How often should I do Cardio? (2 of 10)

The American College of Sports Medicine (The ACSM) has some very specific guidelines when it comes to how often, how much and how intensely we should perform our cardio exercise. There are two sets of guidelines depending on whether you wish to improve your aerobic fitness AND your health or just stay healthy…

To reduce all-cause mortality (stay healthy but to hell with getting fit!)
Frequency – minimum of 5 times per week
Duration – 30 minutes+ per session
Intensity – moderately difficult… you should slightly out of breath and warmer than usual
Modality – any daily physical activities e.g. walking, washing the car, gardening, DIY, cleaning or other household chores

To reduce all-cause mortality AND improve aerobic fitness
Frequency – minimum of 3 times a week
Duration – 20 minutes+ per session
Intensity – 60 to 90% of Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)
Modality – activities that use large muscle groups in a rhythmical fashion e.g. jogging, swimming etc.

When examining the ACSM guidelines, it’s worth considering that it’s not essential to do all of the recommended exercise time in one sitting. For example, it is quite acceptable to split your cardio into smaller blocks of say 10 minutes twice a day if that fits your schedule and fitness level better than performing the whole 20 minutes consecutively. Another thing to keep in mind is that, sadly, you can’t store fitness so doing lots of cardio one week and then none the next will have minimal effects on your personal fitness levels. As with all exercise, your success is dependent of consistent effort, week after week, month after month so make sure any cardio plan you design is sustainable and above all enjoyable as it’s important to have a routine you can stick with.

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