There is and always will be on-going debate on how much cardio and what kind of cardio a person should do. The response to the question, “How much cardio should I do?” should always be based on goals and current fitness level. Cardio programs can have endless degrees of variation for each person. For people who just want somewhere to start, let’s take a broad look at cardio.
What is Cardio? Cardio is short for Cardiovascular Exercise. Cardio can be used to describe any number of exercises or programs that increase the heart rate, but for our purposes we’re going to use the term cardio to describe single exercises that maintain a consistently elevated heart rate for an extended period of time (not including classes with cardio components.)
Why cardio? There are many benefits of cardio to include but not limited to a healthier and stronger heart, increased lung capacity, increased work volume, and more efficient use of nutrients in the body. When grouped with resistence training and sound nutrition, cardio plays in important role in developing overall health.
Where to start? If someone is looking to start, or just started their fitness lifestyle; or if someone has seen success without much cardio at all, where do you start? First, congrats on all levels. Investing time in your health is a big step. Here are two ideas you can take and run with.
1) A person looking to start or just starting.
If you are brand new to fitness, walking is a great first step! (ha, more puns) Take some time out of your day and start walking. Remember to walk at a pace where you can consistently, but non exhaustively maintain a higher heart rate. Start out with 10 minutes, then 15 and 20. As you find the distance covered increases and the activity seems easier, continue to steadily change your intensity.
2) A person looking for more results
Strength training and nutrition play a huge factor in fitness success, but at some point without cardio, your programming may become stagnant. If running or jogging are not the cardio exercise of choice, there are other options. ie. stepper, elliptical, bike, airdyne and many others. At this point in your programming, length and intensity of cardio should be considered. The length of a productive cardio session can last between (but is far from limited to) 20-45 minutes. The length of time spent doing cardio can be based on the intensity. Shorter sessions would require higher intensity/effort. Longer sessions can have a more moderate approach. Remember the goal is to increase the heart rate for an extended period of time. An easy stroll should not be considered cardio.
**: If you are doing steady state cardio for 1 hour with little to no results, your intensity is too light. You should not have to do cardio for 1 hour to see desired results. Shorten the length of cardio and increase the intensity. **
Please remember there are other ideas of cardio. Research other methods and find one that helps accomplish your goals.