How to get started on Cardiorespiratory Endurance/Aerobics program?

Introduction: Having an aerobic workout can give many benefits to your health. Mainly, aerobics or cardio exercises are known for being good for your heart or cardiorespiratory system. But it is hard to get started on a program. Luckily, thanks to ACSM recommendation, creating the program might be easier.

What is Aerobics?:

Aerobics are activities that improve your cardiorespiratory system. It mainly involves incorporating large muscle groups. Regardless of what activity you are doing, it has to be on a regular basis and continuous in nature. Running, walking, or swimming is good examples of exercises that target your cardiorespiratory system. Endurance is mainly the goal for most adults while some people who want to go deep want to improve speed and stamina. Exercise increases heart rate and respiration in order to feel the increase of endurance, speed, or stamina.

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There are so many benefits when it comes to regular exercise or physical activity. Here are some of the benefits you can get from regular exercise.

-Decrease anxiety and depression

-Enhanced performance of work, recreational, and sports activities

-Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease like diabetes, stroke, or coronary artery disease

-Improve physical function in an older person or the general population

-Decrease mortality and morbidity

-Lose weight

-Improve endurance or fitness


According to ACSM General Principles of Exercise Prescription for Aerobic endurance program, this is the general list

Frequency 3-5 days a week
Intensity Moderate and/or vigorous activity for most people or light to moderate intensity for deconditioned people
Time 30-60 min or 20-60 min for vigorous activity
Type of activity Exercises that involved major muscles and is continuous like running, walking, at home cardio, swimming, boxing, Zumba, etc.

To read more details read here, if not, skip to sample program.


It depends on your current fitness or health condition. Most adults can do 3-5 days a week to meet the criteria for the FITT principles. You can combine vigorous and moderate intensity for 3-5 days. If you want to lose weight, you have to do physical activity, mainly walking for 7 days a week. 5 days a week are only for moderate intensity exercise while for vigorous exercise, do no more than 3 days a week.


This depends on a person’s CRF (Cardiorespiratory fitness) and other factors from age to health status. Mainly measuring heart rate is a good way to determine the kind of intensity you are targeting when doing physical activity. One of the most common heart rate methods is using the Fox HRmax equation; HRmax= 220-age. Use this to help show maximum heart rate you can go for high-intensity work. Use the equation Target Heart Rate= (HRmax-HRrest) * % intensity desired + HRrest, this will help to see where your heart rate is for each % intensity. DIY and hopefully you can see the end result of the equation. In general, go between 40%-60% for a moderate workout, 60%-90% for a vigorous workout, and 30%-40% for a light workout.

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Source: Further look on heart rate and intensity

Other ways to determine intensity is using two common methods: RPE and talk test. RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) is how to measure exertion during exercise. I like to use the 1-10 method because it is easier. 1 is very light exertion like watching TV. 2-3 is light exertion. 4-6 is moderate exertion. 7-8 is vigorous exertion. 9 and 10 are very hard and max effort exertion. The talk test is a test to see if you can carry out a sentence or phrase like counting to 10 or lyrics to BINGO.


You should do 30-60 min to accumulate 150 min/week as recommended. For vigorous exercise go for 20-60 min accumulate 75 min/week. If you feel you cannot reach the time due to lack of time factors, then go for between 10-20 min to get in the time for physical activity. For weight loss, go for 50-60 min.


According to Table 7.4 on ACSM “Guidelines For Exercise Testing and Prescription” 9th edition, there are 4 types of the group you can do for cardiorespiratory activities. Group A is doing exercise with minimal skills and recommended for all adult like walking, slow dancing, cycling, and aqua-aerobics. Group B is activities with a high intensity of minimal skills recommend for adults who are physically active like running, aerobics, rowing, fast dancing, and stepping exercise. Group C is activities that are endurance based and require skills recommended for adults that have skills to perform an average fitness level. Activities like swimming, cross-country skiing, and skating are endurance based requiring skills. Group D is activities that are considered recreational sports recommended for adults who do regular exercise at an average fitness level like basketball, soccer, hiking, and racquet sports.

Sample program:

A 22-year-old male who is intermediate and wants to do cross-training program.

Warm-up: 5-10 min easy walking pace

Workout: 30-60 min of an elliptical trainer, treadmill, stationary bike, or stair climber and go for 5-6 at 1-10 RPE scale or moderate intensity

Cooldown: Same as a warm-up and later do static stretching

Progression: Increase time and/or intensity by increasing the time between 10-15 min and doing activities like step aerobics, spinning class, or running on the treadmill and a final week or two combine moderate and vigorous exercises and time from 45-90 min.


No matter what goal you’re striving for, as long as you are following these guidelines then following the exercise program becomes easy. Follow the FITT principle and include warm-up and cooldown. Find whatever activities you find enjoyable and challenge your body. The more cardio you do, the more benefits you get from exercise. Enjoy the program.


Battista, R., Mayol, M., Hargens, T., & Everett, K. L. (2018). ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.

Pescatello, L. (2014). ASCM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (9th edition). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.

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