Latino couple running in the morning

The Beginners’ FAQs on Cardio Exercise

Cardio. It’s a word that gets used a lot. But what does it really mean? What’s the best kind? And how much is the right amount?

If you don’t know much about exercise or are totally new to it, we want to help you get started by answering some common questions about what cardio does, why you should do it, and how to get the most from it.

What Does Cardio Really Mean?

Chest X-Ray

Cardio is short for cardiovascular – relating to the heart and blood vessels. We call it cardiovascular exercise because it elevates your heart rate and gets your blood flowing for a long period of time. When we talk about cardio, we’re talking about activities like running, walking, jogging, swimming, or dancing.

What’s Good About It?

Young Women Exercising

Cardiovascular exercise is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy! Regular cardiovascular exercise can:

You can also make cardiovascular exercise a social activity that you can do with friends and family. Once you get used to moving more, you might think about walking to work to beat the stress of traffic.

How Much Do I Need?

Young Man Swimming

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that most adults should aim for 150 - 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise like brisk walking, light jogging, tennis swimming, or dancing a week. Or, if you can dial up the intensity on your exercise (running, aerobics, Zumba, lap swimming, rowing), you can cut that number to 75 - 150 minutes a week.

Whoa! Isn’t That a Lot?

If you’ve never exercised before, it may sound like a challenge. But if you break it down into daily chunks, you can do it! If you’re a beginner, aim for 20 minutes a day. You don’t have to do it all at once – you can start by doing five or 10 minutes of cardio several times a day. The CDC also recommends spreading it out over at least three days of the week to get maximum benefits.

Do I Need to Go to the Gym?

Training Clothes and Equipement

The gym does have all kinds of fancy exercise machines, but you don’t need a gym membership to get fit. Consider this list of activities:


  • Dancing
  • Easy swimming
  • Riding a bike
  • Walking briskly (2.5 miles per hour or faster)
  • Light hike
  • Yardwork

Vigorous Activities

  • Exercise classes such as step aerobics or kickboxing
  • Jogging or running
  • Jumping rope
  • Riding a bike faster than 10 miles per hour
  • Swimming laps
  • Long-distance hiking
  • Vigorous dancing

How Hard Should I Work?

Group of Women in a Dancing Class

You should work hard enough that your heart rate and breathing increases, but not so hard that you’re completely out of breath. You should have enough breath that you can have a conversation while exercising.

What If I’ve Never Worked Out?

Woman sit aside cardio Equipment

If you’ve never been active before, some of these exercises may seem challenging. If you take on too much too fast, you may get discouraged and quit. Take it slow and steady. If you’re aiming for 20 minutes a day, it’s OK to do 10 minutes in the morning and then 10 minutes in the evening until you’ve built up your endurance. Then pick up the pace!

If you have a certain goal in mind – for example, a breast cancer awareness walk – give yourself time and work up to it gradually.

Once I Start Working Out, Should I Change My Diet?

Healthy Lunchbox

You don’t have to – but it’s always a good idea to include more fresh produce and lean meats into your diet. Unless you are engaged in very strenuous exercise for hours at a time, skip the protein shakes, nutrition bars, and sports drinks. You should also drink more water, especially before and during your exercise.

If you’ve never exercised before, have a serious health condition such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, or high blood pressure, or you’ve recently had cancer treatment, check with your doctor before starting a cardio regimen. Call us at (888) 499-9303 to make an appointment.

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AltaMed man and women riding bikes by the beach

Outdoor Activities You Can Do All Year Long

Quick, think of five things you love about Southern California. If you’re anything like us, the warm, sunny weather probably made your list. While the rest of the country braces for a long, snowy winter, Angelenos can stay healthy and active, January through December. Check out these fun outdoor activities you and your family can enjoy all year long.

Go Swimming

Little Girl Swimming Under Water

During months when it’s too cold for taking a dip in the ocean, try visiting one of LA’s public or year-round swimming pools. Swimming offers a whole-body workout with no impact on your joints, and many people enjoy swimming well into their senior years. Some facilities offer other activities, such as water fitness, aqua aerobics, and even land-based classes like yoga and Zumba. The City of Los Angeles has 16-year round pools, and adults can show their Los Angeles library cards to get $1.50 off with every visit.

Take a Hike

Three People Jumping On Rocks Having Fun

Thanks to SoCal’s mild winter months, hiking is excellent cardio, no gym required. Beginners have plenty of options such as walking trails in Elysian Park (behind Dodger Stadium) and the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, where you can enjoy incredible, panoramic views of Los Angeles! Together, Griffith Park and the San Gabriel Mountains offer hundreds of miles of trails, with hikes that range from easy and family-friendly to challenging, all-day treks. Be sure to check the weather forecast ahead of time and dress in comfortable, removable layers.

Join a Sports Team

Guys Playing Soccer

Feeling a little competitive? Try joining a year-round sports league. There are organized outings for many popular sports including soccer, basketball, or baseball, that meet and play every month. Looking to try something new? There are leagues for all kinds of skill levels, so you can learn and have fun at the same time. Playing sports is a fantastic way to burn calories and build muscle, so you’ll stay active and healthy.

