These are very common questions when people are starting a fitness program. With regards to cardiovascular exercise my recommendations look like this.
Find an activity that is pain free and enjoyable. If you prefer to walk then walk. If you prefer to bike then bike. Choose any piece you have at the gym if you can do it safely.
Next we start with 10-20 minutes of work. You can go off of a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) or a heart rate. For the RPE I suggest starting at a 7/10 effort. If you prefer a heart rate then go with a range between a minimum of (160 - Age) and a maximum of (180 - Age).
From there we examine how many times a week is practical in our lives. Someone might have aspirations of 5 days a week, but few actually make it to the gym that many. Commit to a realistic number. I encourage folks to start with 2-3 days each week.
From there we build. Once an individual is consistently performing 30-40 minutes of steady state cardio at the above RPE or heart rates multiple times a week we can look to add more sessions or adjust the intensity. If we look to adjust intensity I prefer to add intervals. Intervals are periods of time at a very high RPE followed by periods of very low RPE.
If we take a 30 minute session as an example we might do 10 minutes of RPE 7 to warm-up. We follow this by performing 10 minutes of intervals where we go 10 seconds HARD and 50 seconds EASY. Then we wrap the session up by cooling down for 10 minutes at an RPE of 7 or less.
Another alternative if we are adding sessions is to perform 1-2 interval workouts in addition to our regular bouts of cardio we've been doing. If you normally come in Mon-Wed-Fri you could add an interval workout on Tuesday or Saturday.
There are a plethora of options. Whatever you do start small, add slowly, and remain consistent.
We are Amber and Jordan Kirbey. We are excited to share our experiences and ideas with you!