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Jumpstart Your Cardio Journey: Workouts for Absolute Beginners

Table of Contents

Embarking on a fitness journey can be overwhelming, especially if you're an absolute beginner. With consistency and dedication, you can achieve your cardio goals and improve your overall health. This guide offers workouts tailored for beginners, walking you through each step to build endurance and establish a consistent exercise routine.

Monitoring Intensity

To ensure you're working at the right intensity, monitor your exertion using perceived exertion scales, heart rate zones, or the talk test. Modify workouts according to your fitness level, and always stop if you experience dizziness, sharp pains, or difficulty talking.

Beginner Walking and Biking

Choose a workout that best suits your needs and try to stick with it at least three days a week. Walking and biking are excellent options for easing into cardio training, either on a treadmill, stationary bike, or outdoors.

13-Minute Walking Workout

This beginner walking workout is perfect for easing into a cardio routine. Adjust the workout according to your fitness level:

Time (minutes)ExertionDescription
3RPE 3-4Warm up at a comfortable pace.
4RPE 5Increase pace to work harder but still talk.
3RPE 4Slow down slightly.
3RPE 3Slow down to a comfortable pace for a cool down

10-Minute Bike Workout

The stationary bike is another great option for beginners, especially those with joint problems. Modify the workout according to your fitness level:

Time (minutes)ExertionDescription
3RPE 3-4Warm up at a comfortable pace, low resistance.
4RPE 5Increase resistance to work harder but still talk.
3RPE 3Decrease resistance and slow down for a cool down

Basic Cardio Endurance

Once you've built up your stamina with the beginner workouts, progress to a 35-minute cardio endurance workout. Choose your preferred cardio machine or outdoor activity, and maintain a steady pace, increasing intensity slightly every five minutes until cool down:

Time (minutes)ExertionDescription
5RPE 3-4Warm-up
5RPE 5Increase speed, incline, or resistance
5RPE 6Increase speed, incline, or resistance further
5RPE 5Decrease back to baseline
5RPE 6Increase speed, incline, or resistance again
5RPE 5Decrease back to baseline
5RPE 3-4Cool down

When to Do the Endurance Workout

Perform the endurance workout daily, if possible, to meet the minimum daily recommendation for moderate-intensity physical activity for good health and reduced health risks. If you experience muscle aches, consider doing this workout on alternate days, allowing your muscles time to recover and adapt.

For Weight Loss

If you're aiming for weight loss, consider extending the workout to 60 minutes, but do so gradually:

  1. Add another round of five minutes of RPE 6 and five minutes of RPE 5 for a 45-minute workout first, and do this for one week.
  2. Then, add another five minutes of RPE 6 and five minutes of RPE 5 to total 60 minutes.

By following this guide, you can build a solid foundation for your cardio fitness journey. Starting with beginner workouts and gradually increasing intensity and duration will help you progress steadily and safely. Consistency is key to achieving long-term success, so stick to your workouts and enjoy the benefits of better health and fitness.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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