Cardio Anyone?

HIIT, Steady State, Zone 2 Cardio...

What is the benefit of cardio and how much cardio should I do?

Cardio strengthen the most important muscle in your body, your heart. It increases your lung capacity, boost your mood by releasing endorphin, fight against aging and it improves brain function.
Most benefits of cardio comes from increasing the blood flow to your body cells.
The American Heart Association suggest 150 minutes of moderate-intensity heart-pumping exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise spread out over most days of the week.
As an example you can do:
5 x 30 minute fast walk, jog or run with moderate intensity each week or,
4 x 20 minute HIIT cardio sessions.
Or divide these into even smaller bite sized workouts if it matches your schedule and preference, like:
5 x 3 x 10 minute fast walk each week.

Can I lose weight by doing cardio?

Cardio like any other form of exercise will burn calorie. So technically you can lose weight with cardio but as Dr. Eric Holmes mentions in one of his research paper: "Cardio should not be the primary vehicle for fat loss" and the reason for that is you can not out train a bad diet. For reference, two slices of pizza have around 500 calories. To burn those calories you would need to run 40 minutes at 5mph speed. That's why if fat loss is your goal, you need to first fix your diet. Exercise can complement and help you speed up that process.

What is Zone 2 cardio?

Heart rate zones are measures that show how hard your heart is working to pump up blood. The higher your heart rate, the higher the zone you’re in.
There are five heart rate zones:


% of Max Heart Rate

Intensity level

How to tell, talk test

Zone 1

50 - 60 %

Low to Moderate

You can easily hold a conversation with someone at this zone.

Zone 2

60 - 70 %


You can hold a light conversation, but you might need to stop chatting occasionally to take a breath

Zone 3

70 - 80 %

Moderate to High

Talking in this zone takes effort.

Zone 4

80 - 90 %


Deep and rapid breathing. You can’t keep up at this rate for more than about 15 minutes. You can talk only if you have to.

Zone 5

90 - 100 %

Very High

You can only keep up this pace for a few minutes and there won't be any talking!

How to measure your maximum heart rate? and do you need to?

For some people knowing their heart rate zone is motivating and help them keep track of their exercise better and If that's the case for you and you have access to heart rate monitors or smart watches definitely go for it. But for most people, the talk test as mentioned above and paying attention to your body's condition will be enough to track your zone and see how hard you are exercising.

If you love knowing your numbers and would like to track training zone heart rate, here's how to do it:

Training zone heart rate = (( Maximum heart rate – resting heart rate ) x % intensity ) + resting heart rate

To estimate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Obviously the age is not an accurate way of measuring max heart rate as people of same age with different level of fitness will have varying maximum heart rate. But if you don't know your precise maximum heart rate from VO2 max test, this is a good starting point.
Your resting heart rate as the name suggest is the amount of heart beat per minute while you are rested. You can get that information from your smart watch, your doctor or you can measure it by counting your pulse.

What is HIIT?

HIIT cardio combines short bursts of intense exercise with periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise. These workouts alternate hard-charging intervals, during which your heart rate reaches at least 80 percent of its maximum capacity, followed by periods of rest or less intense exercise.
In simple terms: give all you can for a specific amount of time, then give yourself a break, then go back at it again and keep doing that until you are out of gas (more on this later).

Is HIIT better than regular steady state cardio session?

Multiple recent studies show that a combination of HIIT and low-to moderate-intensity exercise training is probably the best way to improve your aerobic performance. Research also shows that combining HIIT with moderate-intensity training is more effective for improving aerobic capacity than moderate-intensity training alone.
There is one benefit to HIIT and that is, time. Intervals will boost cardio health with a smaller time investment compared to continuous forms of cardio workouts. This type of exercise will improve the maximum volume of oxygen that your body can use (or VO2 max) in less time. The more aerobically fit you are, the better your heart can pump blood and that in turn, might help prevent heart disease.
On the other side due to nature of HIIT, your body will go under much more stress therefore it will be harder to recover from HIIT.

In the end, as Kyle Meyer, DO, a Sports Medicine fellow at Penn Medicine puts it:

"Finding something that you enjoy and will continue is more important than forcing yourself to do an exercise that may have slightly different benefits"

What form of cardio exercise is best?

Any form of cardio that you enjoy and works for you. Cycling, running, rowing, jump roping, swimming, elliptical machine ...
We recommend cycling (indoor or outdoor), rowing or swimming as a low impact and joint friendly option.

How to structure a HIIT workout?

That depends on your fitness level.
Every HIIT workout should start with a warm-up and finishes with a cool down. The duration of the a HIIT session shouldn't go much beyond 20 minutes if you are giving it all you can.
Here we provided some timers for three different levels that you can use as examples for your HIIT trainings. By clicking the links below you will be taken to the timers:

You shouldn't be able to do a HIIT workout for more than 20 minutes if you are giving it all you can.