How Much Cardio To Lose Weight In 2024: The Answer You May Not Know

Paige Anderson, CRDH
Dr. Maya Frankfurt, PhD
Cardio exercise is key for good heart health and weight loss. Here are our top tips for how much cardio to lose weight in 2024.
how much cardio to lose weight
Strengthen your heart and shrink your waistline with cardio! Photo: Ba Le Ho

The World Health Organization recommends[1] 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75-150 minutes of activity including vigorous intensity cardio exercise per week for all adults. That recommendation isn’t specifically about how much cardio is needed per week to lose weight. 

It’s about getting enough activity to protect your health. But these physical activity guidelines are a good place to start your weight loss journey! 

How much cardio to lose weight? It depends on your specific approach. An exercise routine that combines multiple types of physical activity including aerobic exercises and weight training will help you burn calories and support your overall wellness. 

Cardiovascular exercise is an important part of maintaining your heart health. Combining cardio and strength training with a sensible diet is the best approach to losing weight and keeping it off long-term.

How Much Cardio To Lose Weight?

  • 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week.
  • 75-150 minutes of high intensity exercise per week.
  • Combining cardio with strength training gets the best results.
  • Weight loss depends on working at a calorie deficit, so diet factors heavily for how effective your cardio routine will be.
  • Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise regimen, especially if you have a history of cardiovascular disease.

How Much Cardio A Day To Lose Weight?

how much cardio to lose weight
Combining cardio and strength training will speed up weight loss. Photo: Sarayut Sridee/Shutterstock

Current recommendations are to aim for 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity cardio five times per week, or 20-30 minutes of vigorous intensity cardio four times per week. So on average, about 45 minutes of cardio a day is a good general target.

Ideally, your weekly exercise plan will have some combination[2] of different intensities of aerobic exercise and  strength building workouts like lifting weights.

Cardiovascular exercise is a great way to burn calories. But that’s not all it takes to lose weight. 

Building muscle with strength training helps you burn calories throughout the day by boosting your baseline metabolism and shifting your body composition to more lean muscle mass. 

Lasting weight loss and improved health comes from changing your body composition by burning body fat and building more muscle mass. Combining cardio and weight training will give you faster results than doing only cardio.

If your goal is to lose weight, remember that it’s important to work at a calorie deficit to help your body burn fat and change your overall body composition. Working out with a calorie surplus will help you build larger muscles, but may make fat loss slower. 

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What Is Cardio?

There are lots of different definitions of cardio exercise. Reaching and maintaining a certain heart rate for a specific time is a popular way to describe cardio, but each person’s body responds differently to exercise, so using one target heart rate isn’t always appropriate for all people.

“The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines aerobic exercise as any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously and is rhythmic in nature,” according to an article[3] published in the World Journal of Cardiology. 

That means walking, hiking, dancing, swimming, and any other sustained continuous movement can count! 

Aerobic exercise is important for keeping your heart and cardiovascular system in peak health. While cardio is great exercise for weight loss, it works best if you also build lean muscle and moderate your diet.

How Cardio Exercise Can Help You Lose Weight

Regular cardio helps you burn calories. But does cardio burn fat?

Current research[4] points to hormonal changes with cardio exercise that increase your body’s ability to metabolize fat. Meaning you’ll lose weight and improve your heart health by strengthening your cardiovascular system while decreasing lipids in your body at the same time. Talk about a win-win!

Cardio will help you lose weight faster when combined with a healthy diet and muscle building workouts. Try to get a good variety of whole foods and minimize highly processed foods. Fat burner may also help speed up your results.

While moderate intensity cardio like a vigorous walk is great for supporting your wellness, research shows that high intensity workouts bring other benefits.[5] A combination of various types and intensity of exercise will give you the most benefit and keep you from getting bored!

Best Cardio Workouts For Weight Loss

how much cardio to lose weight
Working out with friends can make cardio more fun! Photo: lunamarina/Shutterstock

The best cardio workout for you will depend on your current fitness level, limitations, and what you enjoy doing. How much exercise it takes to lose weight also depends on the intensity and duration of your workout.

It can be hard to know how to lose weight when you are just starting out, so remember to do what you enjoy and think about long-term lifestyle adjustments rather than fast results.

Great cardio workouts include:

  • Walking. Everybody is trying to get their 10,000 steps these days. Walking is an easy way to increase your physical activity because you can incorporate it into the rest of your routine. It’s also a great place to start for beginners who may feel overwhelmed at the idea of going to the gym.
  • Dancing. Whether it’s a Zumba class or an impromptu dance party in the kitchen, dancing is a great way to raise your heart rate and your mood! Bonus points for your relationship if you can get your significant other to join you for a West Coast Swing class!
  • Swimming. Bad knees got you down? Swimming and water aerobics eliminate impact on your joints while giving you the same benefits as other cardio workouts by moving large muscle groups in a sustained way over a period of time. 
  • HIIT. High intensity interval training can fast-track your workouts while giving you the same weight loss benefits[6] as longer workouts of lower intensity. Many HIIT workouts can be done at home, and many gyms also offer classes! 
  • Combination of cardio and strength training. The best cardio workouts come from a comprehensive approach[2] to your wellness. Strength, endurance, and range of motion training will all buttress your wellness journey. Strengthening and stretching will help prevent injuries and help you lose weight faster.  

If you have a history of cardiac disease,[7] aneurysms, or other serious health problems you should always talk to your doctor before starting any exercise regimen. It’s important to start slowly and make gradual changes. 

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Tips To Improve Your Cardio Workouts

If you’re looking for ideas to help you lose weight, make sure you’re getting the best benefits from your efforts. Some may take supplements like pre-workout or fat burn boosters to help.

