How much cardio should you be doing?

ExerciseGeneral_2015Aug26_AOne of the biggest fitness myths out there is that you should do as much cardio exercise as possible. In theory it sounds good, but the reality is that overdoing it on cardio can actually hinder your ability to reach your fitness goals. So, how much cardio should you be doing? Well, it all depends on what you are hoping to achieve.

You probably see the same people at the gym every day doing ridiculous amounts of cardio activity. Maybe this even describes you. Spending hours upon hours on the treadmills, elliptical machines and stationary bikes sounds like it should yield the results you’re looking for, but it’s possible you are simply wasting your time.

The fact is more cardio doesn’t necessarily equate to better results. In fact cardio, like all other aspects of your diet and exercise routine, should be tailored to your goals. Doing more than you need to won’t help you achieve better results. While there is no magic number that will help you reach your fitness goals, here is a brief guide on how much cardio you should be doing based on what you are looking to achieve.

Weight Loss

If shedding pounds is your main objective for working out, then it is natural to think that more cardio equals more calories burned, and that more calories burned means more weight lost. However, if you are doing the same cardio activity everyday and not monitoring your diet, you are not likely to see the weight loss you are hoping for.

If you spend 60 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical machine for five or six days each week, your body will simply adapt, plateau and exert less energy, which means fewer calories burned. This is where diet comes into play. If you are basing your calorie count on what you think you burned over 60 minutes instead of a more realistic amount, then chances are you’re overeating and all that extra work is for nothing.

The reality is that weight loss has more to do with diet than exercise. If you’re eating correctly, then two hours a week of cardio is more than enough for you to see results.

Training for Sports

No two sports are alike, and the training regime for each is likely to be different depending on the duration of activity. A marathon, for instance, will require longer periods of cardio activity than training to run a 5k race. And the training for both of those is far different from preparing to play a team sport like basketball or soccer.

The key here isn’t time, but consistently pushing your body. You’re going to want your cardio exercise to mix and match different distances, levels of intensity and lengths of time to get your body into peak physical condition. Don’t assume that just because a game is 40 minutes long, you only need to do 40 minutes of activity each time you work out to be prepared.

General Health

This is the trickiest one to figure out, because if you asked 11 fitness experts you would likely get 11 different answers. If your goal is simply to be in good physical condition, doing moderate-intensity cardio 20-30 minutes a day for three to five days a week is likely to be enough.

If possible, changing up the type of cardio you do throughout the week will bring extra benefits. For example, an hour of walking or light bicycling can be a good change of pace from running on a treadmill. Not only does this allow you to reduce the amount of stress on your joints, but also ensures your body won’t adapt to the type of cardio you are doing. This in turn gives you more bang for the workout buck.

Need help determining how much cardio you should be doing each day? Want to find a fitness plan that works for you? Get in touch and we’ll help you reach your goals.

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