Here's How Long You Should Really Be Spending On Cardio

Physical activity is essential for good health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) states that the benefits of being active begin immediately, and they include feeling better, improved sleep, and a lower risk of developing many chronic diseases. These include heart diseases, high blood pressure, high blood lipids, and some cancers. In fact, even a slight change can have a significant effect on your health, and some cardio is always better than none.

Cardio is a broad term that refers to exercise that is aerobic, or exercises that raise your heart rate. Examples of aerobic activity include running, swimming, jogging, brisk walking, dancing, cycling (including stationary bikes), step aerobics, water aerobics, gardening, yard work, active yoga, and hiking.

While it's a good idea to work some kind of cardio into your exercise regimen, just how much is enough? The answer depends on several things, including your level of fitness and goals.

Aim for 150 minutes per week and work your way up

If you don't know where to begin, you can follow the HHS's recommendation of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio every week. This works out to about 30 minutes five days a week. However, the Mayo Clinic suggests striving for at least 30 minutes every day.

If you're new to cardio, you should ease into it, beginning with low-intensity workouts and gradually working up to 30 minutes per day. An example of this might look like walking for five minutes a few times a day for six days and working up to 10 minutes three times per day. Over time, add a few minutes to each walking session until you work up to 30 minutes a day. You can also slowly increase your walking speed (via HHS).

The HHS notes that you experience additional health benefits by doing 300 minutes (approximately 42 minutes per day) of moderate-intensity exercise per week. One of those benefits is weight loss, so if you need to lose a few pounds, try upping your cardio.

If you're more experienced and physically fit, you can opt for 75 minutes of high-intensity cardio every week, and there's nothing wrong with switching things up. One day of high-intensity aerobic exercise followed by a day of low-impact brisk walking is recommended to avoid the risk of injury, per the HHS.