First, remember lasting weight loss is about sustainable lifestyle changes. That means avoiding crash diets and finding ways to incorporate physical activity into your regular life. 

Here are a few ideas to get the most out of your cardio. 

  1. Do workouts you enjoy! Research shows[8] that novelty and enjoyment have a huge impact on how effective your workouts are. If it feels like a chore, you’re less likely to stick with it. Plus, the feel-good hormones you produce when you’re having fun may actually improve the health benefits from your workout![9]
  2. Mix and match. Doing a variety of workouts that include different intensities of cardio as well as strengthening exercises will give you the best benefits for weight loss and wellbeing.
  3. Take days off. Repetitive strain injuries won’t do much to help you get in shape. Rest days restore  your muscles and may actually enhance your performance. Most importantly, taking days off will help you avoid injuries.
  4. Don’t skip carbs! Complex carbs are an important macronutrient, and can actually enhance your performance[10] and help you hang in there for your full cardio workout plan.

Remember that not all movement has to be a workout! Movement snacks are brief breaks focusing on just moving your body for a few minutes several times throughout your day. For example, you can take a lap around your office between tasks at work. This can make a huge difference and keep you motivated for your real workouts!

The Bottom Line

How much cardio should I do to lose weight? It depends! 

Higher intensity cardio workouts take less time to reap significant benefits for fat burning and calorie burn. But longer sessions of moderate intensity exercise like walking or hiking can benefit your body in other ways.

In general, taking a well-rounded approach to losing weight will probably do best in the long term. Blending cardio exercise with strengthening and weight training has been shown to give the best, longest-lasting results. With sustainable changes to your eating habits, you’ll enjoy better health and lasting weight loss!

Frequently Asked Questions

How much cardio to lose belly fat?

The best approach to losing belly fat is to combine strength training exercises and aerobic exercise. HIIT workouts have been shown to boost fat burning. Working at a calorie deficit is essential to efficient fat loss.

How much cardio per week to lose belly fat?

The CDC recommends[11] 150 minutes of exercise per week, combining cardio and resistance training. You may be able to get the same benefits in less time with vigorous intensity interval training.

Is cardio enough to lose weight?

Cardio activity boosts energy expenditure which can help create the calorie deficit necessary for weight loss, but don’t neglect building muscle with resistance training. A variety of exercise changes body composition and helps you burn the most calories.

Is it OK to do cardio every day?

Yes. You can elevate your body’s ability to burn fat and calories with daily cardio like taking walks. Varying the type and intensity of your daily cardio and strength exercises can help you avoid injury or burning out.

Resources

  1. Bull, F., Al-Ansari, S.S., Stuart, Katja Borodulin, Buman, M.P., Cardon, G., Carty, C., Chaput, J., Sébastien Chastin, Chou, R., Dempsey, P.C., DiPietro, L., Ekelund, U., Firth, J., Friedenreich, C.M., Martin, L., Muthoni Gichu, Jago, R., Katzmarzyk, P.T. and Lambert, E.V. (2020). World Health Organization 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. British Journal of Sports Medicine, [online] 54(24), pp.1451–1462. doi:https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2020-102955.
  2. Habib Yarizadeh, Reza Eftekhar, Javad Anjom-Shoae, Speakman, J.R. and Kurosh Djafarian (2021). The Effect of Aerobic and Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Subcutaneous Abdominal Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Advances in Nutrition, [online] 12(1), pp.179–196. doi:https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmaa090.
  3. Patel, H., Alkhawam, H., Raef Madanieh, Shah, N., Kosmas, C.E. and Vittorio, T.J. (2017). Aerobicvsanaerobic exercise training effects on the cardiovascular system. World Journal of Cardiology, [online] 9(2), pp.134–134. doi:https://doi.org/10.4330/wjc.v9.i2.134.
  4. Muscella, A., Stefàno, E., Lunetti, P., Capobianco, L. and Marsigliante, S. (2020). The Regulation of Fat Metabolism during Aerobic Exercise. Biomolecules, [online] 10(12), pp.1699–1699. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/biom10121699.
  5. Strauss, J.A., Ranasinghe, C., Cowley, E.S., Lukas Schwingshackl, Shepherd, S., Richardson, M. and Garner, P. (2020). High-intensity interval training for reducing cardiometabolic syndrome in healthy but sedentary populations. The Cochrane library. [online] doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd013617.
  6. D’Amuri, A., Sanz, J.M., Capatti, E., Francesca Di Vece, Vaccari, F., Stefano Lazzer, Zuliani, G., Edoardo Dalla Nora and Passaro, A. (2021). Effectiveness of high-intensity interval training for weight loss in adults with obesity: a randomised controlled non-inferiority trial. BMJ open sport and exercise medicine, [online] 7(3), pp.e001021–e001021. doi:https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2020-001021.
  7. Mytinger, M., Nelson, R.K. and Zuhl, M. (2020). Exercise Prescription Guidelines for Cardiovascular Disease Patients in the Absence of a Baseline Stress Test. Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease, [online] 7(2), pp.15–15. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/jcdd7020015.
  8. Nemanja Lakičević, Gentile, A., Mehrabi, S., Cassar, S., Parker, K., Roklicer, R., Bianco, A. and Patrik Drid (2020). Make Fitness Fun: Could Novelty Be the Key Determinant for Physical Activity Adherence? Frontiers in Psychology, [online] 11. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.577522.
  9. Aditya Mahindru, Patil, P.M. and Agrawal, V. (2023). Role of Physical Activity on Mental Health and Well-Being: A Review. Cureus. [online] doi:https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.33475.
  10. Kanter, M. (2018). High-Quality Carbohydrates and Physical Performance. Nutrition Today, [online] 53(1), pp.35–39. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/nt.0000000000000238.
  11. CDC (2023). How much physical activity do adults need? [online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm.

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