In this post, I am going to layout the recommendations for a cardio plan and how to setup a plan that works for you
First let us define what I mean by cardio
Cardio is short for cardiovascular fitness, which is defined as the capacity of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to skeletal muscle mitochondria for energy production needed during physical activity (Raghuveer 2020).
In layman's terms, how much oxygen is supplied to your muscles to produce energy during exercise
With proper training, your body becomes increasingly efficient at supplying oxygen to the muscles.
Cardiovascular fitness is important for many reasons, but particularly for its role in preventing cardiovascular disease, strokes, hypertension, and diabetes. (WSU 2020)
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
Do you see how important cardio is now?
I would hope so.
Now, let us jump into designing a plan.
It is great to see the importance of cardio, but it does not mean anything if we are not going to act on it.
To design a proper plan, we should first seek cardiovascular fitness guidelines to make sure our plan meets the proper requirements.
According to the NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), the guidelines to cardio are as follows:
150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week
75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week
However, we do have to keep something in mind....
Even though these are the recommendations, it does not mean that if you do not meet these numbers, you are wasting your time
If you are not performing any cardio now, build up to these numbers.
You do not have to meet the requirements today
If you can meet them, do so
But if you cannot, it is still 1000x better than doing nothing!
Let us assume you can hit the numbers...
Here are some examples of how-to breakdown the numbers to a weekly basis
Say you choose to do 150 minutes (about 2 and a half hours) of moderate-intensity cardio per week
Some examples of that may be a brisk walk, a light jog, a steady bike ride..etc.
You may choose to do 5 (30 minute) brisk walks per week.
This way, that adds up to 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio by the end of the week
Personally, I feel this is by far the easiest plan to adhere to and I advocate for it heavily.
However, it is not the only option.
Walking could be substituted for bike rides, or a light jog as well, and the same numbers would be applied.
Say you choose to do 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week.
Some examples of this could be sprints, HIIT, uphill biking, uphill running, indoor cycle classes, higher intensity group fitness classes, etc.
You may choose to do 3 (25 minute) indoor cycle classes per week.
Now many classes may not offer a 25-minute session, however you must consider the warmup and cool down portion of the workout.
Most cycle classes are offered as 45 minute/60-minute sessions however they will have about a 10-minute warm up and 5-minute cooldown.
So really, you are getting in about 25-30 minutes of high intensity cardio.
So, you would perform a class like those 3 days a week.
This could be substituted for any of the other options above such as sprinting, uphill running, uphill biking, etc. The same numbers would be applied.
You choose to do a mix of vigorous intensity cardio, and moderate intensity cardio to meet the weekly guidelines.
This can be split up in many ways.
The numbers are not going to line up as pretty, but it is not overly complicated to understand.
We can look at how the numbers compare to each other.
The guidelines are 150 minutes (about 2 and a half hours) of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity cardio
The numbers algin perfectly enough to suggest that every 2 minutes of moderate intensity cardio equates to 1 minute of vigorous intensity cardio.
So, to put that into play...
If you performed 1 (25-minute) high intensity cycle class this week, and you wanted to complete the rest of your cardio by walking...
You could take your 25-minute session and multiply it by 2 to suggest you have done 50 minutes of moderate intensity already
Leaving you with 100 minutes of moderate intensity cardio which can be broken down into 4 (25-minute walks)
And if you started this equation with moderate intensity cardio, you would just do the opposite by dividing your number by 2.... to tell you how many minutes of vigorous intensity cardio you have done.
If you went on a 30-minute walk... that would equate to 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio.
If not, feel free to reach out for questions.
Cardio is important in preventing the #1 cause of death in the United States.
Cardio provides your muscles with oxygen during exercise and becomes more efficient at that task with training.
The cardio guidelines are either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week.
You can break it down however you choose.
Get it done!
Feel free to reach out with questions or try out my free 2-week challenge below!
In person training is offered in the Northern Virginia area, and online training is offered globally!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 1). FASTSTATS - leading causes of death. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm.
Exercise. Cardio. (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://exercise.wsu.edu/cardio/default.aspx.
Medicine, N. A. of S. (n.d.). Fitness. how much activity is enough? NASM. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://blog.nasm.org/fitness/fitness-how-much-activity-is-enough.
Raghuveer, G., Geetha Raghuveer Search for more papers by this author, Hartz, J., Jacob Hartz Search for more papers by this author, Lubans, D. R., David R. Lubans Search for more papers by this author, Takken, T., Timothy Takken Search for more papers by this author, Wiltz, J. L., Jennifer L. Wiltz Search for more papers by this author, Mietus-Snyder, M., Michele Mietus-Snyder Search for more papers by this author, Perak, A. M., Amanda M. Perak Search for more papers by this author, Baker-Smith, C., Carissa Baker-Smith Search for more papers by this author, Pietris, N., Nicholas Pietris Search for more papers by this author, Edwards, N. M., … Al., E. (2020, July 20). Cardiorespiratory Fitness in youth: An important marker of Health: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000866.