How Much Cardio Should I Do?

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We all want to be healthier and feel better about ourselves. We also know that exercise is a key component of our wellbeing, but when it comes to working out, is more always better? If you have ever asked yourself, a sports coach, or a physical fitness trainer, "How much cardio should I do?" keep reading for some insight behind this question.

How Much Cardio Should I Do?

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The answer to the question "How much cardio should I do?"depends on yourpersonal health, fitness goals, and physical circumstances. However, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise each week or 75 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular exercise.

For recommendations to be valuable, you must understand what they mean. Here, vigorous cardiovascular exercise is aerobic exercise which ramps up your heart rate to between 70 and 90% of its maximum capabilities. If this seems like more than your poor heart can bear, moderate cardiovascular exercise is defined as aerobic exercise which keeps your heart rate around 50 to 70% of its maximum throughout the workout. You can go about this a la weekend warrior or break your workouts up in shorter, more manageable time frames throughout the day and week.

How To Calculate Your Max And Target Heart Rate

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Knowing what percentage of your maximum heart rate is your target is great, but it is meaningless if you don't know how to calculate it. Subtract your age in years from 220 to get your maximum heart rate. Let's say you're 32. Subtract 32 from 220 to get a maximum heart rate of 188 beats per minute during exercise. If you are shooting for a target heart rate of 50% of your maximum heart rate, multiply your max heart rate by 0.5. So, if you have a max heart rate of 188 beats per minute, multiply 188 and 0.5 to get a target heart rate of 94 beats per minute. This works out to roughly 1.5 heart beats per second.

Calculate Resting Heart Rate

Calculate your resting heart rate by taking your pulse for 15 seconds when you wake up in the morning and multiply this number by four. The average resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Once you have your resting heart rate, subtract this number from your maximum heart rate to get your HRR, or heart rate reserve. To determine your target heart rate zone for vigorous intensity exercise, multiply your HRR by 0.7 and add your HRR to get the lower limit of the range and 0.9 and add your HRR to get the upper limit of the range.

Find Your Actual Heart Rate

To calculate your actual heart rate during exercise, stop and use your index finger and middle finger to take your pulse on your neck, next to your windpipe, or wrist, over your radial artery between the tendon and bone. You can find your radial artery on the thumb side of your wrist. Do not use your thumb to take your pulse as it has its own pulse which you may feel. Count your heartbeats for 15 seconds, then multiple this number by four.

Is There An Easer Way To Tell If I'm In The Zone?

If you don't want to take time out of your workout to count your heart rate, gauge your intensity how you feel. Moderate cardiovascular activity will quicken your breath, but you will not be out of breath. After around 10 minutes of exercise, you will develop a light sweat, even if you are in a temperate environment. Finally, you will be able to carry out a conversation, but you will be unable to sing. Vigorous activity is difficult, and you will breathe rapidly and deeply. You will also develop a sweat within minutes of activity. You will only be able to speak a few words before having to stop for breath.

How Much Cardio Should I Do When Dropping Weight?

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Every spring, athletes ask "how much cardio should I do to drop weight" Many sports, such as wrestling, boxing, mixed martial arts and kickboxing, have weight classes which athletes must meet each season. Whether you are looking to get a beach body by summer, feel confident at your best friend's wedding, or just want to drop weight for your health, it's important to know how much cardio you should do to cut body fat. To determine how much cardio you should do, consider the three types of cardiovascular exercise, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), medium-intensity intervals, and steady-state cardio.


Complete high-intensity interval training (HIIT) once or twice per week for 12 to 15 minutes per session. Examples include Versaclimber sprints, exercise bike sprints, hill sprints, or battle rope slams. Start by warming up, then perform at maximum effort for four to six seconds. Rest until you feel ready to exercise at maximum capacity again.

Medium-Intensity Intervals

Complete medium-intensity intervals two to three times per week for 15 to 30 minutes at a time with exercises like battle rope waves, sled pushes, jumping rope, quick jogs outdoors or on a treadmill, and body-weight circuits including pushups, pullups, situps, squats, lunges or planks. Make up your own intervals that are challenging for you but not so difficult you cannot carry on a conversation. Alternate your sets with active recovery such as stretching your triceps, deltoids or hips, depending on the exercise you are doing. For example, skip rope for a minute, then stretch your hip flexors for half a minute.

Steady-State Cardio

Steady-state cardio is what most people think of when someone mentions cardio. Examples include hiking, skiing, rowing, swimming, cycling or spinning, and jogging or running. Complete steady-state cardio one to three times per week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. If you do not have a 60minute block to dedicate to this type of cardio, try to commit 20 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the evening. Weekends are an ideal time to get your steady-state cardio done, because most people have fewer obligations during this time.

Try to keep your heart rate between 120 and 150 beats per minute and wearing a heart rate monitor will help you stay on track. If you are exercising for fitness, perform the same exercise at least once a week, for example, a five-mile run. Make a note of your heart rate each time you complete this set workout You should notice that either your heart rate decreases regularly when running the same distance at the same pace, or your time will decrease regularly if you run the same distance at the same intensity level.

How Much Cardio Should I Do When Bulking Up?

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Not everyone does cardio to burn fat and lose weight. Some people do it to build muscle, or as bodybuilders say, "bulking." If you lift weights regularly, you know that resistance training, or anaerobic exercise, is great for getting your heart pumping, and keep your heart rate up after you put down the iron. Thus, weight lifters do not need have the same cardio requirements as those who do not pump iron to stay active. While focusing on building muscle, it is ideal to perform two to three sessions of 20- to 30-minute cardio sessions such as running, cycling, or swimming.

The Best Cardio For Weight Lifters

Try to work in three to four 30- to 40-minute sessions of moderate intensity cardio each week if your goal is to become a better lifter. This allows you enough energy throughout the week to make gains in your lifts while increasing the strength of your heart so you can pump even harder before exhaustion.

Try a well-rounded cardio strategy such as cycling Monday, swimming Wednesday and running Saturday. This allows you to cross-train many muscles so you do not overwork one muscle group, and each exercise offers its own advantages. For example, intense swimming can help you develop your lats and is a no-impact exercise, while running is a high-impact exercise that can help prevent osteoporosis. Finally, cycling is a low-impact exercise that improves your strength, stamina, and muscle strength along with your pulmonary and cardiovascular health.

How Much Cardio Should I Do? The Bottom Line

In summary, the answer to "how much cardio should I do?" for general health and well-being is between 75 and 150 minutes per week of vigorous to moderate intensity exercise, according to both the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and AHA (American Heart Association).

If you are interested in knowing how much cardio you should do for fat loss, try to work in steady-state cardio such as swimming or running one to three times a week for a total time of 30 to 180 minutes per week. Get in two to three 15- to 30-minute sessions of medium-intensity intervals such as rope skipping or quick jogging with periods of rest in between. Choose intervals which are comfortable but moderately challenging to you. Finally, aim for one to two HIIT workouts lasting 12 to 15 minutes each.


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