Basic Cardio Endurance Workout

Rowing Machine
Rowing Machine. Cameron Spencer / Staff / Getty Images

This basic endurance workout is designed to keep you at a moderate intensity while changing your settings to keep the workout a little more interesting. You'll be switching between a Level 5 and a Level 6 on the Perceived Exertion Chart. The difference between the two is subtle, but Level 6 takes you just a bit more out of your comfort zone. Pay attention to how you feel to notice the difference. 

This workout can be done using any cardio machine: treadmill, elliptical, rowing machine, stationary cycle or spinning cycle, ski machine, etc. Or you can do it outside with a brisk walk, run, bicycle, rowing, skiing or swimming. 

Simply maintain a steady pace for as long as you can, increasing intensity slightly every five minutes until cool down. You can increase intensity in several ways. First, increase your speed, which is easily done on most equipment or with outdoor exercise. You could also add incline, which is easier to do on a treadmill, while outdoors you will need to find a hill to tackle. Other machines allow you to alter the resistance so you have to put in more effort, such as with a stationary cycle, rowing machine or elliptical.

Basic Cardio Endurance Workout

Time    Exertion Description
5 minutesRPE 3-4Warm up. This is an easier effort or pace so your body gets into gear to perform at a higher level of effort.
5 minutesRPE 5Increase speed, incline or resistance from warm up so that you're working at a moderate level. This is your baseline pace
5 minutesRPE 6Increase speed, incline or resistance (if an option) 1-3 increments
5 minutesRPE 5Decrease back to baseline, reducing your speed, incline or resistance accordingly.
5 minutesRPE 6Increase speed, incline or resistance 1-3 increments
5 minutesRPE 5Decrease back to baseline, reducing your speed, incline or resistance until you are back at RPE 5.
5 minutesRPE 3-4Decrease your speed to cool down. 
  Total Workout Time:  35 Minutes
  • RPE Level 3: You are comfortable but you are breathing harder than when not exercising.
  • RPE Level 4: You are now beginning to sweat a little, but you can still carry on a full conversation without any noticeable effort.
  • RPE Level 5: You are now less comfortable, you are sweating more but you can still talk easily.
  • RPE Level 6: Now talking is more difficult, you are a little breathless,

When and How Often to do this Workout

This workout is one that satisfies the minimum daily recommendation for moderate intensity physical activity for good health and to reduce health risks.

Once you are able to do this workout without strain, you can do it daily. If you encounter muscle aches the day or two after this workout, you may want to do it only on alternate days to allow your muscles to become accustomed to the effort.

You can extend the workout to 60 minutes to burn more calories for weight loss, but you should do this incrementally. Add another round of five minutes of RPE 6 and five minutes of RPE 5 for a 45 minute workout first, doing this for one workout. Do the workout for a week at this level before adding another 5 minutes RPE 6 and 5 minutes RPE 5 to total 65 minutes.

If you have any health conditions or you have not been active, consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

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