Length (duration) of cardio workouts

As I have mentioned several times now, cardio exercise should last a minimum of 12 minutes, and I emphasize minimum.  If you want significant benefit, you should be prepared to go for 20 minutes or more.

Although I haven’t mentioned it so far, I don’t find running particularly entertaining, yet I do it every week like clockwork.  Having said that, recall that there are 2 components to a good workout; intensity and duration.  So although I only go for 15 minutes, I run at a rather intense rate of about 80% of my max heart rate the entire time.  I can justify exercising for a relatively short period of time since the intensity is high (as long as it’s at least 15 minutes).  The longer it lasts, the less intense it needs to be.  So if you workout for 20 minutes with a little less intensity than I do, your workout is still as good as mine.

I usually recommend cardio workouts to last about 20 minutes though.  The reason is that most people find it difficult to stay intense for very long without distraction.  It is very difficult to do.  These types of people tend to do better listening to music, watching TV, etc, while they exercise.  Therefore, their intensity tends to be a bit lower.  In that case, we can make up for the intensity by increasing the duration.

Frequency of exercise

The “experts” say that you should exercise 5 times a week for at least 20 minutes.  I agree.  That may sound like a lot, but consider that 20 minutes is only 1.4% of your day.  Also consider that exercise will help you live considerably longer, so you’ll probably have more healthy days to enjoy anyway.  Also understand that I am not recommending 5 days a week of cardio exercise.  I am recommending 5 days a week of exercise.  Some of those days could and should be strength training, and others cardio.  The best way to exercise is a combination of both.  However, you should do cardio at least twice a week.  If you only do one exercise though, make it cardio.  Although strength training work-outs are great for helping you with flexibility and strength, they ultimately impact your heart very little.  Big muscles won’t help you live a lot longer or do as much internally, but cardio workouts do.  Besides, if you can run for 20 minutes 5 days a week, your flexibility and strength are probably at least sufficient anyway. Cardio is the most important exercise to improve your length and quality of life.  That being said, strength training is important too.