Cardio. How much is enough?

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In this last week of our Happy “Whole” Heart series, we summarize the research on cardio to give you the bottom line on how to enjoy the health benefits.

How intense does cardio need to be?

  • Moderate:  your breathing is at a comfortable level.
  • Vigorous:  your breathing is at a comfortable challenge.
  • You do not need to push to an uncomfortable breathing level unless 1) you enjoy it or 2) you are training to compete.

How often do I need to do cardio?

How long should a session of cardio last?

  • Moving most of your body continuously for at least 10 minutes helps your cardiovascular system gain more stamina.
  • String those bouts together in the way that works best for your body and your lifestyle to achieve 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise.
  • However, just doing cardio leaves us missing some benefits of exercise.  If you want to preserve your metabolism, bone mass, muscle strength, and function for daily life,  switch out 30-60 of those minutes a week for a well-designed strength-training routine.

Bottom Line:

  • Do cardio at a moderate to comfortable challenge level for your breathing three days a week for 30 minutes (this can be broken up into 10 minute bouts as needed).
  • Do a well-designed strength training routine twice a week.

The fact is, “more than 50% American adults still do not meet these minimal requirements for cardiovascular exercise based on self-report, and only 10% of American adults meet these minimal guidelines when activity levels are measured with activity monitors.”  *

Why, with all these great benefits, are so many still not consistent enough with cardio?

Could it be in part becasue guilt reduces our brains ability to make changes? Could it have something to do with all the conflicting recommendations that stray from the solid evidence, making cardio overwhelming? When information about the benefits of cardio only leaves you feeling stuck, it is not helpful at all. It’s time we get back to basics and start enjoying a happy “whole” heart!


Ready for information presented in a way that builds confidence that you can stick with a cardio program? My new course called Cardio Confidence is designed to do just that.  Learn how to apply the science of healthy cardio to get the results you want in a way that lasts.

* Source: Exercise and the Cardiovascular System. Lavie, C, et. al.  Circulation Research (American Heart Association Journal) July 2, 2015.

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