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The word “cardio” comes from the Greek word “kardía,” meaning “heart.” It’s a pretty apt name for a workout style known to improve the health of your ticker, and increase your beats per minute. But if you’re a cardio beginner, worry not: We asked an expert exactly how to take care of the “kardía” that’s keeping you alive at this very moment.

Caring for your heart is an essential part of caring for your body as a whole, says Michael Weinrauch, MD, Chairman of Cardiology at Overlook Medical Center in Summit. “Health benefits [of cardio] include reduced risk of heart attacks, stroke, and diabetes,” he says. Not so fun fact: Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death for both women and men in America. “Incorporating cardio into your daily routine is definitely something everyone can do to take control of their health and prevent these unfortunately all too common conditions,” says Dr. Weinrauch.

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Beginner cardio workout © Photo: Getty/FreshSplash Beginner cardio workout

Apart from improving your cardio health, there’s evidence to suggest that heading out for a walk, run, or cycle may also dial down your stress levels, reduce your risk of memory loss, improve your quality of sleep, and encourage healthy joints. And unlike strength training, which usually calls for equipment, many types of cardio don’t require anything but your body. In short: There’s a lot to love about cardio.

According to Dr. Weinrauch, the key to kickstarting a cardio routine can be boiled down to two words: Start slow. “For example, fast walking or light jogging for 30 to 40 minutes two to three times a week, may be the optimal dose,” he says. “Keep in mind that in terms of cardiovascular benefit, the most bang for your buck is low to moderate levels of exercise. More vigorous exercise—in terms of intensity and duration—does not seem to reduce mortality further.” (Translation: You don’t need to run 26.2 to fight heart disease; a few walk-and-talks with a friend each week will do.)

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As you progress, make sure you don’t push yourself too much. That’s a recipe for delayed onset muscles soreness (DOMS!). And besides, Dr. Weinrauch says it just isn’t necessary. “Trying to start out too fast is the most common mistake. Unless you’ve worked up to it, there’s no need for high-intensity training. Starting slow and working up to higher levels of exercise is always best,” he explains.

Once you’re ready to commit to a cardio routine, consider your options. Beyond walking or jogging, you could also go for a dip in the pool, hop on your gym’s stationary bike, or sweat through a HIIT class in your living room. Below, we round up a few beginner cardio workouts to get you started.

5 beginner cardio workouts to boost your BPMs and your mood

1. 15-minute bodyweight HIIT workout

High impact or low impact? The choice is yours in this sweaty HIIT workout that requires zero equipment.

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Without preparation, pistol squats are bad for the knees. Many people skip preliminary steps and jump into doing this exercise right away. Even if your leg muscles are well developed, start with simpler exercises. Use a chair or barre to make it easier.

2. 3-minute running form primer

Before you go out on your first jog, queue up this video and let Nike Trainer Jes Woods give you the 101 on form. This one’s a must, especially if you’re planning to run on a treadmill.

3. 20-minute, heat-building yoga flow

Send your heart racing with plenty of chaturangas (yoga push-ups) and core work in this quick flow. You’ll be sweaty and ready for rest by the time savasana rolls around.

4. 9-minute beginner dancer cardio

Did I forget to mention that dancing is cardio? It’s true. Clear some space in your living room and bust a move with Amanda Kloots.

5. 16-minute cardio boxing workout

Channel your inner Ali with boxing instructor Michelle Sim. You’ll move through a quick warm up before heading straight into jabs, shadowboxing, front hooks, and more. And if all of that sounds like gibberish, don’t worry: Sim will teach you the lingo as you box.

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