How Much Cardio Do I Need?

( – During a recent study, a group of over 40,000 business professionals was asked whether or not they could burn fat by only doing weight training.

About 85% responded that strength training alone was a sufficient way to burn fat.

This is not the correct answer – while yes, increasing lean muscle mass is a vital step in maintaining a healthy, calorie-burning metabolism, there is no way to avoid getting in some cardio if you want to burn fat (and help keep your cardiovascular system strong).

But this answer inevitably leads to yet another popular question: exactly how much cardio do you even have to do?

Q: I’ve read so much conflicting information about just how much cardio I need, and exactly how hard my heart needs to be working to meet my goals. Now I’m confused. Help!

A: Cardiovascular endurance, or aerobic endurance, is a vital component of a complete fitness program. This training makes the heart (cardio), lungs, and system of blood vessels and capillaries (vascular) transport nutrients more efficiently. Knowing how much cardio you need starts with a basic understanding of what these systems do for the body.

A well-trained heart will pump more blood in a single stroke than a poorly trained heart. So let’s suppose your resting heart rate (RHR) is 78 bpm. That means your heart beats 75 times in a minute to move a certain amount of blood. Your neighbor, Fitt Trainer, has a RHR of 68 bpm. That means his heart beats 10 times less in a minute to move the same amount of blood. This efficiency of moving blood with fewer strokes is one of the benefits of cardiovascular training.

A second benefit is the greater exchange of fuel for working muscles. Working muscles need important nutrients like oxygen and glucose in order to perform necessary tasks. A stronger heart will not only beat fewer times in a minute but, as a result of cardio training, will move a greater volume of blood with each stroke. So when you are exercising, more nutrients reach the muscles and the heart doesn’t need to beat as many times.

How Do We Get To A Better Cardio Workout?

There are four essential keys to effective cardio training:

Mode. Which exercises are you doing? That is up to you. Choose rhythmic activities like walking, running, cycling, stepping or cardio equipment. Select an activity that will keep you interested and feel free to change it as often as you like.

Intensity. How hard (or easy) is the activity? Knowing your predicted maximum heart rate (220-age) coupled with the Ratings of Perceived Exertion is a great place to start.

Let’s Take a 38 year old man and name him Charles. For Charles, this max would be 182bpm, and his or her heart rate should not exceed this limit. A more reliable formula is the Karvonen Formula, which determines a target heart rate zone to maintain for cardio endurance.

Let’s look at Charles again, with a RHR of 68pbm, and use the Karvonen Formula to determine the correct THRZ.

Training Heart Rate= Maximum heart rate – resting heart rate x desired intensity (50% -85%) + resting heart rate.

Basic Formula

220-38 (age)= 182 MHR
182- 68 (RHR) x .50 + 68=
114 x .50 + 68=
57 + 68 = 125pbm

Basic Formula (as applied to Charles)

182 – 68 x .85 + 68=
114 x .85 + 68 =
96.9 + 68 = 165 bpm
THRZ is between 125-165pbm.

Performing any type of cardio exercise within this zone will produce positive results but what about how it feels?

How Hard Are You Working?

Once you have determined the zone, make adjustments based on the RPE scale. This scale, ranging from 6-20, is another great indicator of how intense the work is. It’s often a better indicator of whether or not you should increase or decrease the intensity.

Charles is on an arc trainer machine. After a brief warm-up moves, his THRZ is at 135bpm. At the 10-minute mark, he can continue to carry on a full conversation (about a 9 on the RPE) so he begins to increase the intensity. 5 minutes later, now at 145bpm he can no longer speak, even in short sentences, and rates his exertion as 17 (very hard). Even though Charles is well within his zone, he feels like he is working very hard and could probably not maintain this level for very long. But by using the RPE scale either alone or in conjunction with the THRZ, he can  determine how intense the cardio workouts need to be.

How long is each workout? An effective cardio workout can range from 10-30 minutes. Anything more than 30 minutes moves into anaerobic training which is a different stage of training and for the average exerciser is not a necessity. 30 minutes max in your zone and in the middle of the RPE scale will seriously challenge the heart and lungs.

How many times a week? This is somewhat determined by your level of conditioning. A poorly conditioned client can perform cardio 2-3/week on non-consecutive days whereas a client who has passed the initial conditioning stage can do 3-4/week sometimes on consecutive days. Keep in mind that 50% of all new exercisers burn out within the first 6 months so it is far better to maintain 2 days/week of cardio for a year slowly increasing the intensity than 4 days/week for the same year without increasing intensity on an inconsistent basis. 

The Bottom Line: rhythmic activity you like (mode); THRZ and RPE scale (intensity); 30 minutes max (duration); and 2-3/week consistently (frequency).

By Steffanie White, BDO Fitness Expert

Steffanie White is a Certified Personal and Fitness Trainer at Boston Sports Clubs. With over 15 years of experience in the industry, bringing quality fitness information and instruction to clients has become Steffanie’s greatest passion. In addition, this Certified Pilates Instructor teaches dance and fitness classes at Dana Hall and Bridgewater State College, as well as current pursuing a doctoral program in sports medicine.

Don’t Diss Him Based On His Paycheck

Empty wallet on the table( — What woman hasn’t dreamed of, or at least heavily entertained, the idea of marrying a man rolling in cash? Glamorous vacations, fancy dinners, and shopping sprees is the stuff movies are made of; and maybe that’s where these dreams should stay.

Of course, dating a man with money comes with perks, but it also comes with its share of headaches and heartaches. And for the average person during these times, there are fewer rich guys to go around. More women than men are graduating from college these days, so women are increasingly marrying guys with less education and income than they have themselves, according to a report released by the Pew Research Center. Also, fewer women have suffered job loss due to recession compared to men. So don’t write him off right away if his bank account isn’t big. Scientists believe men who make less money come with certain advantages.

He’s More Likely to Be Faithful

When Tiger Woods apologized, he implied that he felt entitled by his success to have affairs. He’s not alone. Research shows that wealthy men tend to be hypocrites when it comes to cheating.  Also, if he believes you depend on him, he’s less likely to feel remorseful about his transgressions.

He’ll Charm Your Friends and Family… Genuinely

Low-and middle-income men are more polite than wealthy guys when they meet new people, according to the journal Psychological Science. When study authors watched rich and poor guys get acquainted with strangers, the less well-off men talked and laughed more and made more eye contact than the rich, who exhibited rude behavior such as fidgeting, ignoring others and paying too much attention to their own appearance.  Subconsciously, rich men may not believe they need to make connections with people as a survival skill because they have money, said Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., author of Born to Be Good.

He’ll Support Your Ambitions

Research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology says that successful men can be more sexist than their lesser-paid counterparts. This is likely because they’re usually alpha males who feel it’s a “man’s duty” to provide, says Beth Livingston, Ph.D., an assistant professor of human resources at Cornell University. On the other hand, poorer men are often more supportive of their partners’ careers and aspirations. Couples who encourage each other to fulfill their dreams tend to be happier.

Sex Will Sizzle

A guy with lighter pockets will try to give you in bed what he can’t buy you with money, said Bethany Marshall, Ph. D., author of Deal Breakers. A good man, rich or poor, will try to use all of his resources to keep the woman he loves.  If he can’t wine and dine you, he might find other ways to express his love, and that includes in the bedroom.  Well, that’s the theory at least.

The bottom line is that love shouldn’t cost a thing. Whether you fall for a rich man or a poor man, it’s what’s inside that counts — and we don’t mean inside his wallet.

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