The Secret to a Better Cardio Workout

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

To reap the anti-aging benefits of exercise, sometimes you need to go slow — and then fast. Here’s how to put cardio interval training to work for you.


Walking, dancing, swimming, and sports like pickleball are all awesome ways to get your heart rate up. But there’s a style of cardio that can get you even more benefits: interval training. It’s when you alternate intervals of higher intensity movement with periods of active recovery.

“Studies suggest that interval training can have a major anti-aging effect,” says SilverSneakers fitness expert Larysa DiDio. “And that goes all way down to your cells.”  

Basically, chromosomes in your DNA have protective endcaps called telomeres. “Think of them like the plastic ends of shoelaces that keep the laces from fraying,” DiDio explains. “Telomeres do the same thing, and that helps guard against age-related damage in your chromosomes. Cardio interval training has been shown to help telomeres stay strong.”  

For today’s Make Your Move Challenge activity, DiDio leads you through a quick, do-anywhere sequence that will give you an example of cardio interval moves to try.

How to Use Cardio Intervals

Your goal with any cardio (aka aerobic) workout is to build a base level of fitness. This type of exercise gets your heart rate up and burns calories. The payoff: you’ll have more energy for daily life, and help yourself reach or maintain a healthy weight. In the long run, you’ll help lower your risk for heart disease and other chronic conditions.

In this follow-along demonstration, DiDio is going to show you a number of different ways to “give it all you’ve got for 10 seconds. Then you’re going to recover nice and easy for 10 seconds. Rinse and repeat.”

During the 10-second “go” periods, she recommends gauging your effort on a scale of 1 to 10. “You want to be at a 7 or 8 with good energy, good form, no pain.”

Press play to follow along with Larysa. For the most health benefits, aim to do 10 to 20 minutes of cardio intervals five times each week. Dont forget to do a short warmup before you begin your intervals, and finish with an easy cooldown.

As you get comfortable with intervals, you can switch up the length of each interval — try 15 to 30 second intervals, for example. You can even do a circuit of intervals:

  • 10 seconds on, 10 seconds recovery
  • 12 sends on, 12 seconds recovery
  • 15 seconds on, 15 seconds recovery
  • 12 seconds on, 12 seconds recovery
  • 10 seconds on, 10 seconds recovery
  • Repeat the cycle for 5 to 10 minutes

As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

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Ready for More Cardio? Three SilverSneakers Classes to Try 

Many SilverSneakers classes include cardio segments, but there are a few devoted to building cardiovascular strength. At your participating SilverSneakers fitness location, you can pop into a SilverSneakers Circuit class, which alternates between low-impact cardio and upper-body strength. Zumba Gold dance classes are another fun way to get your heart rate up. (Review the gym’s schedule for exact times).  

Or sign up for the SilverSneakers LIVE Cardio Mix—a 45-minute low impact class that includes progressive intensity options. See the latest schedule and RSVP for classes here. No matter which class you try, you’ll get a great workout.  

Just getting started with the Make Your Move Challenge? Find this week’s featured 10-Minute Cardio + Endurance Workout here. And keep up with the Challenge here.

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SilverSneakers members can go to thousands of gyms and fitness locations across the nation, plus take SilverSneakers LIVE online classes that are designed for seniors of all levels. If you have a Medicare plan, it may include SilverSneakers—at no additional cost. Check your eligibility instantly here. 

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