Cardio exercise does more than just strengthen your heart—it helps you maintain your weight, improves your lung function, helps you sleep better and more. Experts recommend adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise spread over three to five days a week or 75 minutes of vigorously intense aerobic exercise spread over three days a week. Knowing the difference between the two is key.
Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercises such as walking, running, cycling or step aerobics improve the function of your heart, lungs and blood vessels. These organs become more efficient at circulating oxygenated blood to your working muscles at rest and during exercise. Pick an exercise you enjoy and something that fits into your lifestyle. If you can talk, but you cannot sing, while you exercise, you are maintaining moderate intensity.
Moderately intense exercises can be done for longer durations compared with vigorously intense exercises. Do a 30-minute workout five days a week. If you are short on time, do 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon and 10 minutes in the evening. You will derive the same benefits when you do multiple bouts of exercise or complete your exercise in one session.
Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Exercise
When you are exercising so hard that you are barely able to say a few words, you are exercising at a vigorous intensity. Vigorously intense exercise improves your aerobic fitness, increases your bone density and enhances your body's ability to break down stored body fat. Be sure to start conservatively and stay within your level of ability when exploring more intense aerobic exercises.
Weight Loss and Maintenance
If your goal is to lose weight or maintain your weight loss, the American College of Sports Medicine advises you must exercise for 60 to 90 minutes per day, five days a week. You may divide any workout session into smaller bouts. For example, do a 30-minute aerobic session in the morning, then a 30-minute aerobic session in the evening. Include both moderately intense and vigorously intense exercise in your weight loss or weight maintenance program.
- American Heart Association: American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise
- HealthGuidance: Importance of Cardio Workouts