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What should my cardio intensity be if I'm starting out?

When first beginning a cardiorespiratory training program, it is recommended that you maintain lower intensity levels typical 50 - 75% of your maximum heart rate. This is what is considered Stage I training and is ideal for a beginner exerciser who has not been working out. Think of this as an intensity level between 1-5 on a scale of 1-10. Just as in weight training, a base needs to be established first. As a beginner, you will want to start slow at this lower intensity, training for approximately 30 minutes and gradually working your way up to 60 minutes. If initially you cannot sustain the 30 minutes at the recommended intensity level, begin with at least five minutes. Perform several small cardio sessions per day until you reach 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week.

If you are just starting out it is very important that you first work toward developing a solid cardio foundation. The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommend beginning at an intensity level 65-75% of your maximum heart rate. Start slowly and work your way up to being able to perform 30 to 60 minutes of cardio each session. If you find this a little too challenging to begin with, you can start with just 5-10 minutes at a time and do multiple sessions throughout the day until you accumulate the required 30 to 60 minutes of cardio at least five days a week.
 

If you are trying to make a healthy lifestyle change, you must do 30 minutes of moderate cardio, 5-7 days per week. If you cannot do 30 minutes all at once then consider doing three 10 minute periods of cardio to still have a positive impact on your overall health. The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends your intensity, or training heart rate be between 65%-75% of you maximum heart rate. To determine your training heart rate simply subtract your age from the number 220 and multiply that number by .65 or .75 to find out your training heart rate. However, if this is too high for you to start, don’t worry, you will see results if you start of at 40%-50%, then move to a higher percentage when you do not feel challenged anymore. Remember to consult your doctor before starting any program to ensure your body can handle the stress of cardio workouts.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.