How Much Cardio Should You Do?
Let’s talk about fitness, training and how much cardio should you do.
For the purposes of this recording I’m going to be referring to cardio as a blanket term for aerobic exercise, low-intensity steady state, and HIIT so high-intensity interval training.
So it’s a blanket term covering all.
And the answer is that it 100% depends on you, your goals, your background, and your lifestyle.
You Don’t HAVE To Do Cardio
As someone who doesn’t really do any aerobic cardio or conditioning myself at the moment, I still feel pretty good. I’m still active. I still eat well. And I still work out and train in ways that I enjoy.
Some of those ways, like an intense strength session or swinging kettlebells, do challenge my heart and lungs. So I’m still getting some aerobic work in there, but it’s not a huge amount of volume.
For my current state of health and fitness and my current lifestyle, I don’t really need a huge amount.
And I’m in this sort of training and exercise phase where it’s not something that I’m enjoying and not something I’m prioritising.
Changing Training Goals
Ironically, when I first started exercising, I would only do cardio. It was all running.
And then gradually I started to do outdoor bootcamps as well, which started to introduce a little bit of strength training. But it was almost all cardio.
And also my body’s probably a lot more suited to cardio and aerobic training and endurance than it is to strength and power and explosive moves.
I always seem to make much more progress much more quickly when I’m doing something around cardio aerobics or endurance than anything around strength or power.
But as I’m writing this, it’s something that doesn’t really fit into my goals right now, or into the phase of training I’m in.
So I kind of bypass it and focus on walking and strength and kettlebells and mobility.
When answering the question of how much cardio you should do, I’m going to break it down by separate goals and separate targets based on that.
How Much Cardio For “General” Health?
For general health and I’m using the term general quite generally. so you don’t necessarily have a specific aerobic or endurance or cardio based goal, but you just want to be someone that’s active and feel healthy Let’s call that “general”.
So maybe things like you want to be able to get up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath.
You want to be able to walk briskly and make it somewhere on time. And maybe you get out of the rain.
And you want to be able to run for a train or bus without heaving and without keeling over.
In an otherwise active and healthy lifestyle, you don’t need a huge amount. Maybe one to two sessions a week.
As long as you’re getting a little bit consistently, that’s probably enough.
How Much Cardio Should You Do For Fat Loss?
If your goal is fat loss, bear in mind that cardio and aerobics are good for calorie burn.
So you might look at doing a little bit more.
Maybe two to three times a week, if it fits in with your overall training plan.
But it’s also extremely important to remember that with any weight-based goal and fat loss goals, it really comes down more to diet than anything else.
I think I’ve mentioned before, that I’ve gotten to the lightest weight I’ve ever been in my adult life without needing to do any cardio.
So while it can be a helpful tool, it’s not an overriding factor.
Should You Do Cardio With Strength Goals?
If you have a specific strength goal, then fit in whatever that training plan allows you.
A powerlifter for example – and I don’t know much about powerlifting training so I’m
probably definitely not the best person to ask and there’s a good chance of me getting this wrong – might not do any aerobic conditioning because it’s going to affect their recovery and it’s going to affect their performance in their next strength or lifting session.
A CrossFit athlete might do more because they need to be able to put their body under that kind of strain to be able to train for strength while fatigued.
So specific performance goals will have specific plans around training and recovery in place.
How Should You Structure Your Cardio For Specific Aerobic Performance Goals?
If you have a specific cardio or aerobic performance goal, I’ll give you a more specific example.
I’m going to look at distance runners or middle to long distance runners.
So someone that’s training for a middle to long distance running goal might need to do cardio four or five times a week.
And that will be a mixture of endurance, speed focus, a combination of both and then some active recovery as well. But then within that, there will be nuances. So the speed session might be 20 minutes of intervals and the endurance might be a two-hour long jog.
And then active recovery might be 30 minutes on an indoor bike at a moderate pace.
If you have a more aerobic or cardio based goal, you might be doing more, but as with strength training, a specific goal will have a specific training plan.
So In Terms Of How Much Cardio Should You Do…
That’s kind of the long and short of it for how much cardio should you do.
If you have a specific goal, you should have a specific plan in place that will factor that in.
For fat loss it can help with calorie burn, but just remember that it’s more down to diet.
And otherwise for general health, one to two sessions a week consistently is probably enough at most if you’re leading an otherwise healthy and active lifestyle.