How Much Cardio is Enough?

When it comes to exercise, more is not always better. The days of 45 – 60 minute moderate intensity elliptical or treadmill workouts are over. The recent research suggests that in order to optimize body fat loss and minimize overall stress on the body, short bursts of high-intensity exercise will be the best. Just think of a sprinters physique vs. a long distance runners. Sprinters do little “cardio” yet have very low body fat and maintain muscle mass, while long-distance runners, despite being lean, typically have more body fat and less muscle mass. This is the premise behind “burst training”. The recommendations are to accumulate only 4-8 minutes of total work, 3 times per week. The benefits of burst training are:

- Increase in weight loss
- Increase in fat metabolism
- Improved lactic acid threshold
- Improved cardiovascular fitness
- Less stress on the body
- More time efficient
- Appropriate for all age groups
- Can be done anywhere

Example Burst Training Workout:

Upright Bike

Begin by warming up for 3-5 minutes at a low intensity (3 out of 10)
- Increase resistance to about 8 or 9/10 for difficulty.
- Pedal as hard as you can for 20 seconds
- decrease resistance back to 3/10 and slow pedal/recover for 40 seconds
- repeat for desired number of repetitions. (12-24 reps total to = 4-8 minutes)

The goal is to use near maximal efforts during the sprints and allow ample recovery during rest periods. Only the sprints are counted as “work”. The number of reps will depend on the fitness level of the individual, so start with only 4 minutes and progress from there. This can be done on the treadmill, stairs at the office, or body weight exercises outside or in the gym.

This type of “cardio” training will save you time in the gym, maximize body fat loss and actually be less stressful on the body than traditional cardiovascular exercise.