How to get started with cardio training

What is cardiovascular training? describes cardiovascular training as “exercise that improves the heart’s ability to pump blood and oxygen in the body, providing better endurance. If you have good cardiovascular fitness, you can better handle the demands of daily life.” Cardiovascular training can contribute to increased quality of life by improving physical and mental health, strengthening the immune system, and preventing various conditions, including heart and cardiovascular diseases. It serves as both prevention and treatment for numerous diagnoses and conditions.

To improve cardiovascular fitness, you need to exercise in a way that makes your heart work harder, causes you to breathe faster, and makes your muscles feel engaged. You should feel out of breath, preferably over a period of time.

What is recommended?
People with initially low levels of activity will benefit the most from becoming slightly more physically active in their daily lives. Inactive individuals can benefit greatly from making surprisingly small changes, tailored to each person’s function and physical condition. Activity doesn’t necessarily mean structured exercise; it can also involve simple changes in daily routines, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the grocery store instead of driving, and similar activities.

As your physical fitness improves, you can gradually increase your activity level. The Norwegian Directorate of Health recommends that adults and seniors engage in at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity or at least 75 to 150 minutes of high-intensity physical activity per week, or a combination of moderate and high intensity.

Time to get started yourself…
You’ve probably experienced this scenario: It’s back to daily life after a long vacation, and you suddenly decide it’s time to take action – you’re going to start exercising. The first sessions begin at a fast pace, and motivation is through the roof. But then something happens. You get tired. Really, tired, and you decide to postpone a workout until the next day to recover. But before you know it, you’ve gone three weeks without exercising or being physically active, and the rough start is already a reality.

When you find exercise too demanding to carry out, there are some simple tips you can follow to get started with cardiovascular training and establish good, lasting habits for yourself.

Four tips to get started with cardiovascular training.

Tip #1: All activity is good activity.
Assess what is realistic for you. In the initial phase, the focus should be on regular activity rather than intense training. Any activity is better than no activity, and a workout can be as low-threshold as possible. Start with 20-30 minutes of walking a couple of times a week or alternate between brisk walking and light jogging based on your daily condition. Some days, your condition might make it enough to just get out, while on other days you might have more energy and can push yourself a bit harder. As you gain momentum, you can extend your sessions or add one or two extra workouts per week. Remember that brisk walking, especially uphill, is excellent cardiovascular training. Running and cycling aren’t suitable for everyone, so it’s important to find an activity that suits you.

Tip #2: Lower the threshold.
If it’s difficult to get started with activity, set a goal that seems unnaturally low. A good tip is to commit to walking/running/cycling for 10 minutes. If you find it awful after 10 minutes, you can turn around and go home. Once you’re moving, you’ll likely realize it’s not as challenging as you thought and add a few extra minutes or kilometers. Either way, you will have been active for 20 minutes, which provides significant health benefits. If you do this three times a week, you will have accumulated 1 hour of active walking per week. If you extend the walks to 20 minutes one way, you’ve suddenly doubled the total for each week, each month, and each year.

Tip #3: Find an activity you enjoy.
The best exercise is the one you actually go through with. Whether it’s walking, running, swimming, squash, cycling, canoeing, or mountain biking, it doesn’t matter if it gets you moving—it’s good for your health. Also, try to incorporate higher intensity into parts of your session. When you’re out of breath, your heart works harder, and your cardiovascular fitness gradually improves. Enjoyable training is crucial to avoid feeling like each session is a struggle and to make exercise and activity a regular routine. Over time, you’ll also feel like you have more energy, which makes being active even more enjoyable.

Tip #4: Don’t underestimate the impact of everyday activity.
Consider all the trips you make during a day. Could you walk instead of taking the car? If you take the bus, get off a stop or two earlier and walk the rest of the way. Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work, walk to the store and bring a backpack for your groceries. If you have a standing desk at work, try standing a bit before and after lunch every day, as it’s a very effective tool for increasing everyday activity. Everyday activity can be relatively low threshold, but it has a significant impact on your overall health.