A longstanding debate exists to answer the question as to whether it’s mandatory to do cardio in addition to weights. In short, regardless of your goals, preferences, time availability or current fitness, the answer is yes! Every exercise program should include weight training and cardio because both types of exercise have distinct benefits. Cardio benefits an individual’s overall health by supporting mental health, lowering blood pressure and strengthening the immune system. It’s especially great in terms of maintaining fat loss and contributing to a healthy weight when added on top of a well-controlled diet.
What exactly is cardio and what kind should you be doing? Cardio is a physical activity that raises your heart and breathing rates while challenging your cardiovascular system. Oftentimes, the intensity doesn't get specified when talking about cardio. So it’s hard to make good cardio recommendations. When most people think about “cardio,” activities such as getting on a stationary bike, treadmill or elliptical come to mind. However, doing cardio may also refer to doing other things such as taking an aerobics class, doing interval training and swimming. While these activities are somewhat intense, walking is certainly another great form of cardio. Although light walking may not be as intense, intentional bouts can qualify as low to moderate intensity cardio. When it comes to fat loss, neither high-intensity nor low-intensity cardio is superior to one another. The main thing to remember is that if you choose low to moderate-intensity cardio activities like walking, it will take a lot more of them to match the benefits of higher-intensity cardio. Conversely, if your cardio is higher in intensity, you can do less of it and still get the same benefits.
Almost every public health and exercise organization in the world recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. 150 minutes of exercise per week is equating to 5 days a week for 30 minutes per session, or 4 days a week for just less than 40 minutes per session. Keep in mind these recommendations don’t necessarily mean doing intense cardio. Moderate cardio like brisk walking or a combination of both light-moderate and intense cardio will suffice. Additionally, for your health and your fat loss, the time of day you do cardio does not matter. The best time to do cardio is when it’s convenient for you and when you’re most likely to get it. One general rule that’s good to follow is that if building muscle and strength are important priorities for you, it's best not to do cardio right before weights in the same session. Doing cardio first will interfere with lifting performance.
Overall, the best kind of cardio is the kind you enjoy! Choosing something you will increase your chances of sticking to it - bringing you one step closer to meeting your goals.