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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Top Cardiovascular Exercises for Senior Clients

Top Cardiovascular Exercises for Senior Clients

Reading Time: 4 minutes


DATE: 2022-05-12

There are endless benefits to remaining physically active as you age. Encouraging a healthy lifestyle is not only important for improving your physique, but also for heart health. We know that a healthy heart produces longevity in life. Better yet, the cardiovascular system is responsible for supplying the body with oxygen.

Our hearts cannot beat as fast during physical activity as we grow older. The health of the heart also changes as you get older. So, how can we safely and effectively provide senior fitness clients with exercises that can strengthen their hearts and reduce health risks? 

Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercises

It is crucial to understand the benefits cardio has on senior fitness. Aerobic exercise promotes blood flow to working muscles. This is also known as cardiovascular exercise. Aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular health because it allows the body to strengthen the heart. The stronger the heart is, the more efficiently it can pump blood throughout the body.

Adequate blood flow helps lower blood pressure and regulates blood sugar levels. On top of improving overall health, you can expect cardio exercise to help manage body weight more effectively. Strength training paired with cardio is optimal for body composition changes. Though aerobic exercise at an appropriate intensity will provide effective cardio workouts for seniors. Regular physical activity will lead to fall prevention, muscle strength, and health benefits. 

The fitness level, age, and experience of older adults determine the appropriate intensity level and exercise choice. Older adults benefit from consistent daily exercise at a low to moderate intensity. Vigorous exercise is not advised, especially in senior fitness. Focus on providing regular physical activity and activities such as water aerobics. Older adults new to fitness generally live sedentary lives and can benefit simply from these types of training, including corrective exercise

Planning Cardio Workouts

Not sure how older adults should start with cardio exercise, especially knowing they may have exercise limitations?

 Brisk walking, jogging, or running are great cardio exercise choices. Though some seniors might have to start with exercise modifications or in the water, such as water aerobics or swimming exercises. This is dependent on each client; be sure to start with an evaluation for every new client. Keep in mind that 20 minutes of yard work can be a cardio exercise for seniors.

Start by establishing a baseline of fitness for your client. Then prescribe an appropriate intensity based on their capabilities. Beginning with just 10 minutes of cardio each day can be sufficient. Gradually work up to a moderate intensity and a longer workout. Keep your senior clients from overreaching and having a high perceived exertion. 

Choose an activity that clients can perform at a low to moderate intensity level. This is approximately 65% to 75% of one's max heart rate. The activity should consist of something that your client enjoys, can be completed in its entirety, and aligns with their goals. If you have a client who cannot perform high-impact exercise due to joint pain, then you may prescribe water aerobics.

Next, decide how long each cardio session will last. Everybody is different but aim for at least 10–15-minute cardio sessions. This is plenty of cardio for many seniors to start. Ensure each client has a comfortable pace and timeframe for each workout. Complete the workout 2-3 days per week to start. Gradually increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of training. 

Top Cardiovascular Exercises for Seniors

Make the workouts enjoyable by encouraging your senior clients to workout with friends. You can promote this type of cardio exercise with group classes, group personal training, and outdoor activities or events. Try implementing some of these cardio exercises into your clients’ programs.

#1. Walking

Low-intensity walking can take place outside or on a treadmill. One of the advantages of using a treadmill is that you can adjust the pace and incline according to each client. Some older adults can also benefit from having the handrails on a treadmill for safety. 

If clients need to stop abruptly or significantly slow down, then the treadmill may not be the safest option. If this is the case, consider walking outside. Jogging is an option for individuals who are more advanced.

#2. Swimming 

Water aerobics is one of the most popular cardio workout types for the older adults. It is a low impact exercise and has a low risk of injury. You can target all the muscle groups in the body and improve heart health, all while in the pool. 

Not only is swimming easy on the joints, but there are many different levels of water aerobics. Basic swimming is the most common, but you can also add water resistance exercises, stretching, and relaxation training. 

#3. Cycling

When it comes to cycling there are plenty of options available for seniors. If able, seniors can ride a regular bike outside. In many cases, recumbent bikes may be a safer way for seniors to experience low-impact cardio workouts from bike riding. They can store one at home or utilize it in most gyms. This eliminates older adults having to balance on a regular bike and risk the chance of injury or falls. 

#4. Rowing

Lastly, cardio exercise using the rower can target the entire body. It helps increase cardio levels in seniors and is a safe and effective exercise choice. Targeting all the muscle groups in the body is a great way to complete a cardio workout in a short time. It does not put a lot of pressure on joints and produces results.

Getting Active and Improving Heart Health 

Cardio is a safe way for seniors to stay moving, whether it be in the gym or out in the yard. Aerobics, cycling, gardening, rowing, and walking are available for seniors to participate in. Don’t forget group personal training and group fitness classes help seniors stay connected with friends. This keeps them motivated while improving heart health and overall fitness. 

Help seniors improve their quality of life and become an ISSA Lifespan Fitness Coach. You’ll learn how to work with people of varying ages and help them achieve their goals no matter what they are. Becoming a Certified Lifespan Coach through ISSA means you will be on the path to helping people live long, happy, and healthy lives.

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ISSA | Lifespan Coach

The ISSA Lifespan Coach gives you the specific knowledge and skills you need to train youth and senior clients. Find out how to give youth clients the motivation and guidance they need to continue healthy habits into adulthood as you instill the value of health and fitness at an early age. While also learning how to train aging or senior clients to decrease risks caused by inactivity through carefully regimented fitness routines to keep them feeling young, vibrant and healthy.


Kazeminia, M., Daneshkhah, A., Jalali, R., Vaisi-Raygani, A., Salari, N., & Mohammadi, M. (2020). The Effect of Exercise on the Older Adult's Blood Pressure Suffering Hypertension: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis on Clinical Trial Studies. International journal of hypertension, 2020, 2786120. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/2786120

Blood Sugar and Exercise. ADA. Diabetes.org. (2022). Retrieved 22 April 2022, from https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/fitness/getting-started-safely/blood-glucose-and-exercise.

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