How Much Cardio Should You Do?
Cardio, Cardio, Cardio. For decades, Cardio has been THE go-to exercise for getting healthy and fit.
Fortunately now we know there's a better way- Strength Training!
BUT Cardio is still beneficial. And it's worth talking about. So how much cardio should you do?
First I want to define "Cardio" so we're on the same page moving forward. Then I'll tell you how much you should be doing.
What is "Cardio"?
When you hear the word Cardio, I'd bet the first thought that comes to your mind is going to a big gym and getting on the elliptical or treadmill for a 30 minute torture session.
That's a really limited view of Cardio. Instead I'll define it as:
Any form of exercise with a primary goal of increasing your body's aerobic capacity (the ability of your heart, lunges, and muscles to utilize oxygen to produce energy for an extended period of time.)
Using this definition means a variety of forms of exercise can be considered Cardio!
So stop thinking of treadmills and ellipticals and start thinking of Cardio as anything active you enjoy doing-Walking, Running, Swimming, Hiking, Biking, Dancing, and even Lifting Weights.
How Much Cardio Should You Do?
Before I answer this, I want to assume you're already Strength Training 2 or more days per week. If you aren't, you should be. Strength Training is hands down the most effective way to improve your body, health, and lifestyle. It offers all the same benefits of Cardio as well as many additional benefits Cardio doesn't offer.
As a general rule:
You should do as much Cardio as you need to be in good enough shape to do the things you want to do.
However, how I answer this question for YOU specifically depends on your personal goals. Let's dive into the 4 most common reasons for doing Cardio:
If you're training for a specific athletic event like a race, a volleyball game, or even for backyard football on Thanksgiving day...you should train as much as your sport requires.
If you're a runner, you should run.
It's also a good idea to run if you play sports like soccer, football, basketball, etc.
If you're a swimmer, you should swim.
If you're a cyclist, you should cycle.
It's pretty obvious isn't it? If you want to get better at your sport, train for your sport. And if you'll be doing lots of running with your sport, you should run.
I won't get into more specific recommendations around sports because it's so dependent on the sport, how long you've been doing the sport, how serious you are about improving performance, etc.
Sports performance also isn't my passion. Having fun while improving health and fitness is. So let's dive into the next 3 topics:
Let's start with Fun, because...well....it's fun!! When deciding on a fitness routine you should choose something you enjoy.
So if you love doing Cardio, then you should do it. Simply because you like it! You'll stick to it and it will be a great stress reliever.
I know we have several clients that love running, biking, hiking, and dancing. If that's you, keep it up!!
If you want to be healthy, you don't NEED Cardio. Strength Training gives you all the benefits that Cardio does. Yes, even all the heart health benefits.
Besides, if you've ever done a heavy set of squats or deadlifts, you know Strength Training DEFINITELY gets your heart rate up.
The perfect recipe for health is to walk as much as you can every day and to Strength Train at least 2 days per week.
This keeps you healthy by improving:
Bone Density ☠︎
Aerobic System 🏃♂️
Heart Health ❤️
Stress Levels 🛀
Your Butt 🍑
If all of those improved for you, would you be pretty healthy and happy? I'd say so! So if your only goal is to get healthy, don't worry about dedicated Cardio time.
Cardio is the Holy Grail for fat loss. Or so they say.
But they're lying to you.
Or they're ignorant.
Either way, it's just not true.
Cardio is horribly over-rated for Fat Loss. Watch me prove it.
Fat loss is all about calories. (If anyone tells you otherwise they're lying or ignorant.)
So let's say you want to lose 1 pound of fat per week by doing Cardio. It would take 1 - 1.5 Hours of Cardio Every. Single. Day to achieve that goal.
Or you could just clean up your diet and drop 500 calories from your daily eating plan and lose that same 1 pound per week.
I'll choose the diet change any day. Especially because when you do it right, you won't even miss the 500 calories.
Yep- that's right. It's possible to do this without getting hungry, hangry, cranky, and whiny because you're starving. Starvation and deprivation is NOT the way to fat loss. Sustainable Nutrition is. Maybe I'll write a post on this 🤔
My Fat Loss recommendation is the same as my Health recommendation with one addition:
Walk as much as you can every day, Strength Train at least 2 days per week, and change your diet so you're in a Calorie Deficit while eating foods that you enjoy and keep you full.
Once you've implemented the above plan, you'll start losing fat quickly. If at this point you want even faster fat loss, you might want to add a day or two of dedicated Cardio. But that's it! Otherwise you're going to become obsessive and burn out.
And to be honest, the 1-2 Cardio sessions per week might result in another 1 - 1.5 pounds of fat lost per month. You can decide if that's worth it.
Remember, sustainability is key.
Do you want to ditch Cardio and fad Workouts?
Are you ready to start a Strength Training program tailored specifically to you?