Fitness

The writer doing HIIT cardio in the National Park on Wednesday a few hours before writing this column.

What is good cardio and how often should you do it
Last week I discussed cardio and discussed the two types of cardio, HIIT and LISS.

This week, the discussion continues on the importance of cardio, how much cardio should be done, when it should be done and the definition of good cardio.

emmerson campbell logoHere are some great reasons to do cardio:
1. To lose fat and look better: If you want six-pack abs, you have to lose fat through cardio and proper nutrition.

  1. Cardio improves mood and significantly reduces depression. It has been proven by study after study that cardio can make you happier.
  2. Perform better at school or work: Daily cardio reduces mental fatigue and gives you more energy. A recent study from Baylor University showed that daily cardio reduces fatigue by 65%.
  3. To live a longer, healthier life:
  4. To help gain muscle.

Note: Cardiovascular exercise should not be boring; if it is then you are doing something wrong.

The writer doing HIIT cardio in the National Park on Wednesday a few hours before writing this column.
The writer doing HIIT cardio in the National Park on Wednesday a few hours before writing this column.

There are many types of cardio, it’s not just traditional jogging. You can do interval training if you find jogging boring. You can find a team sport you love and do it with a friend or your spouse and the time will fly by. If you are stuck indoors on a machine, then find a good book, listen to the radio, or watch TV. Find a way to make it interesting and enjoyable. If you don’t have much time then jog to the gym, walk your children to school, walk your dog, or start using a bicycle for transportation.

 How much cardio should you do?
If you are happy with your body fat percentage and just want to keep your heart healthy then follow the American Heart Association’s guidelines and do 20 minutes of light exercise (walking, gardening, etc) a day. If you want to lose body fat then try and do 30 to 60 minutes of strenuous cardio (swimming, running, fast biking) every day. Remember, cardio will not burn muscle.

 When should you do your cardio?
There is a lot of confusion about when to do cardio. I get asked this question all the time! As many of you have heard, doing cardio before you eat in the morning burns off more calories so is that the best time? Lots believe that the right time to do cardio is before a weight workout to provide a warm up but just as many believe that the right time is afterward. Who is right? None of them and all of them.

The right time to do cardio is when you are most likely to do it. Cardio is very important and its 100 times more important that you actually DO your cardio than when to do it.

 What is good cardio?
If you are wondering if a particular activity is good cardio, do it for a minimum of 20 minutes then measure your heart rate. If your heart rate is in the target zone (50% – 85%), then it’s good cardio – simple as that.  I’m going to state this again because many people get really confused about what good cardio is. By my definition, good cardio can be measured this way:

  1. It elevates the heart rate to 50%-85% of your max heart rate.
  2. It keeps the heart rate elevated above 50% for at least 20 minutes.

With many forms of cardio like cycling or walking, it is easy to get lazy and just go through the motions. However, it is important that you monitor your heart rate during the cardio to make sure that you are not slacking off.

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