Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that cardiovascular exercise (or cardio for short) is a killer way to burn body fat. From incline walking and jogging to hill sprints and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), there’s no shortage of cardio workouts. But amidst the wide range of cardio exercises and workouts available, one golden question remains: how often do you need to do cardio to lose weight? To find out, we consulted certified personal trainers and fitness experts to help answer this exact question.
Cardio also offers many other health benefits besides weight loss. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, regular exercise, including cardio, can help lower blood pressure, increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and improve blood sugar control. Additionally, research shows that getting regular cardio exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease, which is the number one cause of death worldwide according to the World Health Organization.
Regardless of your fitness level or where you are on your weight loss journey, understanding how often you need to do cardio to reach your weight loss goals is essential. Read on to learn more and get some expert tips on how to incorporate cardio into your fitness routine. Then, find out why cardio isn’t helping you lose weight.
How often should you do cardio to lose weight?
The good news is that striking a healthy balance between cardio and rest doesn’t mean overwhelming yourself with daily high-intensity workouts. Instead, consistency is the name of the game when it comes to lasting weight loss. For excellent heart health, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends healthy adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week. However, if weight loss is your goal then you can increase this amount to 300 minutes.
Tracy Haines-Landram, CSCS“The important thing about the AHA’s cardio guidelines is the accumulation of time throughout the week. It’s not an ‘all or nothing’ way of thinking about cardio,” says BarBend, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and nutrition coach. ‘Helps eliminate that mentality.” There must be a certain length to count. A 15-minute walk reduces the total, and several short bouts of exercise (less than 10 minutes in length) are accumulated. This also allows the flexibility to do longer cardio sessions on the weekend, like an outdoor hike or a 60-minute bike trip.”
What type of cardio is best for weight loss?
The beauty of cardio is the wide variety of exercise options available to people of all fitness levels. Additionally, all types of cardio can be effective for weight loss. “The type of cardio, whether running, walking, jogging, or using the elliptical, stairlifter, or rower, does not matter,” says Gianna Massey, CPT, RDN, a certified personal trainer and registered dietitian with BarBend. “One method is not better than another for weight loss. Energy production through exercise can help one reach an energy or calorie deficit, allowing one to lose weight.”
Personal factors can affect cardio for weight loss.
Your fitness level, health status and preferences are important in helping you lose weight. For example, beginners can start with lighter forms of cardio, like jumping on the elliptical or swimming, and gradually move toward more vigorous workouts like long-distance running or HIIT.
“The optimal frequency of cardio workouts for weight loss varies depending on individual factors such as fitness level, goals, and overall health,” explains Haynes-Landram. “Not all cardio is created equal in terms of its impact on the physical structures of your body. The ideal workout is one that a person will perform consistently. Often, people get caught up in what the perfect workout should look like and short “Working out more often.”
Tips for incorporating cardio into a comprehensive weight loss plan:
Combine cardio with strength training a few days a week to optimize your weight loss efforts. Additionally, set realistic goals and remember that consistency trumps intensity. And most importantly, make your exercise routine enjoyable by choosing activities you love. This is the only way to prevent burnout and develop a long-term commitment to your health and fitness goals.
“Cardio and strength training should be part of everyone’s week. We now know how important these elements are to height and body composition and the functionality and type of life we want to live. For both strength (resistance training) and Requires aerobic activities (cardio),” says Masi.
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. Read more about Adam
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