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DIY Fitness: Lunch Break Cardio Circuits

by | Jul 13, 2016 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

For those of us who spend a large part of our day sitting at a desk, a lunch break can be an opportune time to get our heart rates up and our blood flowing. Fortunately, you don’t have to go to the gym to work up a sweat.

Whether you are walking, running, rolling, or jumping; there are plenty of cardio exercises that you can do without a gym or special equipment. Cardio exercises don’t just burn calories, they also improve oxygen and blood flow to your muscles and can promote cardiovascular health.

We’ve identified five of our favorite equipment-free cardio exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere. Completing these exercises back-to-back in a circuit is an easy way to fit activity in your day and can provide maximum results with minimal time investment. Mix and match these moves to create a DIY lunch break cardio circuit.

Jumping Jacks

Jumping jacks are a great full-body exercise that gets your heart rate pumping. Stand with your feet together and your hands by your side. In one motion, jump your feet out to the side and raise your arms above your head. Reverse the motion by jumping back to your starting position and repeat.

  • Beginner Modification: Reduce impact by turn your jumping jack into a stepping exercise, stepping each foot out one at a time while raising your arms above your head.
  • Increase Difficulty: Try a “plyo jack” by jumping as high as you can and pushing your feet out rather than keeping them on the ground. When landing, bring your feet back together and sink into a squat.

High Knees

This exercise improves flexibility and power in your lower limbs. Stand straight with your arms by your side. Bring your knees to your chest one at a time, jumping from one foot to the other. Your arms should pump in a similar motion.

  • Beginner Modification: Slow things down by lifting your knees to your chest one at a time, as if you are marching.
  • Increase Difficulty: Start kicking! While driving your knees up, kick your lower legs out in front of you and pull them down in a forceful foot strike.

Jumping Lunges

This exercise works large muscle groups in your lower body. Bend your knee 90 degrees in front of you while lowering the other knee as much as possible without touching the ground. Jump up to switch your foot positioning — front foot goes to the back, back foot goes to the front.

  • Beginner Modification: Skip the jump and keep things simple by lunging forward, one foot at a time.
  • Increase Difficulty: Add some extra weight. Hold your backpack, a large book, a small co-worker — whatever makes your jump more challenging.


Burpees are a popular, full-body exercise. Stand with your legs shoulder width apart. Place your hands on the ground outside your feet and jump your feet back behind you, moving into the plank position. Jump your feet forward towards your hands and finish the movement by lifting yourself up and jumping in the air with your hands overhead.

  • Beginner Modification: Rather than jumping away from or towards your hands, step your feet out and back in and skip the final jump.
  • Increase Difficulty: Add a push up when your body is in the plank position.

Squat Jumps

Squats force you to squeeze your core and straighten your back. Position your feet hip-width apart. Sit back until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then jump as high as you can. Bend your knees when landing and return to the starting position.

  • Beginner Modification: Reduce the stress on your joints by keeping your jump small or not jumping at all.
  • Increase Difficulty: Get dizzy! Turn your body anywhere between 90 and 180 degrees with each jump to complete rotations.

Perform each move for thirty seconds, taking fifteen seconds of rest in between moves. Repeat your circuit from start to finish four times for an effective workout that’s just under 15 minutes.