Cardiovascular Training - How Much is Enough?

Written by Libby Norris

There is no shortage of information and tips on fitness and exercise, but it can often be quite confusing. Little wonder we're left uncertain with the barrage of machines, programs and products that promise to make us all healthy and fit in just five minutes a day!

So how much is enough when it comes to cardio training?

 Many quotations about guidelines in fitness come from the American Council of Sports Medicine, or ACSM, which is recognized globally and is an organization that produces publications, scientific journals and professional standards and guidelines. For health purposes for general populations, ACSM guidelines recommend 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week). This time does not include warm up or cool down.

For weight loss, ACSM guidelines recommends increasing the cardiovascular training range from 200-300 minutes per week, which translates to approximately 30-45 minutes per day. This activity would need to be accompanied, of course, with a healthy and balanced diet.

So we now have our base, but remember these are general guidelines. From here, you need to customize the information and the numbers based on your background and your goals.

If you're just starting out and 20 minutes of anything seems overwhelming, don't give up all together. Fitness is not an all or nothing sport! Start with what you feel you can do physically and with your current schedule. Once you get started, you'll feel stronger and more confident and it likely won't seem as daunting to add a bit more time.

Although sustaining workouts for 20 minutes has been commonly promoted, research studies now cite times as "accumulated" which means that 20 minutes doesn't have to happen all at once! This accumulated time can also include regular daily tasks like chores around the house, cutting the grass or active play with your kids. Short blocks of time – at least 10 minutes - have a cumulative effect and do contribute to the health benefits of cardiovascular activity. This may not get you to the Olympics, but when it comes to your cardiovascular health, it all adds up!

When you reach that optimal amount of time that fits your schedule and your goals, try to make the most of it. One key piece of advice I offer for anyone is to keep your routine consistent, but vary the modality with activities you enjoy.

A consistent routine will help you to stay on track with your activity, program and goals. Choose the time and location that best fits your schedule because the more regular and convenient your workouts are, the higher the likelihood you'll be able to maintain your program!

Although you want to keep your schedule consistent, vary the activity you do in that schedule as much as possible. This helps you to avoid adaptation, or your body getting too use to one activity. Just like improving with any task, once your body adapts, it becomes easier you actually end up burning fewer calories. Even if you like one particular activity or machine, vary the way you do your workout - change the time, intensity or elevation - to keep your body guessing!

Finally, choose exercise you enjoy! No exercise is the magic bullet if you dread it and there are so many options available - from boot camps to dance. If you like it, you'll stick with it, probably be able to put more in to it and therefore get more out of it!

Always consult your health care professional before making any significant changes in your dietary habits or your physical activity routines.

*©, 2013 Trademark of Kellogg Company used under license by Kellogg NA Co

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