The Ideal Amount of Cardio Exercise: How Much Cardio Should I Do A Day?

Cardiovascular exercise, also known as cardio or aerobic exercise, is an essential component of a well-rounded fitness routine. It offers numerous benefits, including improved heart and lung function, increased muscle strength, enhanced blood flow, mood elevation, better sleep, and a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. But how much cardio should you do every day?

The short answer is 30 mins of moderate cardio is a good minimum for reducing risk of illness and disease. Going up to 60 minutes for an optimal effect, if you're sticking to moderate exercise. [1,2] That means a brisk walk or something or a similar excersion level. We'll go into a bit more detail on the breakdown, the caveats etc, but a 30 minute walk at slightly above normal walking pace is a good start. Daily intensive cardio however isn't recommended.

Understanding Cardio or Aerobic Activity

Cardio or aerobic exercise involves activities that increase your heart rate and breathing. These activities require more blood and oxygen flow to your muscles compared to when you are at rest. Over time, cardio exercise strengthens your heart and lungs, improving their efficiency and enhancing overall blood and oxygen circulation in your body.

There are various types of cardio exercises you can engage in, ranging from low to high intensity. Moderate-intensity activities include brisk walking, biking, swimming, and mowing the lawn, while vigorous-intensity activities include running, swimming laps, heavy yard work, and aerobic dancing. Additionally, you can participate in group activities such as kickboxing, boot camp, spin classes, Zumba, dance classes, basketball, soccer, and tennis.

Recommended Amount of Cardio Exercise

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults aged 18 and older engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. [3] Alternatively, you can opt for 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week. You can also combine moderate and vigorous activities to achieve the recommended level of exercise.

To maximize the benefits of cardio exercise, the World Health Organization suggests that you perform aerobic activities for at least 10 minutes at a time. For instance, you can aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day or break it down into two 15-minute walks or three 10-minute walks throughout the day. [4]

It's important to note that there is no upper limit on the amount of cardio exercise you can do, as long as you listen to your body's signals and avoid overexertion. However, if you consistently push yourself to the limits during every workout, it's advisable to incorporate rest days into your routine to prevent injury and burnout.

Is It Safe to Do Cardio Every Day?

One study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that engaging in up to 60 minutes of cardio exercise daily is safe and appropriate, [2] especially when weight loss is the goal. However, another study published in the Journal of Population Health Management suggests that there may be risks associated with intense daily exercise. [5]

The safety of daily cardio exercise depends on individual factors such as the intensitiy level, your fitness level, overall health, and any underlying health conditions. It's essential to listen to your body and watch for signs of overexertion, including lingering muscle soreness, painful joints, decreased exercise performance, diminishing interest in exercise, and poor sleep quality. If you haven't exercised in a while, have a medical condition, or are recovering from an injury or illness, consult with your doctor before starting a cardio routine.

Ultimately the answer is yes if we're talking about low intensity to moderate cardio and going for a 30 minute brisk walk every day is only going to do you good.

Pros and Cons of Doing Cardio Every Day

Daily cardio exercise offers several benefits for your overall health and well-being. It improves heart function, cardiovascular health, and blood flow, helps manage high blood pressure, enhances your body's fat-burning capabilities, boosts lung function and respiratory health, elevates mood, improves sleep quality, increases energy levels, and reduces stress. [1,6,7,8]

However, there are also potential drawbacks to consider. (Although these only really apply if you're doing intense cardio). Daily cardio exercise can lead to physical and mental exhaustion, potentially causing a loss of muscle mass if calorie intake is insufficient to support muscle preservation. Additionally, overtraining and inadequate rest can increase the risk of injury. 

Cardio for Weight Loss: How Much Should You Do?

Cardio exercise can be an effective tool for weight loss. When you engage in cardio activities, you burn calories, creating an energy deficit that contributes to weight loss. For example, walking burns around 1-1.3x your body weight in terms of lbs per hour. So if you weigh 100lbs you'll burn around 130kcal per hour at a normal walking speed. If you walk faster you burn a little more etc. Generally this sort of cardio is actually better for weight loss as  most people can find time for a 1 hour walk, but may not be able to do a 1 hour run every day or at all. And one hour of brisk walking will be far more effective than a 10 minute run. 

To lose weight, the American Heart Association recommends engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise per week. [9] However, individual weight loss goals may require more extended or more intense workouts. Gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your cardio workouts can help prevent weight loss plateaus as your body adapts to the exercise. Think of this as a 30 minute brisk walk every day, allowing yourself to miss a day or two once a week.

It's worth noting that combining cardio exercise with strength training can be even more beneficial for weight loss. Strength training helps build lean muscle mass, which increases your resting metabolic rate and promotes the burning of calories even at rest. The ideal approach may involve three to four days of cardio exercise and two to three days of strength training per week.

Safety Tips for Cardio Exercise

Before starting a cardio workout routine, it's essential to assess your fitness level and set realistic expectations. If you've been sedentary or inactive for a while, begin with short workouts of low intensity. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workouts over time, but avoid sudden spikes in activity that could lead to injury.

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Warm up before each workout with a few minutes of brisk walking or calisthenics.
  2. Listen to your body and skip a workout if you feel sick or lack energy.
  3. Stay hydrated by drinking fluids before, during, and after your workout.
  4. Choose appropriate footwear and exercise on even surfaces to reduce the risk of falls and injuries.
  5. Stop exercising if you experience sudden pain or have difficulty breathing.

Remember that consistency is key. Even short bouts of activity throughout the day can contribute to your overall fitness and health. Incorporating regular physical activity into your lifestyle is more important than adhering to a rigid exercise schedule.

Conclusion: So, How Much Cardio Should I Do A Day?

Ultimately it depends on your fitness level and the intensity of your cardio, should you be running a marathon every day? Probably not, but doing 30 mins of moderate cardio is a good idea to do daily. Don't beat yourself up if you miss one day here or there, but that is a good starting point for a minimum to keep good hearth health.

Finding the ideal amount of cardio exercise for your needs and goals is crucial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, can provide significant health benefits. However, it's essential to listen to your body, avoid overexertion, and incorporate rest days to prevent injury and burnout.

If weight loss is your goal, combining cardio exercise with strength training can optimize your results. Gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your workouts can help prevent plateaus and maintain ongoing progress. Remember to consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.

By incorporating cardio exercise into your daily routine and making it a habit, you'll be on your way to a healthier, fitter, and more energetic you. Start small, stay consistent, and enjoy the numerous benefits that cardio exercise can bring to your life.


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