This study sought to determine whether a 12-week intermittent (INT; 2 x 15 min.d(-1)) exercise program yielded similar improvements in cardiovascular health and fitness, compared with a traditional 12-week, 30-minute continuous (CON; 1 x 30 min.d(-1)) exercise program. A second purpose was to determine the effects of switching exercise programs and continuing training for an additional 12 weeks. Twenty women and 17 men, (age 48.8 +/- 9.0 years) were divided randomly into 2 groups: INT (n = 20) and CON (n = 17). Aerobic exercise was performed 4 d.wk(-1) for 12 weeks. Subjects then crossed over to the opposite training program for an additional 12 weeks of training. Subjects exercised incrementally for weeks 1-4 and training was conducted at 70-80% heart rate reserve for weeks 5-24. Both groups showed comparable exercise adherence, completing 96.6 +/- 12.2% (CON) and 96.3% +/- 17.7% (INT) of the prescribed exercise time. The INT walked at a lower percentage of Vo(2)max, maximum heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure (p < 0.05). Maximal oxygen consumption increased by 4.5% in CON and by 8.7% in INT. Following the second 12 weeks, Vo(2)max increased by 3.6 and 7.7% in CON and INT, respectively. Treadmill test time increased by 41 seconds in CON (p < 0.05) and 71 seconds in INT (p < 0.05) after 12 weeks of training. High-density lipoproteins significantly increased in the INT group following the first 12 weeks of training. This study suggests that an INT exercise program, which is incremental in nature, provides comparable, and in some cases greater, health and fitness benefits than those expected following traditional CON exercise training.