How Much Cardio Should I Get in a Week?
Doctors from the Mayo Clinic recommend that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise.
Roughly, this means 30 minutes of raising your heart rate with movement five days a week.
Or, if you are going hard, recommendations are for 75 minutes of vigorous cardio, or even a combination of both (1).
This recommendation is for average, healthy adults.
Your doctor may suggest something different for you if you have other health conditions or if this is beyond your current fitness level.
Note that ideally, this exercise should be spread over your week, not jam-packed into one heart-pounding, cardio session.
1. Heart Health
Exercise is excellent for heart health and preventing heart disease. When you exercise, you strengthen your heart.
Exercise helps lowers your blood pressure.
High blood pressure is a known risk factor for heart disease.
Individuals who exercise regularly also improve their muscles’ ability to draw oxygen from the blood, which means their heart doesn’t have to work so hard. This helps prevent heart attacks.
2. Builds Aerobic Capacity
Aerobic capacity describes how well your body takes in and uses oxygen.
When you have a high aerobic capacity, you can do more because your body doesn’t tire or run out of gas as quickly.
If your aerobic capacity is low, simply walking from your car to the store can feel like a chore.
The good thing is that you can build up your efficiency over time.
Exercisers who make a habit of getting plenty of movement see improvements in how much they can do as their aerobic capacity increases, and fatigue decreases.
3. Increases Stamina and Strength
Much like your aerobic capacity, regular cardio exercise builds fitness in your lungs and muscles.
If you haven’t done a lot of exercises, you might be tired out after your first day of activity. But over time, your conditioning and endurance will improve.
People who have chronic lung problems, like asthma, may find a lot of benefits in regular physical activity.
(Note from the author: I am an asthmatic, but through slowly building my exercise levels every day, I was able to run a marathon.
Talk to your doctor first before starting aerobic exercise and new activity if you do have a diagnosis of types of conditions.)
4. Brain Function
Studies have shown that exercise may combat brain cell deterioration in older adults.
By helping the brain replace cells, it can help with memory and thinking ability.
And again, as blood flow increases, it helps to decrease the health risks of diseases like stroke.
Improved brain function alone is a smart motivation to make cardio part of your daily goals.
5. Lowers Stress Levels
Did you know that exercise releases endorphins? These are chemicals in your brain that help to improve your mood.
It can also help as a meditation in motion. Ever play a group sport and feel like you are in “the zone”?
This focusing of your attention has the result of helping shed stressful thoughts.
6. Better Sleep
Exercise also helps you sleep better.
And better sleep has been shown in studies to help with cognitive function, depression and anxiety, weight loss, and stress.
You do want to take care of exercises before bed, though, as some people find it stimulates their mind, and they find it hard to sleep right after.
Find times and intensities of movement that give you the best effects.
7. Improves Sexual Function
Another of the benefits?
Did you know that one of the advantages to heart-pumping cardio exercise is a better sex life?
Again, exercise helps your blood flow better through your blood vessels.
This means an exercise program can help decrease the incidences of erectile dysfunction in men and can help with increased arousal in women.
Combining Aerobic Exercise and Resistance Training
So far, we have been talking about all of the rewards to increasing your heart rate with aerobic exercise.
But for the most significant impact, you will want to balance your exercise routine with workouts that boost energy as well as promote muscle growth.
If you don’t feel like pumping iron at the gym, even bodyweight exercises can help improve performance.
The bottom line is that a workout routine that helps boost your heart rate is good news for your entire body.
The changes you make will help you stay in shape and cause reductions in health-related areas.
If you are new to this, start with a proper warm-up and then slowly increase volume.
Here are some simple options and tips to get started:
Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you can
Go for a morning jog
Meet a friend for a pick-up basketball game or a game of tennis
If you have kids, take them to the park and run around with them