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How much cardio should I do to lose weight?

Wendy Batts
Fitness
Since everyone is different there is not an exact number of days or a specific amount of time that a person should perform cardio to lose weight. The best methods to successful weight loss include circuit training, interval training and a special training system called zone training. Circuit and Interval training are incredible calorie burners as they force the body to alternate between high and low intensity exercise.  High intensity exercise is beneficial because it burns more calories per minute when compared to lower intensity exercise, allowing you to maximize the effectiveness of your workout while minimizing the time spent exercising. Zone training teaches the body to use fat more effectively as fuel during exercise.  Also, exercising in and out of different heart rate zones challenges the body and increases the amount of energy used both during and after activity- leading to more calories being burned!    If you are new to exercise, create a solid cardio foundation performing steady cardio exercises like walking or biking for up to 30 minutes 4-5 days per week.  Once you can successfully accomplish 30 minutes of low intensity exercise for 5 days per week, it is time to kick it up a notch and incorporate the cardio training methods listed above.  Be sure to consult with your physician prior to beginning an exercise program. 
Cardio is a great way to help promote health and lose weight. However, weight loss is dependent on calorie consumption in relation to calories burned. This is dictated by the law of thermodynamics. In order for weight to decrease, an individual must burn more calories than they consume. Cardio can help to increase the total caloric burn, but the exact amount of cardio needed is difficult to define. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends each person get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week to maintain heart health. To promote weight loss, this amount and intensity should increase.

I suggest this pretty interesting approach based on research by Dr. Lynn Kravitz from University of New Mexico. She suggests using a culmination of minutes within a week.  I will say 180 to 200 minutes per week (3 hours to 3 hours and 20 minutes), which is a good place to start.  It doesn’t matter what the breakdown is. For example, it can be 10 minutes before work, 10 minutes after work, for a total of 20 minutes for 1 day. If you are doing 180 minutes, subtract 20 minutes, then you still have 160 minutes leftover for the next 6 days. If you get to the 7th day and you only did 80 minutes, you have got a lot of cardio left to do on your last day. So, it is about how many minutes of cardio you do throughout a week. Now, obviously, I am not suggesting save it all up and do 2 hours of cardio on the very last day. However, that may keep you from procrastinating the following week.

Your intensity should be fairly high, between 75 and 85% of your maximum heart rate. If you are not going by heart rate and aren’t using a heart rate monitor, then you should basically work hard enough that you are breathing too heavily to keep you from having a conversation with your neighbor about who will be the next judge on American Idol or the fate of Lindsay Lohan’s career while you are on a cardio piece of equipment.
Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
Fitness
To effectively lose weight and keep it off, you need to eat fewer calories (500 calories less/day) and move more (walk 10,000 steps/day and get active 30 minutes/day). Try to drink 16 oz. of cold water before meals (research shows that you will consume almost 100 calories less/meal). Eat breakfast (early am eaters keep their weight off). Get 8 hours of sleep/night (proper rest allows your appetite hormones to stay in balance). Control your stress (stress releases cortisol and can also stimulate emotional eating). Get moving (at least 30 minutes/day, breathe hard and sweat. Find something that you enjoy doing so that you will continue doing it). Losing weight is a lifestyle modification and mindset change. Good luck!
Cardio exercise refers to any activity that places a stress on the cardiovascular system. Activities such as walking, running, swimming, jumping rope and cycling are common forms of cardio activities. However do not forget that activities of daily living can also be included as cardio exercise. Mowing the lawn, working in the garden, dancing, taking the stairs, all contribute to our daily cardio exercise. For weight loss start out slow, especially if you are new to working out. Begin with just 10 to 30 minutes of low intensity exercise three days a week. These sessions can also be split into two or three 10-minute sessions per day. As you become more fit increase the duration until you are able to perform 45 minutes three to four days a week. The next step is then increasing the intensity of your workout. Interval training is a great cardio exercise for losing weight. Alternating between periods of lower intensity exercise and higher intensity exercise is a great way to increase the overall intensity of your workout and help you burn even more calories. When it comes to weight loss cardio is only one component of a successful weight loss plan. Strength training and good nutrition are also essential components. You can work out and do as much exercise as you want but if you are still fueling your body with fast food and other poor nutritional choices you will not lose weight.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.