This 20-Minute Low-Impact Cardio Pilates Workout Will Get Your Heart Pumping

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Combine cardio and Pilates for a heart-pumping, low-impact workout.
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com

When you think of cardio workouts, Pilates — performed mostly on a mat and created to be gentle on your joints — probably doesn't come to mind. But jumping isn't the only way to get your heart pumping.

By alternating between dynamic isometric and isokinetic movements (from the Hundred to push-ups, for example), "cardio Pilates can potentially increase your lung capacity, which is directly linked to improving blood circulation and oxygen flow to your muscles," says Bridgette Duncan, a certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor.

In other words, like other forms of cardiovascular exercise, cardio Pilates challenges and enhances your heart and lung function. It also leads to a stronger core, a more flexible spine and greater movement efficiency for everyday activities, Duncan says.

Check out more of our 20-minute workouts here — we’ve got something for everyone.

Try This 20-Minute Low-Impact Cardio Pilates Workout

Prepare to break a sweat! Designed by Duncan, this full-body, low-impact cardio Pilates workout will improve your muscular endurance, mental stamina and breath connectivity. To make it more challenging, use a pair of light hand weights (2 to 5 pounds), water bottles or cans.

Tip

Exhale as you contract your muscles and inhale when you return to the starting position of each exercise, Duncan says.

Move 1: Glute Bridge With Front Raise

Move 1: Glute Bridge With Front Raise
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Lying on your back, start with your arms lifted toward the ceiling, your knees bent and feet planted on the floor.
  2. Engage your abdominals to lift your hips up toward the ceiling while lowering your arms to the floor.
  3. Pause, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement, then lower your hips back to the floor while raising your arms overhead, returning to starting position.

Move 2: Isometric Glute Bridge With Front Fly

Move 2: Isometric Glute Bridge With Front Fly
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Lying on your back, start with your arms lifted toward the ceiling, your knees bent and feet planted on the floor.
  2. Lift your hips to the ceiling, holding them as high as possible.
  3. Maintaining this glute bridge, perform a chest fly, slowly opening your arms to the side before squeezing them back to the starting position.

Move 3: Upper Abdominal Curl

Move 3: Upper Abdominal Curl
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Lying on your back, start with your arms lifted toward the ceiling, your knees bent and feet planted on the floor.
  2. As you lower your arms down to your hips, curl your head, neck and shoulders off the mat to create a C-curve with your upper back.
  3. Exhale while you contract your ab muscles, then inhale as you return to the starting position.

Move 4: Single-Leg Glute Bridge With Chest Press

Move 4: Single-Leg Glute Bridge With Chest Press
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Lying on your back, start with your arms lifted toward the ceiling, your knees bent and feet planted on the floor.
  2. Lift one leg into tabletop position (or a 90-degree angle with the floor).
  3. Lift your hips up toward the ceiling and pull your elbows down to your mat.
  4. Squeeze your glutes, then lower your hips, pressing your arms straight toward the ceiling.
  5. Continue this movement, alternating your legs.

Move 5: Single-Leg Raise

Move 5: Single-Leg Raise
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Lying on your back, bend one leg, planting your foot on the mat.
  2. Straighten your opposite leg and extend both of your arms overhead.
  3. Curl your head, neck and shoulders off your mat, lifting your straight leg and arms toward the ceiling.
  4. Exhale as you contract your ab muscles at the top of the movement, then inhale as you lower to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Move 6: Single-Leg Stretch

Move 6: Single-Leg Stretch
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Lying on your back, bring your knees into your chest, grab your shins and curl your head, neck and shoulders off the mat.
  2. While holding onto one leg, release your other leg forward in a straight line.
  3. Exhale as you pull your knee in toward your chest and inhale as you switch legs, pulling your opposite knee in.
  4. Continue this movement, alternating your legs.

Move 7: Double-Leg Stretch

Move 7: Double-Leg Stretch
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Lying on your back, bring both knees into your chest, bend your elbows toward your knees and curl your upper back off the mat.
  2. Exhale as you extend your arms overhead and your legs straight in front of you.
  3. Inhale to bring your knees and elbows back to starting position.

Move 8: Single-Leg Straight Stretch

Move 8: Single-Leg Straight Stretch
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Lying on your back, start with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Inhaling to engage your core, extend your arms overhead and stretch your legs forward in a straight line, letting them hover just above the floor.
  3. Exhale as you curl forward, lifting one leg toward the ceiling while lowering your arms to your hips.
  4. Inhale as you extend your arms overhead and lower your leg to the hovering position.
  5. Continue this movement, alternating your legs. Focus on your core engagement as opposed to lifting your leg higher with each rep.

