Aerobic exercise improves your cardiovascular health by getting your heart pumping and your lungs working hard. It also helps you burn calories for weight loss and reduces the risks of certain diseases. If you're trying to meet a minimum daily exercise goal, the right amount of cardio exercise depends on your motivation for exercising.
Weight Maintenance and Health
If you want to maintain your current weight, improve heart health, reduce your risk of some cancers and avoid conditions such as diabetes and osteoarthritis, cardiovascular exercise can help. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control advise at least 75 minutes per week of vigorous cardio such as running. If you prefer to stick to a more moderate routine such as walking, the CDC advises at least 150 minutes per week.
If you want to lose weight, you'll need to rev up your cardio routine. People trying to lose weight may need as much as 300 minutes of cardio each week, which is about an hour of exercise five times per week. The specific amount of cardio you'll need to do, though, depends on your diet and weight-loss goals. For example, a 180-pound person can expect to burn approximately 240 calories during 30 minutes of low-impact aerobics. Because it takes a loss of 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat, this person would need to do over seven hours of exercise each week to lose a pound a week if she does not reduce the number of calories in her diet.
Contraindications for Cardiovascular Routines
While cardiovascular exercise can be a healthy choice even for some people with certain health issues, some conditions can make working out dangerous, so consult your doctor before you begin a routine. If you have a heart infection, aortic aneurysm, enlarged heart, congestive heart failure, an uncontrolled metabolic disorder or have recently had a heart attack, your doctor might recommend that you avoid cardio altogether.
Choosing a Workout
The best cardiovascular workout is one that you enjoy and will stick to over the long term. Do different workouts to prevent boredom. Focus on routines that exercise several groups of muscles and elevate your heart rate, for example, walking, running, cycling, hula hooping, jumping rope, swimming or step aerobics. Interval training, which alternates between a minute of intense exercise and a minute of less intense exercise throughout the duration of your workout, can help you burn more calories and get quicker results.
- High Intensity Interval Training Explained; James Driver
- Move! Weight Management Program: PARmed-X (Physical Activity Readiness Medical Examination adapted with permission from the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology)
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do You Need?
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Physical Activity and Health
- FoxNews.com: How Much Exercise Sparks Weight Loss?
- Health Status: Calories Burned Estimation: Aerobics