Whether you're just starting to work out or you're already pretty fit, one thing is certain: cardiovascular exercise has a place in every fitness regimen. But just how often should you get your heart pumping?
"The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise for healthy adults, which can translate to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week, or 20 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise three days a week," Victoria Nolan, an ACSM-certified personal trainer at Suite Time Fitness in Houston, told POPSUGAR.
"However, if you are new to exercise, these are numbers that you need to build up to," she explained. "If you go from no, or very minimal, cardio exercise to 45-minute sessions five days a week, you run the risk of injuring yourself or, more likely, burning out after a week or so."
Even once you've built your endurance, cardio needs aren't so cut and dried. Beyond the minimum requirements to maintain a healthy lifestyle, many fitness experts agree that how much cardio you need can vary depending on your individual fitness goals and your timeline for achieving them.
"If you're looking to achieve weight or fat loss, I would recommend an element or two of cardio during each gym session to help increase the number of calories burned during that workout and a frequency of three to four times a week, based on recovery and experience level," said trainer James Shapiro, MS, PES, CES, owner of Primal Power Fitness in New York City. "If your goal is to build lean muscle, you can incorporate high-intensity interval training and still build muscle with cardio. This kind of cardio should be performed two to three times a week based on recovery rate."
Remember that you don't have to train for a marathon or suffer through a class you don't like to achieve the recommended standards for exercise. From Zumba sessions to indoor cycling, or even simply walking, there are plenty of cardio options available for people of all fitness levels.