Move 9: Double-Leg Straight Stretch

Move 9: Double-Leg Straight Stretch
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Lying on your back, place your arms by the sides of your torso and curl your head and upper body off your mat.
  2. Lift both legs toward the ceiling, and, while maintaining a strong core, exhale, lowering your legs to hip height.
  3. On your inhale, lift your legs back to the starting position.

Move 10: Criss Cross

Move 10: Criss Cross
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Start by lying on your back.
  2. Interlock your hands behind your head, curling your head and upper body off your mat, then bring your knees in toward your chest.
  3. Exhale and extend one leg forward, bringing your opposite arm to your bent knee.
  4. Inhale as you switch to the other side.

Move 11: Plank Push Backs

Move 11: Plank Push Backs
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Start by kneeling on the floor.
  2. With your arms shoulder-width apart, stretch your hands in front of you and bend forward, so your gaze is down on the mat and your torso rests on your thighs.
  3. Tucking your toes under, exhale as your press your body forward while lifting your knees and transferring weight into your hands.
  4. Extend your legs fully, bearing weight in your arms, as you push out to plank position.
  5. Inhale in plank, then push back to your starting position.

Move 12: Plank and Twist

Move 12: Plank and Twist
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Start in a high plank, with your shoulders above your hands and feet hip-width apart.
  2. On your exhale, twist your torso and hips to face the side of your mat. Bring your top hand to your hip and balance on the side of your feet, in a staggered position.
  3. Inhale as you turn back toward your mat, once again finding your high plank.
  4. Exhale and twist to the other side.
  5. Continue this movement, alternating sides.

Move 13: Push-Up

Move 13: Push-Up
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Start in a high plank, with your shoulders above your hands and feet hip-width apart.
  2. Exhale as bend your arms and lower your chest to the floor.
  3. Inhale as you push through your hands and return to your starting position.

Tip

Be sure to not drop your hips, using your core to stabilize the lower half of your body.

Move 14: Roll Down With Biceps Curl

Move 14: Roll Down With Biceps Curl
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Sit with your knees bent and feet planted together on the floor.
  2. Curl your arms up to form 90-degree angles with your palms facing inward.
  3. Exhale as you roll back, flexing your spine and extending your arms forward.
  4. Inhale as you return to the starting position.

Move 15: Single-Leg Teaser

Move 15: Single-Leg Teaser
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Start by sitting in a V position with one leg extended forward and other bent with your foot planted on the floor.
  2. Hold your thighs together and extend your arms forward.
  3. Keeping your arms at shoulder level and your leg lifted, exhale as you engage your core and roll your spine backward toward the floor.
  4. Inhale as your return to starting position.
  5. Repeat the movement, alternating legs.

Move 16: Side-Kneeling Obliques

Move 16: Side-Kneeling Obliques
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Kneel on the mat, leaning to one side and balancing on one hand and knee.
  2. Extend your opposite arm overhead and stretch your free leg out straight to your side.
  3. Exhale, engaging your core and obliques, as you pull your knee to your torso and bend your elbow to your knee.
  4. Inhale to extend your arm overhead and return your leg to starting position.
  5. Repeat for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Move 17: Side-Kneeling Leg Lifts

Move 17: Side-Kneeling Leg Lifts
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Kneel on the mat, leaning to one side and balancing on one hand and knee.
  2. Place your top arm on your hip, then exhale as you lift your free leg to hip height.
  3. Inhale as you lower your leg back down to your mat.
  4. Repeat for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Move 18: Wide-Stance Squat With Biceps Curl

Move 18: Wide-Stance Squat With Biceps Curl
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Stand with your legs in a wide V stance (feet are shoulder-width apart, toes turned outward), holding your dumbbells at your thighs with your palms facing out.
  2. Exhale and bend your knees into a squat, making sure your knees track over your second or third toe, while you curl your dumbbells to your shoulders.
  3. Inhale to straighten your arms and legs back to starting position.

Move 19: High Knees With Overhead Press

Move 19: High Knees With Overhead Press
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Stand with your legs in a wide V stance and extend your arms overhead, palms facing outward.
  2. Exhale, then shift your weight to one leg and lift your opposite knee to your side, squeezing your obliques, as you bend your elbows, pulling the dumbbells to your shoulders.
  3. Inhale as you return your foot to the floor and press your arms overhead.
  4. Continue the movement, alternating sides.

Move 20: Roll Down

Move 20: Roll Down
Image Credit: Bridgette Duncan/LIVESTRONG.com
Time (In Seconds) 1 Min
Activity Pilates
  1. Start standing, reaching your arms overhead.
  2. Exhaling, lower your arms in front of you and bend forward as you slowly roll your upper body to the ground, vertebra by vertebra.
  3. Inhale and engage your core as you articulate your upper body back up to standing.
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