How Much Cardio Should I Do in a Day?
Cardio is important for your health. It stands for cardiovascular, which is one of the most important systems of the human body.
It deals with your veins, your heart, distribution of blood to your organs and… well, perhaps it is the most important system in the body.
On average, you should do about 30 to 45 minutes of intermediate/moderate cardio exercise per day. That means not at its highest level of intensity, but intense enough to make you sweat and get that heart pumping.
But doing too much cardio can lead to health problems, muscle tears, and physical trauma.
Let’s talk about how much cardio you should be doing, how much is too much, and everything pertaining to your diet on consistent cardio exercise.
How Much Cardio for Weight Loss?
You can follow the rule of thumb: 30-45 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio every single day. That will lead to sufficient weight loss.
However, you can also trade that out for 15-30 minutes of HIIT, or high-intensity interval training.
This swaps out time for intensity and really gets your body moving, and can actually continue to burn calories even after you stop exercising.
There’s one important rule to keep in mind though: calories are lost in the kitchen.
There are so many scientific articles and “Today Show” segments that all point to different percentages of diet versus exercise being attributed to your weight loss, but where’s the truth in the middle of all that?
If you aren’t dieting to some extent, you aren’t going to lose weight. If you aren’t keeping track of your caloric burn and how many calories you’re taking in on a daily basis, you can’t know what to expect in terms of weight loss.
When people get to a good weight, they still have to monitor how much they’re eating, how much they’re burning and have a weight maintenance goal so they don’t lose and become too skinny, or gain and pack on the pounds. It’s all about awareness and moderation.
Other Benefits of Cardio
Besides helping you lose weight, let’s look down a quick list of some of the other benefits that cardio brings to the table.
- Improved Sexual Function: Cardio aids hormone production, leading to a stronger libido and greater overall sexual satisfaction.
- Joint Health: If you don’t use it, you lose it. Your joints are lubricated and exercised when you do cardio, aiding in long-term health.
- Better Sleep: Your body needs to use up energy before hitting your sleep cycle (being too energetic can prevent you from going to sleep). Being tired and ready for bed means better sleep.
- Mood Stabilization: Ever feel angry after you haven’t exercised in a while, or super sad? It all comes back to hormones. Cardio-regulated hormones that affect your mood.
- Energy: We talked about sleep, and that sleep is related to energy. You would think that by spending your energy to perform cardio workouts, you would have less, but it actually stimulated your body to be more optimized. It uses energy without depleting it, and uses less of it for the same tasks (once you’re at a healthy weight and continue doing cardio).
- Respiratory Health: Your lungs are pretty important, but many individuals aren’t using their full lung capacity. Cardio can help you utilize all of your lungs and breathe more efficiently.
- Lowered Heart Rate: Athletes have a lower resting heart rate, so your body uses less energy and is less stressed out by basic functions. A lower resting heart rate is a good thing.
How Much Cardio is Too Much?
Too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing. Your body will send messages when you’re doing too much cardio, but as a rule of thumb to prevent even reaching that point, don’t exceed the 30-45 minute rule for designated cardio each day, and be sure you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night (as an adult).
There are a few ways to tell if you’re doing too much cardio, such as:
- You Can’t Sleep: Feeling restless? You might still be amped up from cardio. It can take hours to come down off of a runner’s high.
- Cardio Becomes Harder: Save for age-related reasons, if your cardio is harder today than it was a week ago, your body might not have enough time to recuperate in between sessions.
- Muscle Loss: When the body can’t use carbohydrates, it uses fat. When it can’t use fat, it uses muscles. Muscle loss is a serious problem, especially when self-inflicted.
- Never Not Sore: Feeling sore even 1-2 days after cardio? That’s a problem. While DOMS could be the cause, if it’s a recurring problem, it’s a sign that you’re overdoing it.
Will it Impact my Diet?
Yes. Any exercise will impact your diet, but keep in mind that impact doesn’t necessarily mean something negative. If you’re dieting, you will have to account for how many calories you burn in a cardio workout.
A 200 calorie deficit every day with 30-45 minutes of moderate cardio activity will be more like a 400-600 calorie deficit.
That’s good for losing weight, but cardio exercise can bring you underneath the threshold where you begin to feel ill or harm yourself.
Not taking in enough calories is dangerous, so cutting down the amount is helpful to teach your body to burn fat instead of recent calories for energy, but it can be overdone.
Calories are units of energy, and this is extremely important to remember when you’re talking about cutting down on them.
Cardio is Healthy, Just Don’t Overdo it
Daily cardio is important, but if there’s one day where you’re feeling particularly fatigued, then you should listen to your body and take a break.
There is such a thing as too much cardio, but you also don’t want to underdo it and not see any results.
Keep it to 30-45 minutes of moderate cardio per day, or 30-45 minutes of intense cardio with a day of breaks in between to let your body recuperate properly.
If you find yourself intentionally doing too much cardio to the point of feeling sick or perpetually fatigued, talk to your doctor or a mental health care provider to help keep you on track between the benefits and drawbacks of cardio exercise.