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Building a Beginner Workout Plan to Increase Cardiovascular Endurance

woman running up the stairs
Workouts that focus on cardiovascular endurance can boost your heart health and make everyday tasks like walking up stairs and playing with your kids a lot easier!

by Mary Lambkin

As you build your beginner workout plan, it's important to include exercises that increase cardiovascular endurance — a.k.a., cardio workouts. But if you think "cardio workout" equals hours on the treadmill or biking until you're drenched in sweat, think again! A beginner cardio workout can be as simple as a brisk walk or a couple of minutes jumping rope.

These types of workouts boost your heart health and make everyday tasks like walking up the stairs and playing with your kids a lot easier. Not to mention they burn plenty of calories.

When designing your cardio workout, try using the FIIT (frequency, intensity, time, and type) methodology. Change up your routine every week or two to stay motivated and reap the best cardiovascular endurance results. Here's what you need to know in order to build a well-rounded workout plan.

Low-Intensity, Longer Cardio Workouts

Low-intensity cardio workouts are great for beginners who may not be comfortable breaking an intense sweat every time they hit the gym. Exercises like walking and stationary cycling are easy on your joints and approachable for first-time gym goers.

A regular walking routine will not only help you increase your endurance and lose weight, studies have shown it can also help lessen joint pain, boost immune health, and reduce unhealthy cravings! Some time on the treadmill can make working out feel effortless if you pair it with your favorite TV show, podcast, workout playlist, or gym buddy conversation.

How to get started: Longer, low-intensity cardio workouts are a great way to ease into a steady fitness routine and are often a perfect stepping-stone to higher intensity workouts later in your health journey. A beginner workout plan might include a minimum of one (and a maximum of three) low-intensity, long cardio workouts per week.

Frequency: Aim to complete this type of workout one to three times per week at a low intensity. Try walking, steady stationary biking, elliptical training, or steady rowing for 40–90 minutes.

High-Intensity, Shorter Cardio Workouts

High-intensity cardio workouts build a different kind of cardiovascular endurance that will help increase your overall fitness and improve your ability to dash up a set of stairs, bolt after your kids during a game of tag, or load up a car with luggage. Instead of feeling intimidated by the effort level required for high-intensity cardio moves, try to view each exercise as a fun challenge.

High-intensity movements like burpees, jumping rope, stair-climbing, and jumping jacks can all be modified to meet your fitness level. For example, many high-intensity cardio exercises (like burpees) require jumping up or planking in a pushup position. Beginners can reduce the jumping motion to a step-up movement, and plank on their knees instead of their feet.

How to get started: Because high-intensity exercises significantly ramp up your heart rate, there's no need to attempt them for more than a few minutes at a time. Try incorporating anywhere from five to ten minutes of high-intensity exercise into your workouts a few times a week. A five-minute cardio "burst" is a great exercise to add to your routine at the gym or simply squeeze into a busy morning at home.

Frequency: Try to perform this type of workout two to four times per week at a high intensity. Aim to do some burpees, box jumps, sprinting, jumping rope, and jumping jacks for 5-15 minutes.

When it comes to building cardiovascular endurance, consistency is key. Make sure to stick to your gym routine to ensure results! As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.