You might have heard or read that 30 minutes of cardio exercise is enough to change the way your body looks and functions – but how much truth is there in that?
Well, depending on your fitness level, 30 minutes of exercise on a regular basis will certainly improve your health. In some cases, it can lead to weight loss and improvements in endurance, though maximum benefits are felt when cardio activities are combined with a healthy diet and strength training workouts.
Let’s dive into what impacts 30 minutes of exercise has on your body and how you can build it into your daily routine to develop healthy habits.
What is cardiovascular exercise?
The term ‘cardio exercise’ incorporates many different forms of exercise, and what they all have in common is that they will elevate your heart rate above what it would be if you were at rest.
A cardio activity doesn’t necessarily have to be a vigorous activity; things like walking and cycling fit into this category.
There are different levels of intensity for varying cardio workouts, for example, you could also go running or swimming, or attend a boxing class. Vigorous exercise elevates your heart rate much more than moderate cardio exercise.
How much cardio is enough?
To an extent, this will depend on your current level of fitness, but the standard benefits of exercise will still be felt by anyone who performs cardio exercises on a regular basis.
It is recommended that anyone over the age of 18 performs around 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise every week. Alternatively, they can undertake 75 minutes of intense exercise, or an equivalent combination of the two.
So, 30 minutes of moderate activity five days per week would be enough to match these recommendations. The health benefits of these amounts of exercise include improved cardiovascular health, lowered blood pressure, and better mental health.
Taking part in physical activities is one of the key healthy habits to improving your quality of life, and even 30 minutes of exercise per day can make a difference. As mentioned, you don’t necessarily need to develop a convoluted exercise routine; just adding moderate activity like brisk walking into your schedule can improve your health.
Are 30 minutes of cardio enough to lose weight?
If one of your fitness goals is to lose weight, then cardio exercise can help you to lose body fat. In order to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories per day than you burn, and you can burn more calories during exercise – this is called being in a calorie deficit.
Whether or not 30 minutes of cardio exercise will be enough depends on your lifestyle – if that period of time is the only instance of you moving around, then it’s unlikely to help you lose much weight.
Likewise, the quality of that 30 minutes of cardio will also have an impact. An effective cardio workout maintained at a high pace can burn hundreds of calories in that short space of time, whereas something more moderate – like a walking workout – will burn fewer.
Ideally, you want a combination of cardio and strength training in your exercise program, as resistance exercises can help in the weight loss process. The bottom line is, if you are expending more calories per day than you are consuming, you will lose weight.
Should I do 30 minutes of cardio every day?
This depends on what you’re doing during that 30 minutes. If you’re performing 30-minute workouts at an intense pace, then it’s important to incorporate days of rest into your workout routine in order to reduce the risk of injury.
Vigorous-intensity activity will work your muscles and joints harder, meaning that they’ll need sufficient time to recover in between these bouts of activity. So, a daily workout of intense cardio sessions is not advised.
However, if your cardio workout each day is far less intense and completed at a moderate pace, then that 30 minutes of exercise can be completed every day. Likewise, if you do include intense physical activities in your routine, you can still complete your daily cardio exercise on those rest days. Active recovery exercises like walking will not strain your muscles too much.
Can I just do cardio?
So, we’ve established that healthy adults are active people who undertake regular cardio exercise, however, this isn’t enough to live a truly healthy lifestyle.
Diet matters and it’s important to consume a healthy and balanced range of foods each day in order to maintain a healthy weight. This is, obviously, essential if you’re aiming to be in a calorie deficit in order to lose weight. A healthy diet can be the difference between reaching your goals and falling short.
To feel the maximum effects of cardio exercise, you should couple it with strength training within your fitness routine. Combining these physical activities will improve your cardio fitness and health as well as bone health and muscular function.
Performing 30 minutes of cardio can become a staple of an active life and have wide-reaching effects on your overall health. For most people, including physical activities in these relatively short chunks of time is perfectly feasible and most of them just require your body weight.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week enough?
If you’re performing a vigorous-intensity activity in those 30 minutes each time, then you would be easily reaching the 75 minutes of intense exercise recommended per week. Whether it’s enough to reach your goals depends on your fitness levels and what those goals are, but it’s undoubtedly a good start.
However, if you are doing a moderate cardio activity, like a walking workout, just three times a week then that falls short of the 150 minutes recommended per week.
Ideally, you should adopt a balanced workout routine with both cardio and strength training, as well as following a healthy and balanced diet.