2 Cardio Workouts for Absolute Beginners

Woman on a stationary bike
Woman on a stationary bike. Caiaimage/Trevor Adeline/Getty Images

Are you a complete exercise beginner who is ready to get started with cardio workouts?

Below are two different workouts that are perfect if you:

  • Have never exercised and will only run if chased.
  • It's been a long time since you've exercised and you're ready to get back on track.
  • You've been on a break due to an illness or injury and you need to start slow and easy. 
  • Your lifestyle is the very definition of sedentary.

    No matter where you are or how long it's been, you can still get back to working out without hurting yourself, getting bored, or feeling miserable.

    The idea is to start with one small goal: Consistency. More than anything, consistency is what you need to build that exercise habit and these workouts are designed to do just that.

    A Walking and Biking Workout Routine

    The workouts below are shown on a treadmill and a stationary bike, but they can actually be done on any cardio machine or outside. Both are designed to ease you back into cardio training. Do the walk outside, if you like, or use a real bike instead of a stationary bike if you have one.

    The key is to pick a workout and make a plan to stick with that workout at least 3 days a week. If you can do it every day, that's even better. Try working out at the same time each day so you get into that habit. It may be tough at first but, over time, your mind and body get used to it.

    Keep going and, at some point, your mind will just know when it's time to workout. Momentum and discipline are a big part of sticking to an exercise program.


    See your doctor if you have any illnesses or conditions that may preclude you from exercise.


    Any cardio activity or machine.


    • Modify the workouts according to your fitness level. Add more time or reduce the workout time as needed.
    • The RPE's (Rate of Perceived Exertion) help you track intensity on a scale of 1 - 10.  Choose a pace you can maintain for the length of the workout. It doesn't matter how slow it might be, the idea is to finish the workout and stay close to your comfort zone. 
    • If you can't talk, feel dizzy, or feel any sharp pains, stop your workout. If you don't feel any better after a rest, call the doc for a check up.
    • Be sure to monitor your intensity. You can use the Perceived Exertion Scale, mentioned above, target heart rate zones, or the talk test
    • Perform this workout at least 2-3 times a week, resting between workouts if you need to.
    • To progress each week, add 2 or more minutes to each workout until you can workout continuously for 30 minutes. 

    Beginner 13-Minute Walking Cardio Workout

    The following walking workout is the perfect choice if you're a beginner and you want to start out nice and easy. It requires no equipment except a good pair of shoes and you can do it outside or indoors on a treadmill or elliptical trainer.

    Feel free to adjust the workout according to your fitness level.

    3 minutes: RPE 3-4 - Warm up at a comfortable pace
    4 minutes: RPE 5 - Increase your pace so that you're working harder, but still able to carry on a conversation
    3 minutes: RPE 4 - Slow down just a bit
    3 minutes: RPE 3 - Slow down to a comfortable pace to cool down
    Try this stretching workout after your cardio to increase flexibility and relax.

    Total Workout Time:  13 Minutes


    Beginner 10-Minute Bike Cardio Workout

    Walking is a great choice for anyone, but the stationary bike is another excellent choice, whether you're just getting started or you want to change things up a bit. Because bikes offer resistance for you to work against, rather than your own body weight, you can allow your body time to get used to exercise without impact. If you have joint problems, the bike might be the best way to start.

    Please modify according to your fitness level

    3 minutes: RPE 3-4 - Warm up at a comfortable pace and keep the resistance low
    4 minutes: RPE 5 - Increase the resistance a few increments to work hard but still able to talk. You'll start to feel it in your legs, so slow down if you feel too much burn.
    3 minutes: RPE 3 - Decrease the resistance and slow down to a comfortable pace to cool down
    Try this stretching workout after your cardio to increase flexibility and relax.

    Total Workout Time:  10 Minutes 

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