A lot has been said about the amount of cardiovascular activity one needs. Some people believe you need at least 1 hour of cardio a day, while others suggest that only thirty minutes is enough. But which of the two is correct? Today we will evaluate the effects of getting 30 mins of cardio a day. You may have heard that performing thirty mins of cardio a day could be a game-changer as it is linked to several health benefits. We will look at these benefits and evaluate the impact of getting 30 mins of cardio according to science. Most importantly, we will highlight its effect on weight loss. Let us get started.
What Counts As Cardio?
Cardio is also referred to as cardiovascular functioning or aerobic activity. Cardio is any exercise that increases your heart rate and keeps it up for an extended duration (7). As a result, you breathe faster and more intensely during this period, and your respiratory system works harder.
Additionally, you torch a lot of calories because you actively engage multiple muscle groups. This exercise has been found effective for overall health because it makes your heart and lungs work harder than on average (7).
Generally, health experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of cardio in a week (7). In this case, if we were to get 30 mins of cardio a day in a week, we would surpass this threshold. This is based on simple math (30 mins x 7 days = 210 mins).
There are several types of aerobic exercises so you have variety to choose from. For example, you can choose running, swimming, dancing, cycling, brisk walking, or participating in aerobics classes (7). Although sometimes the activity you choose depends on your preference, in some cases, it comes down to your health status.
Benefits Of 30 Mins Of Cardio A Day
Exercising, in general, is associated with numerous health benefits. Meeting the 30-minute threshold of cardiovascular activity in a day contributes to several health benefits. They include:
Reduced Risk Of Diseases
One of the most significant benefits of exercising thirty minutes a day is reduced risk of diseases. Exercising strengthens your heart and improves blood circulation. The enhanced circulation or increased blood flow raises oxygen levels in the blood.
This helps lower your risk of heart diseases and associated risk factors. These are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, high triglyceride levels, and coronary heart diseases (2).
Regular exercise may also reduce the risk of some cancers, including uterine, breast, lung, and colon cancer (2). Additionally, getting thirty minutes of cardiovascular activity lowers your blood sugar levels and makes insulin work better (2).
As a result, you have a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. If you already have these health conditions, exercising helps you manage them better (2).
Read More: How Much Running To Lose Weight? How To Use Cardio Effectively To Meet Your Fitness Goals
Improved Mental Health
Exercising for half an hour with a cardiovascular activity can also improve your mental well-being. In addition, research shows that exercising helps relieve stress and reduce the impact of anxiety, depression, and ADHD (2).
As a result, you can be less anxious and have reduced stress levels, which helps improve your mood and overall mental well-being. In addition, performing cardio activities like running for thirty minutes has also been tied to improving self-esteem, memory, and cognitive function (2).
Regular aerobic exercise has also been linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most common forms of dementia (7). All these contribute to enhanced mental well-being.
Strengthened Bones And Muscles
Performing cardio for thirty minutes makes your muscles work harder than at rest and this increases their strength, endurance, power, and size (2). In addition, enhanced muscle incorporation causes hypertrophy, which builds muscle mass and strength.
Muscle strength is significant because it increases your ability to perform daily activities such as lifting items, doing yard work, or doing house chores. Additionally, cardio also strengthens your bones, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis, falls, and fractures (2). Research shows that older adults who perform a moderate-intensity aerobic activity or cardio have a reduced risk of falling (2).
Thirty minutes of cardio a day can also improve your sleep quality. Some of the obstacles to getting a good night’s rest are stress and anxiety. However, experts state that you alleviate stress and anxiety when you exercise, making you sleep better (2).
Exercise also helps you relax, which eliminates times of waking up now and then throughout your sleep. Generally, exercising helps you sleep faster, better, and longer (2). That said, experts discourage exercising just before bed.
If you are the type of person that exercises at night, you are advised to do so at least two or three hours before bed. Getting 30 mins of cardio at night stimulates your autonomic nervous system, and you may stay alert for a long time before falling asleep (2).
You may need to talk to your doctor if you have a sleeping disorder. Some of these disorders cannot be fixed by exercise alone, especially severe ones. Again, exercising may not be the right treatment plan for severe sleeping disorders.
Improved Brain Health
Performing cardio causes several biological processes that help the brain function. For example, experts acknowledge that cardio increases the size and function of significant brain regions like the hippocampus (7).
Additionally, exercise helps with better brain control responses to stress, increases resistance to oxidative stress, and reduces inflammation (7). All these changes in the brain result in better cognition and brain function.
Easy Way To Adopt A Healthier Lifestyle
Today, most people have adopted a sedentary lifestyle, which is linked to numerous health problems like heart disease. Unfortunately, the incidence of diseases keeps rising, and sadly more people are passing away from these health conditions.
To avoid this, health experts advise people to embrace a healthier lifestyle. One of the easiest ways to adopt a healthier lifestyle is getting thirty minutes of cardio per day.