Explore a Farmers Market

Mom and Daughter Exploring a Farmers Market

Farmers markets are a fun way to spend a weekend morning and get some steps in. Many markets, like the Farmer’s Market at Bank of America Plaza in Downtown LA and the East Los Angeles Farmers Market, run year-round, so you can stay fully stocked on healthy ingredients. Take time to walk the entirety of the market and explore stalls of colorful, seasonal produce, canned goods, prepared foods, and more! Look online to see local markets in your area. Loaded up on fresh foods? Check out some of AltaMed’s easy recipe ideas.

Get Moving with Your Furry Friend

Woman Frolicking with a Bunch of Dogs in the Grass

No matter the time of year, dogs need to get outside and get moving. If you live in an apartment or don’t always have time to walk your dog twice a day, check out the local dog parks in your area. Both you and your dog will get great exercise walking around and enjoying the outdoors. Remember to come prepared with doggie bags and a leash. Ready for a walk? Try the Arts District Dog Park in Downtown LA, or the Bone Yard in Culver City, considered two of the best dog parks around.

Get Moving and Have Fun!

Young Family Walking on the Beach

Staying active all year round is important for your long-term health. Thanks to Southern California’s great weather, finding fun outdoor activities is easy. Invite friends along or take the family, and you’ll find activities to look forward to for years to come. Want to learn more? Check out these other great ideas for staying active and healthy.

kid taking candy from a jar

Childhood Obesity: Fight the Growing Problem

Obesity is a growing problem that affects a child’s physical, social, and emotional well-being. While weight isn’t the only measure of health, obesity is defined as having a weight-to-height ratio that is much greater than other kids of the same age and gender. At almost 26% and 22%, the obesity rate among Latino and African American children aged 2-19 is above the national average in the United States. We’ve got to work together, as families and communities, to help our children grow healthy.

A Healthy Lifestyle Starts Early

Little Girl Drinking Water

Our children’s weights are usually determined by a little bit of nature, a little bit of nurture: genetics play a big role but so do healthy eating and activity habits (or lack of them).

As a parent, there’s a lot you can do to help your child maintain a healthy weight:

  • Don’t offer food as a reward or comfort, or punish by restricting access to a preferred food.
  • Serve balanced meals that are high in nutrients but lower in calories, sugar, salt, and fat.
  • Avoid the temptation of the fast food drive-thru.
  • Limit empty-calorie drinks like sugary sodas, sports drinks, and juices.
  • Add colorful fruits and vegetables to every meal.
  • Find fun ways to help your child get at least an hour of physical activity most days of the week.
  • Better yet, take advantage of the So Cal sunshine and get the whole family outside for playtime.
  • Limit screen time (television, social media, games).

In Some Cases, Obesity Can Be Caused by Health Conditions

Overweight Person Over a Scale

Sometimes, weight gain or obesity can be caused by a disease or even a medication. Some disorders, such as hypothyroidism, affect the metabolism (how your body changes food and oxygen into energy), which can lead to extra weight. Medications can also be a factor: for example, the steroids that are commonly given with allergy shots can increase the appetite and cause weight gain. If you believe any of these things are affecting your child’s weight, talk to your pediatrician. If you don’t have one, we can help you find a good one!

Health Conditions Caused by Obesity

Obesity affects a child’s physical, social, and emotional health. It is a chronic disease that can cause or worsen other chronic diseases, such as:

  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • Social isolation
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Low self-esteem
  • High blood pressure
  • Bone and joint problems

Let’s Make a Difference Together!

Overweight Kid

Your child depends on you to help them live a healthy life. Empower your child to make good choices about food and physical activity: better yet, set a good example for them!

If your child is overweight, take it seriously but don’t get down about it. Be patient and persistent, while also understanding healthy weight loss takes time. Instead of placing your child on a restrictive diet, try to teach them healthy habits about eating that will stick with them through life.

The fight to end childhood obesity starts at home and in your community

Daughter And Father Playing Hula Hoop

Need some support? We are here to help you with our Solutions and Treatment in Obesity Management and Prevention (STOMP) program. This year-long pediatric weight-control program helps you and your family live a healthy lifestyle by offering nutrition and fitness education, motivational messages, medical care, and personal consultations. It’s a supportive, fun environment, and depending on insurance and eligibility, you and your family may qualify for free.

Call one of our participating STOMP locations to find out more today:

AltaMed Medical and Dental Group - Anaheim, Lincoln (714) 678-2134
AltaMed Medical and Dental Group - Boyle Heights (323) 307-0402

AltaMed Medical and Dental Group - El Monte (626) 453-8466

AltaMed Medical and Dental Group - Huntington Beach (888) 499-9303

AltaMed Medical Group - Santa Ana, Broadway (714) 919-0280

The Beginners’ FAQs on Cardio Exercise