Whether you want to improve your health, get fit, or lose some weight, exercise is going to be part of your plan, and when you start exercising, you’re going to hear the term, “cardio.” Cardio exercise is a type of activity that gets your heart rate up into the target heart rate zone so you can burn more fat and calories. The great news is that cardio exercise offers many benefits, including:
- Strengthening the heart so it doesn’t need to work as hard to pump blood through the body
- Helping the body burn more calories and fat to aid in weight loss
- Reduces the risk of serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart attack
- Increases the capacity of your lungs
- Reduces stress
- Helps you enjoy better sleep at night
Cardio offers great health benefits, but how much cardio do you need to do to enjoy these benefits? How much is enough and how much is too much?
Even a Few Minutes Can Go a Long Way
The great thing about cardio exercise is that even a few minutes can go a long way towards improving your health. Just doing a few minutes of cardio each day can give you some health benefits. Take a walk for five minutes outdoors and you can lower your blood pressure and enjoy a better move. Even if you don’t have a lot of time to exercise, doing just a bit of cardio is better than not being active at all.
How Long Should You Engage in Cardio?
Of course, engaging in more than just a few minutes can offer even more benefits. It can take some time to build up your duration. If you want to get fit, improve your health, and/or lose weight, then most guidelines suggest that you get 20-60 minutes of cardio 3-6 days each week. However, too much cardio can be a bad choice. Anything above 60 minutes can be tough on your body unless you’re doing specific training and fueling up your body to handle that much cardio exercise.
Getting Started as a Beginner
If you have never exercised or you haven’t exercised in a long time, then you need to go slow when you’re getting started. It’s a good idea to start out with 10-20 minutes of fast walking at a moderate pace. This is getting you just outside of your comfort zone. You can work on increasing the length of time you spend doing cardio and you can increase your intensity over time as well. Just don’t dive in trying to do 60 minutes at high intensities when you’re just getting started. Take it slow. Your body will build up over time.
Important Tips to Remember When Choosing the Length of Your Workout
As you try to decide how much cardio you should do throughout your day, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:
- You can break up your cardio workouts into smaller workouts. Consider doing three 10-15 minute walks throughout your day. You don’t have to do all your cardio at one time.
- Find small ways to get your heart rate up, such as taking the stairs, parking further from the store, and walking as much as possible.
- Just get started. If you don’t feel like it, commit to doing five minutes. You’ll probably feel so good that you’ll keep going. Remember, every minute of exercise is a minute well spent and will help you accomplish your goals.
- Don’t just think about the length of time you spend doing cardio – think about intensity. If you’re exercising at a slow, steady rate, then working out for longer periods of time is great. However, if you’re engaging in high intensity interval training, then shorter workouts of 10-30 minutes are a better choice.
Just remember, doing too much cardio can be a problem and you will reach a point of diminishing returns. Vary your intensity, keep rest days if you need them, and keep your workouts reasonable for your current health.