Frequency and Duration of Your Cardio Workouts
Recall that all training programs are governed by the four variables of frequency, intensity, time, and type. We've just covered the types of exercises that are appropriate for cardiovascular training and the necessary intensity to get a training effect. Now, we're going to look at how frequently you should do aerobic exercises each week and how long your sessions should last in order to gain training benefits.
Defining Your Training Goal
Your individual goals for your aerobic training program determine how often and how long you should train. For example, if you simply want to improve your health and endurance, then you can invest the minimal amount of time necessary to achieve those goals. If one of your training goals includes losing weight, rather than maintaining your current weight, you will need to invest more training time to achieve this result. If you're looking toward improving your competitive performance or participating in races such as 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, or marathons, you will need to invest a considerable amount of time in your training program.
Aerobic Exercise for Health Benefits
To improve your health and reduce your risks of disease, you should train aerobically for at least thirty minutes a day on most days of the week. The good news is that you can still reap benefits from training even if those thirty minutes are accumulated in as short as ten-minute bouts of activity, at least three times a day, for a total of thirty minutes. For example, you can take a brisk ten-minute morning walk, ten-minute lunchtime walk, and ten-minute evening walk for a total of thirty minutes over the course of the day and still meet this minimum standard. For best results, aim to accomplish at least this much activity on a daily basis.
Taking 10,000 steps per day is a good way to measure if you're getting the minimum amount of activity to benefit your health. Studies at the Cooper Institute of Aerobics Research have found that if you wear a pedometer and take 10,000 steps per day, you're likely to have met your minimum physical activity requirements.
You can achieve this much cardio activity by increasing your daily movements. For example, if you drive to work in the morning, park far enough away from your office so that it takes you ten to fifteen minutes to walk there. Use this parking strategy whenever possible, such as when you go shopping or run other errands. This way little walks become part of your daily life. This strategy is efficient because you are constantly adding more exercise into aspects of your daily life and you don't need to carve out big chunks of extra time, which you simply don't have when you're very busy. Studies that compare people who add more movement into each day with people who went to the gym three times a week found that those who added more movement actually burned more calories than the people who went to the gym, but who were otherwise inactive.
Cardio-Fitness for Weight Loss
Increasing the amount of cardio-exercise that you get each day is one of the most effective ways to lose weight, because it burns up lots of energy and requires you to do it over a length of time. Studies show that doing only the minimum amount of exercise to improve your health may not be sufficient if weight loss is your goal. To significantly improve your body composition by ridding yourself of excess fat, you need to move your body for longer periods of time.
Depending on your current level of fitness, you will need to build up your ability to do longer bouts of exercise. Work up gradually to at least one hour a day on most days of the week. If you wear a pedometer to measure your daily steps, aim to walk between 12,000 to 16,000 steps each day. These levels of activity are proven to yield weight loss results when combined with sensible eating habits and effective stress management techniques.