With words like “blaster” and “burn” serving as popular phrases to determine the validity and efficiency of exercise regimens on social media, it can feel like intense cardio circuits that leave you drenched in sweat are necessary for seeing results. However, cardio is just one piece of the puzzle. Doing too little or too much cardio can be counterproductive to your goals, so knowing how much you should do each week is important for any weight loss journey.
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However, it’s important to note that there isn’t a one size fits all quantity when it comes to regular cardio. “The goals of any weight loss program will be affected by age, activity level and overall health status and as such, needs to be tailored to individuals,” says Dr. Louis McIntyre, Chief Quality Officer of US Orthopedic Partners. “People with chronic diseases will need the advice of their doctor before engaging in weight loss and strengthening programs.”
No matter how much of it you do, cardio does hold a number of benefits for the body, especially if your goal is weight loss. “Weight loss can be thought of as an equation with intake and outputs; calories in (food) and calories out (activity and exercise). If calories out are greater than calories in, weight reduction is possible,” Dr. McIntyre says, “Cardio, a synonym for aerobic exercise, can have great benefit in a weight loss program as a driver of increased caloric output. Any activity where the heart rate is elevated is considered cardio.”
So how much cardio should you aim for as a beginner? “The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 225-420 minutes per week of moderate exercise to lose weight,” Dr. McIntyre says, “Weight reduction can be enhanced when done in combination with changes in diet that decrease caloric intake. Some recommend at least 2000 calories per week. As examples, walking expends between 200-300 cal/hr and running about 880 cal/hr.” Finding time to move everyday, even if it’s as simple as a walk around the neighborhood, can be incredibly beneficial.
While cardio is an important component, science shows that strength training is just as necessary. “Studies have shown that a balanced weight reduction program including both cardio and strength training improves health status better than cardio or strength training alone,” Dr. McIntyre says. The ACSM recommends that adults should do muscle strengthening activities at least 2 days a week.
All in all, the key is finding a healthy balance between strength training and cardio. Aim for at least 225 minutes of cardio per week, and 2 days a week of strength training. Finding methods of cardio that you enjoy, especially ones that you can do consistently, is the most important thing to focus on. While it may be easy to get caught up in the intensity of your workouts or how much you’re sweating, balance and consistency are key.