Beginner Tips for Safe Cardio Exercising

Safe cardio exercising can be done through biking for beginners.
Safe cardio exercising can be done through biking for beginners. | Source

4 Cardio Training Tips

What is cardio exercise? Also known as "aerobics," some think cardio is only a form of exercise to lose weight. However, the ultimate goal of cardio exercise is to increase heart rate and respiration. Your cardio-respiratory system processes and delivers oxygen to your body. This process and delivery system allows you to have the energy to complete a desired activity. When appropriate stress is placed on the cardio-respiratory system, important organs of your body are stimulated and strengthened (i.e., heart).

With increased heart rate and respiration, the cardio-respiratory system is stressed. This overload must be progressive and can be measured by maximum oxygen consumption or "VO2 Max." VO2 Max is the amount of oxygen your body can take in, deliver, and process in one minute. The circulatory system and lungs limit the process of oxygenated blood, as well as how much oxygen your muscles can obtain. The estimated decline in VO2 Max is about one percent per year and determines how quickly you are aging.

Because your cardio-respiratory system is improved by enhanced heart function and the use of oxygen through cardio exercise, it should be added to any workout routine. Following are just a few benefits to you body:

  • decreases the risk of death from heart attack and other diseases
  • increases performance for daily living
  • reduces resting heart rate and normalizes resting blood pressure
  • reduces stress levels and fatigue
  • tones muscles and burns fat
  • improves self confidence

Below are four essential tips that will help you get started with exercising the most important systems in your body so you can know what to expect before starting.

Exercise Warnings!

If you experience any of the symptoms below, you may be overworking yourself. Slow down to relieve symptoms or consult your physician.

  • difficulty breathing
  • dizziness
  • chest pains
  • difficulty talking

Have you done cardio workouts before?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Sporadically
See results without voting

1 - Be Prepared for Cardio Training

If you have been inactive or are just beginning to exercise, there are a few things you need to know before getting started.

  • Physician approval. Get approval from your physician, especially if you have any medical conditions such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.
  • Start slowly. Far too often, exercise beginners are so excited to get started and delve right in only to burnout before the end of the first week. Besides, doing too much to begin will cause overly sore muscles. Depending on your endurance levels, you may want to begin with five minutes and increase as your endurance levels improve.
  • Dress appropriately. When doing any form of aerobics, body heat increases rapidly. You may want to dress appropriately. Layer your clothing so that you may remove layers when you get warm. Also, wear the appropriate safety gear. For example if you're cycling or running you'll need a helmet and running shoes. By dressing appropriately, you prevent injury.
  • Drink water or BCAAs. Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout. If you are doing long and intense cardio workouts, you may want to also consider adding branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) to your water to preserve muscles.
  • Warm up before exercise. See below for more details.
  • Stretch after exercise. See below for more details.

Cardio Exercises Without Stationary Equipment

  • walking briskly (start on level surfaces)
  • jogging
  • cycling
  • hiking
  • swimming
  • tennis
  • badminton
  • volleyball

2 - Warm-Up Exercises Are Important

There are many types of cardio exercise that you may choose from. Cardio equipment such as treadmills, stair climbers, ellipticals, and recumbent bikes are available at your local gym. You may even purchase any equipment for home use as well. However, there is an array of exercises that you may perform for aerobic conditioning. See the list to your right.

Whatever type of cardio exercise you decide to try, you want to warm your muscles and gradually increase your heart rate for five to 10 minutes of low-intensity cardio prior to delving into your actual endurance routine. Warming up reduces your risk for injury, as well as aches and pains. Your body is properly prepared for exercise by increasing your circulation gradually, as cold muscles do not absorb shock or impact well which makes you more susceptible to injury. Besides, warmups also help you to prepare mentally for the exercise to come.

Swimming is a great form of cardio exercise!

Cardio exercise doesn't always have to be in the form of running or bicycling. Try swimming!
Cardio exercise doesn't always have to be in the form of running or bicycling. Try swimming! | Source

VO2 Max Calculators

The cost of calculating VO2 Max can be several hundreds of dollars in a lab. However, you can use a simple method to determine your VO2 Max. You may find an online VO2 Max Calculator with your resting heart rate or exercise tests. Once you calculate your VO2 Max, you may click on the VO2 Max Values Table to find whether you test poorly, fairly, good, excellent, or superior for your age and gender. If you are on the lower end of the table, don't be discouraged as your body will build your VO2 Max levels quickly with consistent cardio exercise.

Low Impact Cardio Workout for Beginners

3 - How Much Cardio is Good for Beginners

There are a few things when determining how much cardio to include per day or week:

  • Intensity. Higher intensity levels won't allow you to perform as long as low intensity levels, as your body will fatigue and energy levels will decrease. Therefore, intensity should be considered with length of exercise.
  • Frequency. As discussed earlier, the cardio-respiratory system needs to be stressed for benefit. Training one to two days per week probably won't provide that benefit. Studies have shown that 20 to 30 minutes of cardio every other day (3 to 5 days per week) is optimal for beginners.
  • Physical Limitations. How much cardio will also depend on your VO2 Max, flexibility, strength, and posture. You may need to determine how much cardio is good for you with your physician if you have any physical limitations. Kinetic considerations include rounded shoulders, forward head posture, low back arches due to anteriorly rotated pelvis, knock-knees, or pigeon toes.

Gradually increase your cardio workouts to at least 30 minutes five to six days per week for best overall health. Though you may need to start off less, consistency will build cardio-respiratory strength quickly. You'll be able to increase your time and frequency each week.

