Firstly, let’s define “Cardio”:
To the average gym-goer Cardio is anything you do to burn fat.
It’s a little bit more complicated than that. But without getting too scientific we’ll just define “Cardio” as any activity that will help to increase cardiovascular health, lung capacity, boost metabolism, and of course burn calories.
There are variety of methods to do cardio that are fun and effective for putting into your program.
It doesn’t have to be straightforward in the gym with a stationary bike or treadmill. It can be getting competitive with your friends in a game of tennis or volleyball, going for a run down the trail, hiking up one of the coast mountains to enjoy the view, or swimming a few laps at the local pool.
To answer the question, “How Much Cardio Should You Be Doing?”: We can say that it all depends on the person and their goals. Here is our recommendation of how much cardio a general gym-goer should be doing based on the FITT principle (Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type).
Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type
This will explain:
- How often you should do cardio.
- How intense should your intensity be.
- How long you should do cardio for.
- What kind of activities should you be doing for your cardio.
This is going to be a very loose guide on 3 types of goals. There are many reasons one might do cardio or have a hybrid of these goals – so adjust accordingly and have fun!
Goal #1: Strength/ Body Building
Frequency: (3-5x per week)
Muscle gaining is the priority here. So, having a minimum of 3 days is great to make sure your gains in the gym are not lost. Cardio is a perfect way to supplement those strength gains with good cardiovascular health and endurance while keeping your muscles looking sharp and defined.
Intensity: (Low – moderate)
Your muscles are already filled with lactic acid and are heavy from those max squats, so sprinting isn’t really an option.
A full strength program can be quite lengthy. Especially because of how much rest you need before sets. Make sure you get enough rest and keep the cardio short.
Type: Any slow steady-state.
Try out different types. Cardio won’t be the main focus of your training, and you can try different sports like swimming, soccer, and basketball to keep it fresh.
Goal #2: Fat Burn
Frequency: 4-6 x per week
Cardio is extremely effective for you because your goal is to burn more calories than you are eating. Make sure your week is planned for at least 4 cardio sessions.
Intensity: Moderate – high.
This will make sure your cardio is getting your heart rate up. Not just increasing your cardiac health and wellness, but making sure your crush those calories.
Time: 20 mins to 1 hour.
Variation in time is important for you. Some days are important for pushing hard. But pushing too hard will eventually cause you to burn out. You can switch between Short-intense days and long-moderate days.
Type: (HITT/ SST).
Like most busy people, if you are a bit short on time to do a full 1 hour workout today, then HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a must in order to sweat out the slice of cake from last night. However, if you are not in a rush then steady state cardio is going to allow you to sweat longer and burn away more efficiently those stubborn unwanted fat cells.
Goal #3: Athletes
Frequency: 4-6x per week.
Again, this is a loose guide and based on the sport and timing of the season – the frequency will vary. Let’s say this is in the off-season of your sport where having good cardiovascular endurance is highly important. You can go at a higher frequency of 4- 6 x / week to maximize results without feeling too fatigued for the game the same week.
Intensity: Moderate – high.
The intensity should be near the intensity level of the competition of the sport.
Time: 20 mins to 1 hour, depending on the sport