Beginners should use a structured workout plan when starting cardio exercise to prevent overexertion. To get the maximum benefit from aerobic exercise, you should warm up, exercise in your aerobic target heart rate range, cool down as you finish, then stretch. Depending on your fitness level, you can modify the duration, impact and amount of resistance you use during your workout.
Start every workout by warming up for the first several minutes. It’s important to coordinate your heart, lungs, circulatory system and muscles so they can work together. Start by moving your muscles at a moderate pace, slowly raising your heart rate over the course of several minutes. Jog in place, do arm swings, perform butt kicks, and raise your knees, skipping in place. This will gently stretch and warm your muscles and your body coordinates all of its functions.
No matter how you do it, gradually raise your heart rate with a variety of physical movements before cardio workouts.
Perform your workout at the highest intensity you can sustain for the duration of your time. This means not working at your maximum intensity, which would cause you to have to stop after a few minutes. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor or know your target heart rate range for aerobic exercise, take the talk test. If you can’t talk during your workout, you are working too hard. Aim for a pace similar to a jog. You should be sweating and breathing hard.
If the best, sustained pace you can maintain is similar to a brisk walk, that’s fine. Jogging on a treadmill starts at around 3.5 mph for most people. Beginners can start as slow as 2 mph as they build their heart and lung capacity.
Avoid high-impact exercises that cause both of your feet to leave the ground. This can cause soreness and even repetitive stress injuries to beginners. Examples of high-impact exercise includes jogging, running, skipping rope, jumping jacks, and some aerobic dancing classes.
Perform workouts that use your whole body. While an exercise bike can raise your heart rate, you won’t use your core and upper-body muscles. Use dumbbells, resistance bands, calisthenics, or dance moves to keep your body moving for 30 minutes or longer.
Adding resistance, such as weights, bands, or bodyweight exercises, helps build muscle and burn more calories. Beginners will use less weight and perform fewer repetitions, while those in better shape can increase resistance during workouts.
If you are a beginner not only to cardio exercise, but any kind of physical activity, take a week or two to build your cardio stamina and muscular endurance by working at a more moderate pace. Workouts performed at 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate are not aerobic, but still build cardio strength and stamina. Exercise performed between 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate engages your aerobic energy system. Depending on your definition of “cardio,” you can start with lower-intensity workouts that still challenge your heart and lungs and progress to more intense aerobic workouts. The key is finding a pace that lets you keep going for 30 minutes without stopping.
Don’t exercise hard and then finish your workout abruptly. This will block excess blood and lactic acid that have pooled in your muscles from dissipating, and will cause you to be sore and stiff later. It’s also not a good idea to get your heart racing, then stop moving and sit in a chair or get into a car seat. Slow your movements down for five minutes to gradually lower your heart rate. On a treadmill, you should decrease your speed by .5 mph every minute until you are breathing normally. Other ways to cool down include walking, raising your knees, and raising and lowering your arms slowly.
After you have cooled down, stretch all of your muscles. Move each muscle to just past its comfortable range of motion and hold it for 30 seconds. Pay special attention to your hamstrings, located on the backs of your upper legs, and shoulder muscles, if you play sports.
You have many choices for creating beginner cardio workouts. It’s a good idea to use more than one workout type to prevent repetitive stress injuries, boredom, and a plateau effect that decreases your benefits. Consider the following ways to create cardio workouts: biking, swimming, power walking, dumbbell or resistance band workouts, gliding, step aerobics, hula-hooping, cardio machines (treadmill, elliptical, rowing machine, exercise bike), and following along with a TV workout. If you have a home gym, use it with little or no resistance to create high-intensity, rather than muscle-building, exercises. Perform an exercise at a high intensity for one or two minutes, take a 30-second break, then start a new exercise.