30-Minute Cardio Medley Workout

Young man training in gym
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Cardio machines can get pretty boring. One way to keep things interesting and work your body in different ways is to change machines throughout the workout. In the example below, I've included the treadmill, bike, and elliptical trainer for a 30-minute workout (plus 10 minutes for a warm-up and cool down).

The speeds and inclines listed are only suggestions, so adjust according to your fitness level. You may not be ready for level 6 or you may want to unleash your inner beast for a few minutes at a higher exertion level. Use the perceived exertion scale to determine how hard you're working; it goes from levels one to 10, with one being no exertion to 10 being "I'm dying."

Equipment for the Cardio Medley

Feel free to choose any cardio machine you prefer. The examples here are a treadmill, stationary bicycle, and elliptical trainer, as those are the most common ones found in gyms. But if you love the rowing machine, or you want to spend time on the ski machine, you can use those in this medley. You'll want to take the time to familiarize yourself with how to change the incline or resistance settings for any cardio machine. You may be able to program some of them or use pre-set programs. With others, you'll have to adjust the settings at each interval.


TIME Intensity/Speed Incline Perceived Exertion

5 min

3.0 mph - warm-up


Level 2-3

3 min

5.0+ mph



1 min

4.5+ mph



3 min

6.0+ mph



1 min

4.5+ mph


1 min 6.0+ mph 2-4% 6-7

1 min

3.0-4.0 mph



Stationary Bike

TIME Intensity/Speed Resistance/Level Perceived Exertion

1 min

70-80 RPM



1 min

100-110 RPM



Alternate each 1-minute interval for 10 minutes, making sure your Perceived Exertion does not go above 7 or 8.

Elliptical Trainer

TIME Resistance/Level Perceived Exertion

3 min



2 min


3 min 5/5 5-6
2 min 6/7 6
5 min 2/1 3-4 (cool down)

One of the benefits of the cardio medley is that you can get a longer workout at a gym where they limit your time on any one piece of equipment. This way you won't be an equipment hog, and you'll still be able to get a longer workout. However, you'll have the added complication of making sure each piece of equipment is free when you're ready to move to it. That may make you a different kind of annoying gym user. Don't end up monopolizing three different pieces of equipment. Be a courteous exerciser and think about choosing a time of day when the equipment is free.


Now that you have the basic 30-minute workout, you've achieved the minimum recommended cardio per day for fitness and health. But why stop there? Once you are able to enjoy this workout and you have the time, lengthen it by doing another round. Start with repeating just one of the machines. That additional 10 minutes will burn more calories. After a week at that level, add in another set with one of the other pieces of equipment.


Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program, especially if you have an injury or a chronic condition or are on medication. Your doctor will be able to give you any needed precautions.

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