Fitness

How Much Cardio Do You Really Need?

Beth

I've always loved cardio. It's a real stress reliever , it's therapeutic and there's nothing like the feeling of sweaty triumph after a good run, spinning class or dance cardio sesh.

For years I've gravitated towards these types of workouts because of how good they make me feel.

Cardio has so many benefits - it can help prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and even depression.

But there is a thing as too much. If you focus all your energy on cardio you're bound to miss out on other modalities. For example, say you want to lose a little weight, and your workout routine is made up of jogging, walking, and an occasional bootcamp class. If your energies are strictly focused on cardio you're missing out on strength training, and flexibility.

Cardio can absolutely help you lose weight, but without strength training a person will just end up a smaller version of themselves but not necessarily a more toned (or stronger) version. This can mean feeling kind of "flabby."

More importantly for cardio junkies - if you never give that hot body a chance to rest and recover you're going to get burned out, and are at risk for overuse and injury.

Women have been told for years they need a lot of cardio in order to meet their fitness goals. But what's really the BEST amount?  

For heart health the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular physical activity each week. That's 2.5 hours that you can divide into multiply days.

I advise my clients to do what works for them, and their lifestyle. For many that means splitting up cardio into 30 minute increments, for others it's two hour long classes or long runs plus a half hour of cardio with me mixed into a Personal Training session.

Here are some guidelines on how to assess if you are doing too much or too little cardio.

Quality over quantity

Unless you are training for a race or major athletic event there's not many great reasons to do more than an hour of cardio at a time. I've unfortunately seen so many women slave away on the treadmill for 45-60 minutes and follow that up with another 45 on the elliptical a few days a week. They're frustrated because they are logging serious time but that they aren't reaching their goals.

First of all, this sounds incredibly boring. Second, their bodies have adapted, and are no longer being challenged.

Alternating cardio intensities

High intensity interval training is one of my very favorite forms of cardio. HIIT workouts have very little downtime built in, but tend to be shorter and you guessed it - more intense. I love them because they take less time, but provide a metabolic boost and high caloric burn. Short and effective is my jam, and I feel like it fits in with so many busy women's lifestyles!

Still I don't recommend every single workout being this intense. I like to alternate modes between steady state cardio and HIIT days to avoid overuse and crazy cortisol spikes. Cortisol is a major stress hormone that can cause your blood sugar and blood pressure to rise, and you may store more calories as fat (especially around the belly.)

Plateaus

Are you getting in the recommended amount of cardio but have stopped seeing results? If so your body may have adapted, and be in need of a shake up. This can mean changing up your routine - or even doing less cardio.

Other warning signs that you're doing too much cardio include high blood sugar, menstrual cycle irregularity, fatigue and shakiness.

How much cardio do you guys do? Share below in the comments!
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