Beginners Cardio Exercise Guidelines for Seniors By Paige Waehner Updated June 26, 2018 Pin Flip Email Print Getty Images/Alistair Berg More in Fitness Beginners Motivation Sports Nutrition Fitness Trends Running Strength Walking Workouts Cardio Flexibility and Stretching Yoga Pilates Fitness Tools and Equipment Health and Safety View All Regular cardio exercise is important for any age group, but older adults probably have the most to gain from starting (or continuing) an exercise program. Not only does cardio strengthen your heart and lungs, it gives you more energy, sharpens your mind, helps you manage your weight, can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and may even keep you young. The question often is, how much cardio should you do and what's the best way to get started? The ACSM/AHA Physical Activity Recommendations for Older Adults suggest three different options (see Figure 1 below): Moderate intensity cardio for 30 minutes, 5 days a week, orVigorous cardio for 20 minutes, 3 days a week, orA mix of moderate and vigorous cardio, 3-5 days a week Setting Up Your Cardio Workouts The recommendations sound simple but making them a reality can be confusing. Use these steps to set up your cardio workout: Choose an Activity - Pick any activity where you can work at a moderate or vigorous intensity level (or about 65% to 80% of your maximum heart rate). Choose something you enjoy, that's accessible, and that fits your needs. For example, if you have joint pain or problems, you might prefer a no-impact exercise like swimming or biking. Other options:WalkingRunningCyclingSwimmingAerobicsHome exercise videosChoose How Long to Exercise - While the ACSM recommends 20-30 minutes, you may need to work up to that if you haven't exercised before. It takes time to build endurance in your heart and muscles, so start with what you can handle and add a few minutes to each workout to work your way up gradually. For example, a beginner might start with 10-15 minutes of walking or cycling and build from there.Choose Your Intensity - The guidelines suggest moderate intensity, which is around Level 5-6 on this perceived exertion scale. Start with a comfortable pace to get a feel for the exercise. Once you feel comfortable, you can push a little harder. Basically, you want to work at a level where you can talk, but only in short sentences. A great way to work on endurance without having to work hard the entire workout is with interval training. Try walking fast for 1 minute and then slowing down a bit for 1-2 minutes, alternating that for 20 or so minutes. Choose How Often You Exercise - If you're a beginner or not sure what you can handle, start with three days a week with rest days in between. You can add more days once you feel ready for more frequent exercise. Cardio Workout Resources Cardio 101Cardio Workouts for BeginnersCardio for Weight LossWhy You Need Cardio Exercise Figure 1: Cardio Guidelines for Older Adults Type of Exercise Cardio Cardio Cardio Frequency 5 Days a Week 3 Days a Week 3-5 Days a Week Intensity Moderate Intensity Vigorous Intensity A mix of moderate and vigorous workouts Duration 30 minutes per workout/150 minutes per week 20-25 minutes per workout/75 minutes per week 20-30 Minutes Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Get exercise tips to make your workouts less work and more fun. Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources Lanza I, Short D, Short K, et al. Endurance Exercise as a Countermeasure for Aging. Diabetes. 2008 November; 57(11): 2933–2942. Nelson M, Rejeski W, Blair S, et al. Physical Activity and Public Health in Older Adults: Recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2007;116;1094-1105. Continue Reading Article Why Older Adults Should Start Strength Training Article Keep Your Heart and Lungs Healthy by Starting Cardio Exercises List 10 Accessible Chair Exercises for Older Adults Article Exercise For Seniors - Living Better As You Age Article Exercises to Help Build Lean Muscle in Your Shoulders List This Weight Training Workout for Seniors Can Help You Keep Active List The Best Cardio Workouts for Losing Weight Article Treadmill Walking Tips for Seniors List Total Body Strength Workout for Seniors Builds Stability List 19 Effective Cardio Exercises for a Gym-Free Workout List The 9 Best Cardio Exercises You Can Do at Home Article The Best Way to Train With Dumbbells If You Are Over Age 50 Article How Senior Citizens Can Enjoy Yoga in Their Golden Years Article Pilates Can Be a Great Option for Senior Fitness Article How Much Exercise Do You Need If You Are Over 65? List Enhance Your Flexibility With Total Body Stretch for Seniors Want to Lose Weight in 2019? Let us help you with a personalized meal plan!