A Beginner’s Guide to Cardio

When it comes to cardiovascular exercise, most nutrition and fitness experts have different opinions. Some argue that certain kinds of cardio are superior to others, while others contend it’s not about what sort of cardio you do, but rather how much.

This can confuse people who are just beginning their weight loss and exercise journey, as there are thousands of “experts” giving different advice on the matter.

Undertaking a regular cardio routine first requires you to establish goals: are you after conditioning, weight loss, or both? Defining your cardio goals will let you draw up a consistent daily, weekly or monthly cardio routine and keep you from exhausting your body and failing to progress toward your goal.

Cardio for Weight Loss

If you’re looking to lose weight, your best bet is HIIT (high intensity interval training) cardio as opposed to low intensity steady state cardio. HIIT is best at burning calories in a shorter amount of time, while steady state cardio requires longer to burn the same amount of calories.

If you’re wondering how much you need to exercise to reach your weight loss goals, you should know that the standard recommendation is to exercise long anough to burn 500 calories.

You can burn 500 calories in just 16 minutes of sprint training, while it take 45 of a slow jog to accomplishment same.

Cardio and Resistance Training

Combine cardio with resistance training can accelerate your weight loss. Resistance training will build muscle and help up-regulate your metabolism, contributing to your weight-loss.

Cardio for Conditioning

Exercise doesn’t always have to be done for the sole purpose of weight loss. Many professional athletes follow a daily low-intensity cardio routine to train their body to be more efficient, increasing stamina and strengthening joints and tendons and so on.

This kind of cardio is called “steady state” and involves longer periods of continuous, low-intensity physical activity such as running at a steady pace, swimming, hiking, cycling as so on.

Overdoing It 

Overdoing cardio can have negative effects, including pain in joints, tendons, bones and muscles. Every person has a threshold for their capacity for cardio, a threshold that depends on a variety of factors, including physiology, sleep cycle, job, age, diet and more.

If you notice your cardio routine delivering less satisfying results or leaving parts of your body in pain, it might be time to switch it up.

The key to not overdoing cardio is to allow plenty of rest between sessions. Twenty-four hours is the recommended recovery time after performing any cardio exercise.

Talking to a Professional

If you can, have a professional personal trainer look over your routine, or ask an expert for tips that can help you optimize your workouts while minimizing the risk of negative effects.

A cardio routine is most effective when it’s tuned to your individual physiology. Having a word with an expert or personal trainer can help keep you in shape without over-stressing your body.

Low Intensity Steady State and High Intensity Interval training 

Cardio training is characterized into two different types depending on its intensity and characteristics:

  • Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)
  • High Intensity Interval training (HIIT)

LISS exercise is a long lasting, low intensity cardio, like jogging or walking–a “light” cardio workout that raises your heart rate anywhere from 50-60%. LISS can consist of outdoor activities such as hiking, jogging, cycling, swimming and power-walking–anything that isn’t too physically demanding.

The prime benefit of LISS exercise is that it’s able to condition your body to better metabolize fat as a primary fuel source. Given that it’s a low-intensity workout, LISS doesn’t deplete your body and lets you more easily recover, meaning that it can be undertaken daily. LISS is also a great way to warm up for a HIIT workout or a strenuous weight training session.

HIIT is the complete opposite of LISS. It exercising in high-power bursts paired with intervals of short rest. HIIT is regarded as more effective for fat burning, with studies showing it yields significantly more fat loss compared to LISS. HIIT is particularly good for getting rid of stubborn abdominal fat, including potentially dangerous accumulations of visceral fat. One of the main reasons why this kind of cardio is so useful for fat-burning is that it leaves those who have undertaken it with higher metabolic rates for up to 24 hours.

HIIT can be performed with or without weights, with the goal being to increase your heart rate from 75-85%. Some exercises/workouts that fall under HIIT include lunges, squats, sprinting, burpees and knee jacks. HIIT, done correctly, will leave you exhausted and drenched in sweat. It takes at least 24 hours for your body to completely recover from a HIIT session.

5 Cardio Guidelines to Stick To

If set on getting started with cardio, here are some guidelines to help you achieve the fat-burning results you desire.

1. Cardio Will Not Show Significant Results Without Strength Training

Pairing your cardio routine with weight/strength training will yield maximum results. Strength training builds muscle mass, contributes to metabolism efficiency, and aids in fat-burning. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn, even at rest.

2. Weights Before Cardio

Cardio, even the less intense LISS variant, demands more energy than weight training. While strength training may be tiring, it’s nowhere near as energy-draining as cardio. This means if you’re running on a treadmill before hitting the weights, you’ll be less able to effectively strength train.

3. Never Do Cardio on an Empty Stomach

There’s a common misconception that working out on an empty stomach (called fasted cardio) is more effective than working out after having already eaten. Studies have not shown this to be true.

4. Don’t Rely on Running for Weight Loss

Running long distances may burn calories, but is more effective for conditioning rather than weight loss. Weight loss is all about burning calories, while conditioning is about performance over time. If your goal is to lose weight, you’re better off with HIIT than LISS.

5. Focus on Your Intensity

Many workout machines have a calorie counter display to show how many calories you’ve burned during your session. Treadmills are notorious for displaying these calorie counters, which force unwary cardio performers to hit a ‘magic number’ in order to be satisfied with their results.

Instead of using these counters, use your intensity. A good way to do this is to keep an eye on your heart rate. A heart rate monitor will let you know just how hard you’re pushing yourself during your work out. Focus on keeping your heart rate up and not on the calorie counter, which is usually wrong anyway.


People tend to undertake exercise incorrectly because they’re not informed. This leaves people unsatisfied with their results, and can even cause injury to those who start to quickly or with too much intensity.

If done correctly, cardio will burn fat and enhance stamina, making you healthier. Done incorrectly, and you will find yourself exhausted or injured with little-to-no results.


Leave a Reply