How Much Cardio Do You Really Need?

At the drop of a hat, I can conjure up the picture of my mom in her workout clothes, getting ready for her four-nights-a-week aerobics class. (Remember generic aerobics?) She’d wear her bright purple leotard with the skinny pink belt and complete her outfit with a pink terry cloth headband and pink legwarmers. From the kids’ room at the gym, I’d watch her bounce and bop herself half to death for at least an hour to songs by Earth, Wind & Fire. Mom looked great, but she spent at least ten hours a week at the gym, had very little muscular strength and was bored to death.

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Now we know that endless hours of cardio is not the best way to go about losing or maintaining your weight.

In a recent article on, the American College of Sports Medicine explained it this way: you need about 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio four times a week or 25 minutes of more intense cardio three times per week for good cardio health and to maintain a healthy weight.

They also make my case about the value of interval training.

An exercise is classified as moderate-intensity if it causes your heart rate to speed up and leads you to break a sweat but allows you to have a conversation. The exercise likely isn’t intense enough if you can still sing lyrics to your favorite song without needing to take a breather. You need not stick to just one intensity level or the other. Alternate between speeds in one session or alternate from one day to the next. If you decide to exercise this way, aim for an average of 25 minutes four days per week.”

The thing is, all of the most recent and respected research has shown that you can do a lot less cardio and you don’t even need to get all of that in in each session. One recent study showed that two 10-minute cardio sessions are just as good as one 20-minute session.

Take that information and add it to what we know about the benefits of interval training and you have a winning plan for getting fit in as little time as possible. My mom (who now does interval training, by the way) would have liked that information about twenty years ago. To this day, she cringes every time she hears Earth, Wind & Fire.

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One Response to How Much Cardio Do You Really Need?

  1. Stacy Carlo July 6, 2012 at 4:56 am #

    Do you agree that endless hours of cardio is not the best way to go about losing or maintaining your weight? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

    – Stacy Carlo

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