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Should I Do High Intensity Cardio or Low Intensity Cardio?

The cardio world can be a confusing one. One of the biggest questions I hear from people is: How hard should I work when I am doing cardio?


There is no magic formula and the truth is that doing any form of cardio will be beneficial to your life, but here is a simple guideline:

Low Intensity Cardio means you should be getting your heart rate up to about 40-60% of your max heart rate (220 - age = max heart rate) -- It is more about duration (length) than intensity (how hard you work). Training at low intensities often means picking a comfortable pace and sticking to it throughout the duration of the session. Examples can include brisk walking, jogging and swimming. Those that are less fit, have led a previously sedentary lifestyle, are overweight, have a history (or a risk factor) of heart disease, as well as the elderly, and anyone with arthritis and those of us with special instructions from our doctor should opt for low intensity workouts initially.

High Intensity Cardio means that you should be getting your heart rate up from 70-85% of you max heart rate -- Oftentimes it can include interval training. Examples of high intensity workouts include jump roping, sprinting and spinning. Since higher intensity cardio workouts burn more calories in a shorter period of time, it can be rough on your bones and joints. Those who could be doing high intensity cardio workouts are those that are already physically fit and those who are training for an event and those that are fit. Start by adding a high intensity cardio session in place of a low intensity session once a week and then you can build up from there.

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