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How Much Cardio for Weight Loss?

Nadia Santiago
Woman running in city

Cardio training is touted to be the number one form of exercise for burning fat. This claim has been backed up by multiple research studies throughout the years, including a 1985 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology and a more recent 2013 study in Obesity. If you're trying to lose weight, you'll need to perform cardio for a total of 90 to 300 minutes per week. However, the amount and intensity of cardio you personally need to do will vary depending on your lifestyle.

Current Fitness Level

A 2016 study in the scientific journal Current Biology found that the total amount of energy a person expends during their workouts is determined by their fitness level. Those who are already fit expend less energy performing the same workout as someone who is just beginning. The more energy you expend, the more calories you burn, so when you're mapping out a cardio regimen for weight loss, you must consider which level you fit into.


People who have been sedentary and are just starting out with cardio training will see weight loss results within shorter training periods than those who are already active. Their bodies are still acclimating to the workouts, so it takes more effort to complete the same regimen. The result is a bigger calorie burn and faster weight loss in a shorter period of time.

  • Complete 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise three days a week.
  • Work at a low to moderate intensity.

For best results, try a mix of at home cardio and cardio classes, such as spinning, at your local gym.

Currently Active

In contrast, the bodies of those who are active are accustomed to training. The workouts that felt difficult on day one of training become easier, so your overall calorie burn drops. If you've ever wondered why the "last 10 pounds" are so difficult to shed, this is the reason. To compensate, you need to add more intensity to your workouts.

  • Complete 30 to 60 minutes of cardio three to five days a week.
  • On shorter training days, totaling 10 to 30 minutes, complete a high intensity interval training regimen. One study in the Journal of Physiology suggests that you can create a more efficient routine with HIIT for a total of an hour and a half per week.
  • On longer training days, from 45 to 60 minutes, work at moderate to high intensities. If you usually walk, try jogging. If you jog, run.

The goal is to tap into your body's fat stores. A little extra effort goes a long way.

Diet Matters

A healthy diet is a key component of losing weight successfully and maintaining it, according to a 2014 study. Many people believe that they don't need to think about what they're eating if they're exercising. The truth is, your nutrition habits will drastically affect your ability to lose weight on a cardio regimen, no matter how intense.

Some people try to compensate for eating too much by performing more cardio. Unfortunately, this does not work. It is impossible to do enough cardio to make up for a night of drinking in excess or eating an entire pizza. As the saying goes "You can't out-run a bad diet." Working out too much can lead to exercise burnout, also known as overtraining, which can hinder your progress, lead to muscle loss, and negatively impact your mental health. The key to losing weight is to pair cardio with good eating habits.

Get Started with Cardio Training

There are multiple factors that go into determining how much cardio you need to lose weight. Whether you're just starting out or already active is a key element. Even more important are the diet habits you practice on a daily basis. Gain control over the types and the amount of food you eat to make your cardio training more effective in your weight loss efforts. Whatever your situation is, start today, so you can build up to your recommended amount and intensity and lose the weight you want to shed.

How Much Cardio for Weight Loss?