schedule might not allow optimal fat loss.

If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing you won’t stick to it long enough to see results. The same goes for time commitment. Set realistic goals in terms of your training plan. Respect your schedule. Don't try to cramp too many things in a short period of time.

Will 20 Minutes of Cardio Make a Difference?

Doing a couple of quick sessions a week is better than nothing. The key is consistency. This means pre-planning your workouts. And doing something you really enjoy.

Don’t try to wing it every day trying to max out training. You might end up frustrated and unmotivated. Either due to schedule conflicts. Or because you don’t like your training protocol.

How Many Calories Does Cardio Burn?

The exact amount of calories burned is determined by a few variables:

  • intensity: the more demanding the task, the more calories you burn (per unit of time)
  • time: the longer you remain active, the more calories you burn (over long periods)
  • weight (and height): the bigger you are, the more calories you burn
  • body composition: a higher percentage of muscle mass leads to more calories burned

However, you don’t really need to know how many calories you burn. Even advanced formulas rarely provide accurate estimates.

But it does help to know which exercises produce faster results. Here are some home activities in order of the least to the most-energy demanding.

  • studying
  • playing board games
  • VR games
  • yoga
  • vacuuming and other household tasks
  • brisk walking
  • dancing (vigorous)
  • jogging in place
  • running in place
  • jump rope
  • squat jumps
  • jumping jacks
  • burpees
  • running the stairs

The exact execution of each activity will affect energy requirements. The harder it gets, the more carries your burn. Obviously some activities you can’t maintain for long. A more-energy intensive activity doesn’t necessarily lead to better results.

27 Extremely Effective Fat-Burning Home Exercises

Note: Anaerobic resistance exercises are not covered in this article. If your focus is building muscle at home, check out Home Training for Busy Entrepreneurs When Gyms Are Closed.

Generally speaking, there are 3 types of cardiovascular exercises:

  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Similar to resistance training. Good for maintaining muscle mass. Quick but intensive sessions.
  • Moderate-Intensity Steady State (MISS): Your typical cardio exercises. Not great for retaining muscle. Good balance between session length and calories burned.
  • Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS): Barely feels like exercise. Neutral in terms of muscle retention. Highly sustainable, but low energy expenditure.

Easy at Home Cardio Routines

Let’s go over your main options.

HIIT Home Workouts

Pros: Quick sessions save a lot of time. Home HIIT training can provide the desired challenge for advanced individuals.

Cons: Not ideal for beginners. People with poor fitness conditioning face a higher risk of injury.

Workout directions:

  • Selected 4-7 exercises from the list below
  • Perform each exercise for 30-60 seconds
  • Rest about 45 seconds at the end of each circuit
  • Repeat the circuit and rest periods x 4-7 times
  • Important: be very explosive, keep the intensity high
  • Adjust the variables based on your conditioning level

Bodyweight HIIT Exercises:

  • Burpees
  • Supermans with Lateral Raises
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Punch Jacks
  • Standard Push-Ups
  • Plyo Pushup
  • Knee Push-Ups
  • Pike Push-Ups
  • Bodyweight Squats
  • Squat Jumps
  • Jumping Jacks
  • High Knee March
  • Reverse Lunges
  • Skaters
  • Butt Kickers
  • Lateral Lunges
  • Sit-Ups
  • Planks
  • Flutter Kicks
  • Plank Jacks
  • Side Planks
  • Russian twists
  • Dead Bug
  • Dog Bird

MISS Home Workouts

Pros: Great balance between variety, fun, and calories burned. Difference intensity levels to choose from based on your conditioning.

Cons: Mediocre results compared to the time investment. Conditioning and skill level limit your performance.

As for building your own workout, see the exercises in the HIIT section. You can perform the same movements.

However, you’ll do your session in a different way:

  • Selected the easiest 4-7 exercises from the HIIT list
  • Perform each exercise for about 30 seconds
  • No resting at the end of the circuit
  • Repeat the circuit x 6-9 times
  • Important: keep the intensity low
  • Adjust the variables based on your conditioning level

LISS Home Workouts

Pros: Highly sustainable. No prior experience required. It can be combined with some (types of) work or rest time.

Cons: Time consuming. Repetitive and may get boring for some.

There aren’t many LISS exercises you can do at home. It’s usually going to be a form of walking (pacing). Though you can also try yoga. These are great options if you have bad knees or other injuries.

You can blast some music, or listen to a podcast. Or even do client calls while doing circles inside your place. If you don’t have enough space, use the common areas in your building.

It may feel strange in the beginning. But once you get used to it you can easily hit 6,000+ steps a day. That starts to add up quickly. Especially if you have multiple “sessions” a day.

Alternatively, you can try some low-intensity yoga exercises. Go on YouTube and check out some of the free online sessions. Though that form of training tends to burn less energy.

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Until next time!

~Niki, Fitness Mastery Coach

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