This simple activity reduces numerous health conditions, as we have discussed, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, and type 2 diabetes (2). Additionally, it can also help you adopt a healthier lifestyle by helping you quit smoking.
According to MedlinePlus, exercising makes it easier to quit smoking by reducing your smoking cravings and withdrawal symptoms (2). Additionally, it also limits weight gain associated with smoking, linked to diseases such as heart disease (2).
Likewise, we all know that exercise and diet go hand in hand. So, you will most likely focus on good nutrition when you start exercising. This is yet another way that exercise promotes a healthier lifestyle.
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What Is The Effect Of 30 Mins Of Cardio On Weight Loss?
As we have seen from above, getting thirty minutes of exercise a day can help you reap numerous health benefits. However, the million-dollar question is whether these thirty minutes of cardio can promote weight loss.
Studies reveal that regular aerobic or cardiovascular training can result in weight loss. For example, a 2013 study exploring the effectiveness of aerobic exercise on weight loss discovered the effect of weight loss on different modalities.
The study discovered that obese individuals who performed cardiovascular or aerobic training only could potentially lose up to two kilograms (6). Note that this was only possible with high exercise volumes (6).
The study also discovered that weight loss was high in individuals who combined aerobic training with calorie restriction. In this case, such individuals were expected to lose between nine and thirteen kilograms (6).
So back to our initial question. Yes, doing 30 mins of cardio a day can promote weight loss. However, as seen from this study, you may not lose as many pounds as desired as weight loss is higher in high exercise volumes.
Is 30 Minutes Of Cardio A Day Enough For Weight Loss?
Depending on your goals, you may feel that getting thirty minutes of cardio per day may not be good enough for weight loss. So, you may plan to get 30 mins of cardio twice a day. This can happen if you have set the bar so high for yourself. For example, if you aim to lose 10 pounds in two weeks or twenty pounds in a month.
Above all, we advise you to set realistic weight loss goals. Researchers have shown that most people who want to lose weight also have unrealistic expectations (6).
Some unrealistic expectations have been stated above, such as losing twenty pounds in one month. Even if possible, it would be deemed rapid weight loss, and rapid weight loss has a list of side effects. These are dehydration, hair loss, muscle loss, gallstones, malnutrition, headaches, and electrolyte imbalances (5).
It is natural to want to lose weight quickly. However, remember that rapid weight loss comes with certain side effects and the possibility of regaining the weight after some time. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends losing weight gradually and steadily.
By doing so, you are advised to aim to lose one to two pounds weekly (4). If you follow this weight loss guideline, then 30 minutes of cardio per day would be enough for weight loss. In addition, according to WebMD, research shows that 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity is enough to help you shed pounds (1).
Additionally, it has also been linked to additional weight loss benefits such as extra energy to perform other physical activities that promote weight loss (1). However, you would also have to implement other weight-loss interventions such as:
- Consuming low-calorie, high-volume foods
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Eating foods rich in fiber
- Drinking plenty of water
- Getting enough sleep
- Reducing or cutting out sugary, processed, and junk foods
- Eating slowly and chewing food thoroughly
- Practicing portion control
Read More: Pregnancy Cardio Workout: Everything You Need To Know To Do It Safely
Calories Burned Doing 30 Mins Of Low Impact Cardio
To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. Most people burn calories by exercising. To lose one and a half pounds, roughly 0.7 kgs, you have to burn 500 to 750 calories daily (3). Although exercise can help you burn calories, the intensity highly influences the calories you burn.
However, this is not to undermine the impact of low impact cardio. These activities also burn calories but at a steadier pace. Here is a look at examples of calories you would burn in 30 mins if you weigh 160 pounds (73 kgs) and perform various low cardio activities (3):
- Dancing (ballroom)- 110
- Swimming laps- 212
- Waking at a speed of 3.5 mph- 157
- Running at 5 mph- 303
- Low-impact aerobics- 183
How To Start Doing 30 Mins Of Cardio A Day
Generally, cardio is safe to perform for most people. However, this is not a free pass to perform the activity without consultation. The first thing you must do is talk to your doctor and trainer if you are interested in this exercise program.
It is always good to know that your doctor approves your exercise program and that you learn the correct form from your trainer. This will reduce your risk of injuries. But, again, it is essential to let your doctor know if you have any medical issues before following an exercise program. For example, some conditions, such as high blood pressure, may worsen with increased intensity.
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The Bottom Line
Getting 30 mins of cardio a day is beneficial for various reasons. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, improves sleep, brain, and mental health. Meeting this threshold has also been deemed effective for weight loss. Even so, we suggest you talk to professionals before making any changes to your workout plan.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 30 Minutes of Daily Exercise Enough to Shed Pounds (2012, webmd.com)
- Benefits of Exercise (2021, medlineplus.gov)
- Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour (2019, mayoclinic.org)
- Losing Weight (2021, cdc.gov)
- Rapid Weight Loss (2021, webmd.com)
- The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenace (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- What are the benefits of aerobic exercise? (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)