What’s the minimal cardiovascular exercise I should do as a healthy adult?
The American College of Sports Medicine recommendations :
- Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
- Exercise recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week).
- One continuous session and multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise.
- Gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended for best adherence and least injury risk.
** People unable to meet these minimums can still benefit from some activity.
(read about what this organization is and which professionals it consists of and more information in their FAQ )
How do I know what moderate and intense is?
Heart rate during moderately intense activities is about 50-69% of your maximum heart rate, whereas heart rate during hard physical activity is about 70% to less than 90% of the maximum heart rate.
- Your resting heart rate
is the number of times your heart beats per minute while it’s at rest. You can check it in the morning after you’ve had a good night’s sleep and before you get out of bed.
The best places to find your pulse are the:
- inside of your elbow
- side of your neck
- top of the foot
To get the most accurate reading, put your finger over your pulse and count the number of beats in 60 seconds.
But, Dani, I don’t have time to do 30 minutes a day!
Yes you do.
I really don’t.
You really do. Period. You have 3 ten minute sections of your day and probably more. If you stand or sit at any time for ten minutes during your day, you have time to change that to a workout.
But I have kids, Dani, and when I get home from work, I have to cook dinner and do laundry and then I have to puton my superhero cape and save the world!
If you have important stuff/people/work, then you have even more of an incentive to stay healthy for them.
Cardio makes me sweaty and I have a job and a suit!
Ten minutes before work. Ten minutes at lunch. Ten minutes after work. Or twenty minutes before, ten minutes after. Or fifteen before, fifteen after. Etc etc etc.
I’m on my feet all day at work, does that count?
Does your heart rate reach 50 to 69 percent of maximum for 10 minutes at least three times during that day, but preferably 30 minutes? No? Then, no. It may not count. The idea behind these recommendations to train your heart muscle by challenging it. Resistance training gets your other muscles stronger, moderate cardio makes your heart stronger!
The good news is that your lack of a sedentary day job makes you more healthy than those who sit 8-10 hours a day and only do the minimum the ASCM recommends!
Sedentary behavior – sitting for long periods of time – is distinct from physical activity and has been shown to be a health risk in itself. Meeting the guidelines for physical activity does not make up for a sedentary lifestyle.
I don’t have a gym/I can’t afford a gym!
You don’t need one. Read the list of cardio activities below.
I have x condition, should I do this stuff?
The stuff I’m including in this post is from scientists and exercise physiologists. It’s copy/pasted. It’s guidelines. I cannot, nor can anyone on the internet, stand in place of a doctor or physical therapist. Don’t take advice on your medical status/pain/medication from internet people. Even exercise advice (how to squat, how to bench) should be taken with caution and research. Yes, I’m sorry to say that even Alan Thrall can be wrong.
Should I do this if I’m overweight/obese
High impact exercise (running, jumping etc) can be tough on the joints and tendons of healthy-weight people, let alone an overweight or obese person. I’d recommend low impact exercise (swimming, biking, elliptical etc). But I am not a doctor. I’m not a physical therapist. I’m not even an exceptional athlete. Check with your medical professional before you start any exercise program.
Will cardio make me lose weight?
Exercise can make a calorie deficit bigger, but it can also make you hungrier. I like to eat. I’m a manlet and cuts are excruciating if I don’t add a lot of cardio. For me, it’s easier to run a few miles (because I love it) than not eat that peanut butter and jelly sandwich. YMMV.
Will cardio affect my gains????
Depends on how much and how often? I’ve found running a 10k on off days to be my limit atm. You may find that doesn’t affect you at all.
What about overtraining???
While some people may disagree with my answer, overtraining is dangerous and narrowing down where it starts and when you should be worried falls under advice I do not believe I’m qualified to give.
What about step trackers?
I have a Jawbone and I love it. It makes me walk a hella more. But for cardio, I track with a heart rate monitor.
Those are expensive, Dani!
Yeah =( The polar F7s are less expensive. It’s what I use. I find it accurate for sustained heart rate cardio.
Otherwise, you can:
- Use the Talk Test: a simple way to measure relative intensity. In general, if you’re doing moderate-intensity activity you can talk, but not sing, during the activity. If you’re doing vigorous-intensity activity, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath
- or manually measure your pulse
- There’s also the Perceived Exertion Method
How much water should I drink while working out?
- One to two hours before your workout, drink 15 to 20 ounces of water
- 15 minutes before you begin, drink between 8 and 10 ounces of water
- During your workout, drink another 8 ounces every 15 minutes.
Speaking of expensive, what about sports drinks?
eons ago. I use it all the time.
Cardio is boooorinnngg
Nah, you just haven’t found the right cardio.
Cardiovascular exercise does not have to be running endlessly on a treadmill. It is sustained exercise which raises your heart rate (walking the dog is great, but may not count–unless your heart rate is 50-69% of maximum.). Below, I’ve included some activities that could qualify. Feel free to add more in the comments.
Cross Country Skiing
Playing with your kids
Playing with the dog
Moving (furniture, boxes etc)
Escaping the police on foot
Raunchy, no-holds-barred, exertive, acrobatic sex
Remember, if it gets your heartrate up, it counts!
(for example: exercising while pregnant or plyometrics etc).
Other websites I find helpful:
To get the best idea of calories burned, I use this site
, which, in turn, uses the Compendium of Physical Activities
for its data.
Lastly, no cardio has to be the same day after day. I routinely change my types of exercise not only weekly, but daily and sometimes within the same workout. I will run one day, bike the next or bike to a path and run the path. I’ll box and run up stairs between rounds or I’ll jump from elliptical to treadmill to rowing machine. Sometimes my cardio is just dancing like a nut while doing my Sunday meal preps.
JHC this took forever to format and finish. If I missed anything, pft, I don’t care. Unless it’s important, then, I’m sorry.
(I’d ask someone with more knowledge to do a comprehensive stretching and balance thread, or I’ll attempt it, though I’m not an enthusiast. I stretch cuz I must, not cuz I like it).