Love it or hate it, most people are aware that getting enough cardio exercise is important.
But, the descriptor “enough cardio” isn’t very specific, leaving many people to ask, “How much cardio should I do a day or how much cardio should I do a week?“
Knowing how much cardio per day and how much cardio per week you should be doing will help ensure that you are doing “enough“ cardio to improve your health or reach whatever sort of fitness goals you have.
In this article, we will discuss the recommendations for how much cardio you should do depending on your particular goals and needs and aim to answer the question, how much cardio should I do a day?
We will discuss the following:
- How Much Cardio Should I Do a Day?
- Factors That Affect How Much Cardio You Should Do Per Day
- So, How Much Cardio Should I Do a Day?
Let’s get started!
How Much Cardio Should I Do a Day?
We would all love for exercise recommendations and guidelines to be as individualized as possible so that we could immediately know exactly what we should be doing in our fitness routine, such as the type of workouts, how long to work out, etc.
Unfortunately, exercise prescription is not a one-size-fits-all type of situation.
All of us have unique needs and fitness goals, which in turn, affect how much cardio per week or how much cardio per day we should be doing, among any other aspects of fitness programming.
In general, the recommendations for cardio exercise are presented based on how much cardio a week people should be aiming for rather than how much cardio a day, but it is possible to use the weekly cardio recommendations and common sense to extrapolate how much cardio you should do per day.
Factors That Affect How Much Cardio You Should Do Per Day
Here are the primary factors to consider when determining how much cardio per day or how much cardio per week you should be aiming for:
#1: Your Health and Fitness Goals
The single most important factor that determines how much cardio you should do per day or per week is your primary health and fitness goal.Your goal will dictate not only how much cardio a day to do but also the other types of exercise you should be doing, how long your workouts should be, the type of cardio exercise that will be best for you, the intensity of your cardio workouts, and how often you should do cardio per week.
Generally speaking, when people pose the question, “How much cardio should I do a day or how much cardio should I do a week?“ they are coming from the question from one of two sides: the minimum amount of cardio to do per week or the maximum amount of cardio you should do per week.
Those who are looking to do the minimum amount of cardio exercise per day or per week generally want to be doing enough cardio exercise to reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases and improve health.
Essentially, these individuals may not love cardio exercise but recognize that doing cardio workouts is an important component of taking care of their body and improving their health.
If you fall into this camp, you should aim to do enough cardio per week to satisfy the guidelines for physical activity for adults set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the British Heart Foundation:
These guidelines state that you must accumulate either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio exercise per week.
These guidelines have been developed based on research that suggests that this is the minimum amount of cardio per week required to significantly reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as hypertension, obesity, heart disease, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes.
Keep in mind that these cardio exercise guidelines are the minimum recommendations to support health.
These same organizations suggest doubling these physical activity guidelines (to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week) if your goal is weight loss.
Weight loss requires generating a caloric deficit, which can be achieved through cutting calories in your diet, increasing your physical activity, or a combination of both.
If your goal is weight loss, doing more cardio per day will help you generate the caloric deficit necessary to lose weight in a faster but safe and sustainable way than if you are not exercising consistently or only doing the bare minimum cardio per day to satisfy the guidelines for disease reduction.
Finally, if your goal is to improve exercise performance for endurance activities like running, cycling, triathlon, or some other athletic endeavor, the amount of cardio you should do per day or per week may be even higher.
For example, while someone who is looking to do just enough cardio to improve their health can get away with exercising 30 minutes a day, five days a week at a moderate intensity, if you are training for a half marathon or a marathon, you will likely want to be running at least 45 minutes to an hour or more most days per week.
Furthermore, these running workouts will likely be “vigorous-intensity cardio“ rather than moderate-intensity exercise.
#2: Workout Intensity
As should be surmised based on the guidelines for cardio exercise, the intensity of your cardio workouts will affect how much cardio per day or how much cardio per week you need to be doing or should be doing.
If you are exercising at a moderate intensity, you will need to do twice as much cardio per week than if you are exercising at a vigorous intensity based on the physical activity guidelines.
To that end, if you are looking to do as much cardio as possible without increasing the risk of injury and overtraining, you will need to deliberately shorten the length of your cardio workouts per day in order to reduce the stress load on your body.
#3: Workout Frequency
When discussing how much exercise to do per week, there is a fitness principle known as the FITT principle of exercise programming, which stands for frequency, intensity, time, and type.
Basically, you have to look at the confluence of each of these factors to build a workout program that meets your needs and goals. Here, workout frequency comes into play for helping us determine one of the T’s of exercise programming—time.
How much cardio per day you should do will depend on how many days per week you are doing cardio workouts.
The more frequently you are doing cardio exercise in the week, the shorter the necessary duration of each cardio workout per day because you have more days over which you can divide the same number of goal cardio minutes per week.
So, How Much Cardio Should I Do a Day?
Given the aforementioned factors, it can be seen that how much cardio per week or how much cardio per day you should do will depend on numerous factors, namely your primary health and fitness goals, the intensity of your cardio workouts, and the frequency of your cardio workouts.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to how much cardio exercise per day everyone should do because we each have unique fitness goals and cardio workout preferences (short and high intensity or long and slow).
Plus, there are different ways to divvy up the recommended weekly cardio minutes over the course of seven days.
As a general rule of thumb, strive for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per day most days of the week if you are trying to improve your health, 45 to 60 minutes of cardio per day most days per week if you are trying to lose weight, and at least that, if not more, if your goal is to train for an endurance based sport or competition.
Keep in mind that the harder or more intense your cardio sessions, the shorter they can be.
Rest and recovery is also an important part of the equation.
Particularly if you are doing high-impact cardio exercises like running or jumping rope, your body will need time to recover between cardio workouts.
Consider adding low-impact cardio workouts on alternative days, at least until your body has adjusted to the impact stresses of your high-impact workouts.
Finally, while cardio exercise is extremely important for your overall health, cardio workouts are only part of the picture. You should also be doing strength training, flexibility workouts, and mobility training.
You can learn more about the five health-related components of physical fitness here.