Beginner Cardio 30-Minute Workout

Running. Michael Dodge / Stringer / Getty Images

This basic cardio workout is the next step up from the 20-Minute Cardio Workout, adding more time and more intensity to the previous workout. Now you will be achieving the recommended amount of daily moderate-to-intense physical activity. It's a type of workout you'll want to do most days of the week for better health and fitness and, of course, for burning calories. Change it up by using different cardio machines and aerobic activities such as running and cycling.

You'll alternate between a baseline, moderate level, and a slightly higher level by changing your settings, speeding up or slowing down. You can use this Perceived Exertion chart to match how you feel to the suggested Perceived Exertion levels. You'll start at level 4, a moderate exertion level where you can chat with your buddies. Then you'll be taking it up to 6 and 7 where you are a little breathless and sweating, but not yet up to the grunting-only levels.

Equipment Needed 

This workout can be done on any cardio machine or other activities. You can perform this workout on a treadmill, stationary cycle, elliptical trainer, rowing machine, skiing machine. You can also simply do it by walking, running, cycling or doing other cardio physical activities.

How to Do the Beginner Cardio 30-Minute Workout

  • Complete each segment of the workout, setting speed, incline, resistance or ramps to match the suggested Perceived Exertion Levels
  • Modify the workout as needed to fit your fitness level, preferences, and goals
  • Slow down or stop the workout if you feel any pain, dizziness or shortness of breath 
Time Intensity, Speed, Incline or Resistance Perceived Exertion
5 min. Warm up at an easy-moderate pace. 4
5 min. Baseline: Increase speed, incline or resistance (or use a combination) to find your baseline. In this phase, you should be just a little out of your comfort zone and feel that you're working, but able to talk 5
2 min. Increase your incline, resistance or ramps until you feel you're working harder than baseline. 6
3 min. Back to baseline 5
1 min. Increase your incline, resistance or ramps to work harder than baseline. 6
3 min. Back to baseline 5
1 min. Increase your speed to work at a higher intensity - you should find it difficult to talk 7
3 min. Back to baseline 5
2 min. Increase your speed to work at a higher intensity - you should find it difficult to talk 7
5 min. Cool down 4
Total: 30 Minutes

Precautions for This Workout

See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses or other conditions. For safety, be sure you know the basics of any cardio machine you are using. You don't want to waste your workout time by not knowing how to speed it up, slow it down or increase and decrease the resistance and ramps. Figure that out before you get onto the machine. Use any safety cord they provide for the treadmill so it will stop if you trip and fall.

For outdoor cardio workouts, avoid distracted exercising. Be aware of traffic and ensure you can hear the ambient noise if you are using earbuds, etc.

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."