Following is an example guide for walkers that will help you get started. Since the guide starts off with 25 minutes (includes warmup and cool down) and four days per week, you may need to gauge your VO2 Max and use your best judgment to what your body can handle. Build gradually, and always slow down your intensity during the last five minutes of endurance exercise; this will be your cool down exercise. Once you become more advanced in cardio exercise, you may want invest in a heart rate monitor to gauge your cardio target heart rate.

Smart Progression for Walkers

Walks (per week)
Distance (miles)
Warmup (minutes)
Walking (minutes)
Cool Down (minutes

4 - Stretching Exercises Will Reduce Muscle Soreness

Stretching or flexibility exercises are important after a workout. You will want to perform your stretching exercises immediately after your exercise as your muscles are warm. (Never stretch with cold muscles as you may cause injury.) Strengthen elongates soft tissues which relieves joint stress and decreases stiffness. It also improves function and neuromuscular efficiency. Following are some guidelines for stretching exercises:

  • Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
  • Perform 2-3 repetitions for each stretching exercise.
  • Include at least 5-10 minutes for stretching.

Here is a 10 minute stretching routine.


Don't be intimidated about cardio exercising. Once you get started, even if only for five minutes a few times per week, you will find how easy it is to incorporate it into your schedule. Remember to:

  • be prepared for cardio training
  • check your VO2 Max each week to assess progress
  • warmup properly
  • perform your endurance exercise for the appropriate time and level
  • cool down properly and stretch

You may also want to invest in a heart rate monitor to track your progress.

More by this Author


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

If I keep reading your hubs you'll have me taking better care of myself. Part of my problem, and I say this in all seriousness, is that I have one of those bodies that never breaks down. I have always been in good shape and great health, so I think a part of me thinks it will last forever without making any extra effort.

Unfortunately, I am reaching the age where I had better do something or I will regret it for years to come.

Thank you for the great information and for the little push...and thank you for mentioning H.O.W. at the end.

Have a great weekend my new friend.


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

You are one of those lucky people, Bill. I bet more people wish they can have the type of body to stay in good shape without making the extra effort. :) You also have a great weekend.

Gypsy48 profile image

Gypsy48 3 years ago

Excellent hub with valuable tips. I had slacked off on exercising for a couple of weeks, just got lazy. Well I started up again and I could tell I had lost some of my stamina. I gradually got back to full speed but had to take it slow. Voted up and useful.

Sue Bailey profile image

Sue Bailey 3 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

I love the way you put your hubs together. Voted up, pinned and shared

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thank you for stopping by, Gypsy48. I'm glad you got started again and worked yourself up slowly this time. You won't regret it. Have a great day! :-)

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thank you so much, Sue. I actually started using the new topic templates by HP. I really like them. I'm glad you stopped by, and I need to make your way. ;)

Kathryn Stratford profile image

Kathryn Stratford 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

I am not a beginner, but these are still some very useful tips for me to keep in mind. Thank you, Abby, and I hope you've had a wonderful weekend!

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thank you for stopping by, Kathyrn. I appreciate your comment and you! I need to make my way over to you soon. :-)

ladydeonne profile image

ladydeonne 3 years ago from Florence, SC

Great tips for beginners and old timers! I have been walking/jogging for over 35 years with my dogs. I average 12-14 mils per day. I also love and participate in aerobic dancing 3-4 times a week. Walking/jogging/Movement is a natural treatment for my ADHD symptoms. This is the second hub of yours that I've read and I am impressed!

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Wow! That's quite a bit of mileage, ladydeonne! Great on your part! And, yes, it's great for us hyperactive folks. LOL! I'm glad to hear you're very active. You will live forever! ;)

SaffronBlossom profile image

SaffronBlossom 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Abby, your hubs are always so full of useful information! I sporadically do barre and kettlebell (though sadly lack the discipline to do either consistently), and I really appreciated your advice on "how much cardio is good for beginners"--maybe if I didn't overdo it right out of the gate I would stick with it!

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

I love my kettlebells too, Erica! It's difficult working out consistently with a busy schedule for sure. But, I think we women are usually so hard on ourselves with the "all or nothing" mentality. We always want to go all out hoping for better results faster, but we tend to burn out faster because we get so fatigued and sore. Thank you for commenting.

Suzie HQ profile image

Suzie HQ 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

Hi Abby,

I found this so useful even though I am not a beginner I have not been exercising like I used to so feel I would be back at that level. I played a huge amount of sports including tennis, badminton, swimming plus regularly went to gyms over the years.Even played Cricket for our International team (Ireland). Before I got a car (only in the last 3 years) I walked much more too, often for an hour. I do need to get back to daily regular exercise for every reason and will definitely keep this as my starting point! Thanks so much my friend! Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, shared and pinned!

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thank you for the smiles this morning, Suzie. :-) I appreciate your comment. Wow on all that activity! I tried tennis once, but I can't get the hang of it. I admire you for doing so. Last year, I got to meet two Wimbledon champs from back in the 1950s and 1960s at my father-in-laws house when visiting. It was such an honor. I admire anyone who can play this sport. :-)

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

This hub is not only well written and useful but one that we should all read to remind ourselves to get off our butts and move. Like others in the comments before me I was once very active...sports, cardio, and more. Now, well, let's just say life has gotten in my way.

After reading this maybe I can push life aside for a few minutes here and there at least, to get things moving!

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thank you for stopping by and commenting, tillsontitan. I'm glad to have encouraged you. ;) Life does get in the way sometimes, even for me and other fitness trainers. But, I try to look at my workout time as being as important as a doctor's appointment. After all, if we live a healthy lifestyle through good eating and exercise habits, we won't need to see the doc. In any event, carving out 20, 30, or 45 minutes per day for exercise creates many wonderful benefits for us. Not only do we stay in shape, but we have better focus for other things in life, as well as relieve daily stresses. Again, thank you for commenting. :-)

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