The frequency and duration of cardio needed for fat loss depends solely on your personal goals and current fitness levels. Here are some pointers to help you sculpt a fat-free body.
For health and fitness
To maintain your current weight or to boost your endurance, three to four sessions of 30 minutes of cardio weekly is sufficient to get the job done. You can always crank it up if you switch to a fat loss program.
A good baseline starting point is to do cardio at least three times a week, for no less than 30 minutes each session. As you progress and get fitter you can start doing longer sessions, until you reach 60 minutes. You can also increase your frequency up to six days a week. Keep pushing yourself and increasing the intensity as you get fitter. Tom Venuto, author of bestselling book Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle, tells us that “when you multiply frequency of cardio with duration and intensity, you can accelerate your fat loss exponentially.”
Maximum fat loss for fat loss programs
To achieve maximum fat loss for those who are already physically active, alternate between 45 – 60 minutes of moderate intensity cardio or 30 minutes of high intensity cardio at least five days a week.
Do not do high intensity cardio on a daily basis and allow your body some time to recuperate with moderate intensity sessions.
Maximizing cardio sessions, in combination with a weight training program and an impeccable diet, will guarantee fast results on a weekly basis. If you commit wholeheartedly, you will most likely not recognize yourself in a couple of months due to your transformation.
Measuring your heart rate to determine intensity levels
To measure whether your intensity level during exercise is moderate or high, use this simple formula. First calculate your maximum heart rate based on your age and then multiply by your desired intensity level.
220 – your age = your maximum heart rate.
Percentage ranges for intensity levels are as follows:
70 – 75% = moderate exercise
75 - 80% = high intensity
80 – 85% = very high intensity.
The formula to determine your desired heart rate is as follows:
Maximum heart rate x 70 – 85% (desired intensity level ranging from moderate to high) = beats per minute to estimate exercise intensity.
Here are some examples illustrating this:
You’re 35 years old. Your maximum heart rate is 185 (220 – 35 = 185). You’d like to challenge yourself and perform very high intensity exercise (80 – 85% range for very high intensity). 185 x 80% (0.8) = 148 heartbeats per minute. This means you can monitor your heart rate to be approximately 148 beats per minute.
You’re aged 47. Your maximum heart rate is 173 (220 – 47). You’re a beginner who would like to do moderate cardio sessions (70 – 75% range for moderate intensity). 173 x 70% (0.7) = 121 heartbeats per minute. Strive to achieve 121 heart beats per minute.
How to measure your heart rate
Heart rate monitors
The first method of accurately measuring your heart rate is to buy a heart rate monitor. You can attach it to a cardio machine or strap it around your chest and monitor your heart rate using a watch. Here is a very popular heart rate monitor many people use.
Another way is to clutch onto the heart rate monitors on cardio machines. Most cardio machines have heart rate monitors you can grip onto during your workout and see your approximate percentage range.
Measuring your pulse
Finally, you can also measure your heart rate by monitoring your pulse. Your pulse is the rate at which your heart beats per minute. The first step is to choose your desired heart rate. Then divide this figure by six. This is the number of heartbeats you should detect in your pulse in a period of 10 seconds in order to achieve your desired heart rate. You can measure your pulse by placing your index and middle fingers on your wrist. Press hard enough to feel a heartbeat. Be careful not to measure with your thumb, as it will have a separate pulse.
Here’s an example:
Your desired heart rate is 150 beats per minute. Divide this by six (150/6) = 25 beats. Then measure your pulse for 10 seconds, counting the number of beats in that time frame. If you detect less than 25 beats in 10 seconds then you’ll need to crank up your exercise intensity to elevate your heart rate to 150. If you detect more than 25 beats then you’ll know that your heart rate is above 150 and you can keep exercising at that intensity, or even reduce your level of effort if you feel that the intensity is too high.
If you have any questions, leave a comment or drop me an email.