Finding the ideal number of minutes to spend on cardio each week is an individual practice which will never be the same for two different athletes. Goals, experience, and levels of muscle and body fat will all influence how much time we should spend on that elliptical or treadmill each week. Let’s look at a few factor and techniques to reach the ideal number.
Creating a baseline
Start with the ‘norm’ for training, and then consider changing it based upon your own specific needs. The average amount of cardiovascular training required should be 30 minutes, four days per week. Make your adjustments from there.
Changing it up
Many factors will influence if you should be doing more, or less, than the baseline amount of cardio. If you are an ectomorph who gets very lean very easily, you might cut back the daily load by 5 to 15 minutes to ensure you don’t burn up too many calories. Are you an off-season bodybuilder looking to add 15 pounds of muscle to your frame? If so, 15 minutes, four times per week is adequate. If you’re cutting calories in a pre-contest mode, you’re going to need 35 to 50 minutes per day at lower intensity to burn the most body fat. Shave a few minutes off, or add/remove one day per week (3 to 5 days is required), and track your results to learn your winning formula.
Anything less than 10 minutes, or more than 60 minutes of cardio, in one session, becomes counterproductive. You will not experience much of the heart nor conditioning benefits with 10 minutes of cardio per day, or less. You will maintain a decent level of fitness, but not enough for either health of fitness goals. On the other hand, if you are doing more than 60 minutes of cardio, you are burning muscle and putting so much of a strain upon your central nervous system that cortisol levels will spike in the body, which will raise body fat. Finding your number in the middle is the key to success.
Assuming for a healthy 25 to 35 year old male athlete, here are some beats-per-minute (bpm) ranges to try to maintain for your time on the machine.
Athletic performance training
Goal: 135 bpm
Heart health training
120 beats per minute
Work to find the right mix of time and days to reach your goals. If you find yourself staying too fat, or losing too much muscle mass, just adjust your cardio times each week. Take diet into account too – if you’re dropping minutes, drop calories accordingly to assure you never have a surplus or deficit. God luck finding your perfect number!