There are ways to plan your weekly workouts more wisely if you want to receive certain benefits from your cardio activities.
Few things are as beneficial to your health as a cardio workout: your muscles, especially your heart, are put to action. When it comes to aerobic exercise, the American Physical Activity Guidelines are quite clear. Any amount is beneficial, but more is normally preferable, and many Americans are very sedentary.
However, if you're looking for specific benefits like heart health, weight loss, or overall fitness, you'll need to plan your cardio activities more carefully.
So, if you're asking, "How long should I do cardio?" here are some suggestions for structuring your weekly cardio exercises based on your objectives.
IF YOU”RE FOCUSED ON HEART HEALTH
If keeping your cardiovascular system — your heart and blood vessels — healthy is your goal, activities that include continuous movement and the usage of big muscle groups to boost your heart rate are one of the greatest methods to do so.
Increased physical activity is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. According to a study published in PLOS Medicine in January 2021, people who reported the most physical exercise had a 60% lower risk of heart disease than those who did not. However, researchers discovered that simply increasing your daily activity by 1,000 steps can reduce your risk of heart disease.
So, for heart health, how long should a cardio workout last? Five days a week, aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio. If someone wishes to have the lowest average risk of cardiovascular disease, this is the basic minimum.
The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests increasing your weekly activity total to 300 minutes for even more heart-health advantages.
You can do any type of cardio exercise that you like. Walking is a fantastic alternative and the most accessible, but there are also elliptical machines, cycling, rowing, jogging/running, swimming, skiing, hiking, pickleball, and even dance.
Regardless of which activity you choose, attempt to move at a moderate pace. You can still have a conversation at this level of intensity, but it will be difficult. You're probably not working hard enough to obtain a benefit if you're not breathing any harder than you were at rest.
Feel free to incorporate higher-intensity cardio into your workout as your fitness improves. At greater levels, you won't be able to say more than a few words - if any at all.
IF YOU”RE FOCUSED ON OVERALL FITNESS
Exercise for heart health and general fitness have some similarities. After all, having a healthy heart adds to overall fitness.
There is, however, a distinction between the two: Building enough cardiovascular resilience to complete typical everyday activities without being winded is referred to as heart health, and it can assist to prevent the prevalence of many chronic conditions.
Meanwhile, general fitness entails developing sufficient cardiovascular ability to participate in moderately rigorous activities like running, hiking with a pack, swimming, and sports.
If you want to achieve this, progressively increase the amount of time you spend practicing aerobic activity. Aim for a weekly increase of 10%. That may not be appropriate for everyone, but it's a good place to start.
So, if you're now receiving 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week as advised by the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, aim for 165 minutes next week.
Increase the length of your longest workout first if you want to improve your stamina. (Stamina refers to a person's physical and/or mental ability to keep going for a long time.) Add to your medium-length workouts the following week. Add to the brief workouts after that, and repeat.
Because low- and moderate-intensity cardio workouts take time, if stamina isn't a priority, you might be able to save time by doing more intensive cardio. That may not be appropriate for everyone, but it's a good place to start.
So, if you're now receiving 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week as advised by the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, aim for 165 minutes next week. Increase the length of your longest workout first if you want to improve your stamina. (Stamina refers to a person's physical and/or mental ability to keep going for a long time.) Add to your medium-length workouts the following week. Add to the brief workouts after that, and repeat.
Because low- and moderate-intensity cardio workouts take time, if stamina isn't a priority, you might be able to save time by doing more intensive cardio.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT), for example, is a terrific approach to improve fitness by alternating bouts of all-out effort with recuperation intervals.
The complete workout can be as brief as 20 minutes while still being effective, thanks to the high-intensity intervals. In fact, according to a paper published in The Journal of Physiology in March 2021, HIIT may provide equivalent increases in cardiovascular fitness as regular exercise. You're probably working at a moderate intensity if you're doing 45 minutes.
IF YOU”RE FOCUSED ON WEIGHT LOSS
Cardio, according to the American Heart Association, has numerous advantages, including lowering blood pressure, increasing sleep and brain health, and reducing your chance of chronic diseases. However, assisting with weight loss? Not at all.
According to a review published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases in July-August 2018, the minimal standards for aerobic activity (150 minutes per week) may be sufficient for improving heart health, but they're often insufficient for losing weight without calorie restriction.
The sheer amount of time and effort required to burn a considerable quantity of calories is one reason.
According to Harvard Health estimates, a brisk 30-minute walk at a speed of 17 minutes per mile burns between 107 and 159 calories. That quantity may help you achieve a healthy calorie deficit for weight loss, but studies show that you need a higher calorie burn to experience significant weight loss from exercise.
People with overweight or obesity who burned 400 calories per workout five times per week for ten months dropped 4.3 percent of their body weight, according to a March 2013 study published in Obesity. Those who exercised for 600 calories five times per week shed 5.7 percent of their body weight. Neither group cut back on their calorie consumption.
According to Harvard Health estimates, you'd have to walk briskly for two and a half to nearly four hours to burn the same number of calories. Alternatively, you could raise your intensity: Running at a pace of 10 minutes per mile for 30 minutes burns between 420 and 495 calories.
Many people are unable to maintain a five-day-per-week training plan that burns at least 400 calories every session. Finally, nutrition is more important than the amount or type of cardio you perform for weight loss.
One way to look at it is that the amount of time you spend deciding what to eat during the day far outweighs the amount of time you have to exercise. Even if you only workout for an hour, you'll still have 15 hours left (not including sleeping time). There are plenty of opportunities to make dietary selections over those 15 hours.
When it comes to weight loss, postponing a workout so you can spend that time meal prepping is practically superior.
All of this isn't to say that if you're attempting to lose weight, cardio can't or shouldn't be a component of your regimen. Cardio, in addition to being good for your heart, can help you reach your weekly calorie deficit.
In terms of calories burned per minute, HIIT is likely to burn more than low- or moderate-intensity cardio. If the workout sessions are of same length, you may be able to burn more calories from fat.
According to the American Council on Exercise, a 30-minute low-intensity aerobic workout will burn around 200 calories total, with 120 calories coming from fat (ACE). If you increase the intensity of that 30-minute workout to a high-intensity exertion, you'll burn about 400 calories, with 140 of those calories coming from fat.
Most of us, however, are unable to complete numerous high-intensity workouts during the week, and experts advise against doing so every day because your body need recuperation.
While high-intensity interval training (HIIT) burns more calories, low- and moderate-intensity cardio is easier to practice most days of the week, making it a good choice for a long-term cardio regimen. To offer variation and challenge, incorporate high-intensity bursts.
At least 80% of your cardio should be done at a low-to-moderate effort, with the remaining 20% at greater intensities. Beginners should work up to that volume over a few weeks at a low-to-moderate effort. Then work on increasing the intensity of your workouts.