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30 Mins Of Cardio A Day: The Good, The Bad, And The Myth

A lot has been said about the amount of cardiovascular activity a person needs. Some people believe you need at least 1 hour of cardio a day, while others suggest that just 30 minutes is enough. But which of these is correct?

Today, we’ll evaluate the effects of getting 30 mins of cardio a day. You may have heard that performing 30 mins of cardio a day could be a game-changer as it is linked to several health benefits. 

We’ll look at these benefits and evaluate the impact of getting 30 mins of cardio according to science. Most importantly, we’ll highlight its effect on weight loss. Let’s 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. As a result, you breathe faster and more intensely during this period, and your respiratory system works harder.

In addition, you torch a lot of calories as you actively engage multiple muscle groups. This exercise has been found effective for overall health as it makes your heart and lungs work harder than average(16).

Generally, health experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of cardio in a week. 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 plenty of variety to choose from. For example, you can choose running, swimming, dancing, cycling, brisk walking, or participating in aerobics classes (16). Although sometimes the activity you choose depends on your preference, in some cases, it comes down to your health status.

30 Mins Of Cardio A Day

Benefits of 30 Mins of Cardio a Day

Exercising is generally associated with numerous health benefits. Meeting the 30-minute threshold of cardiovascular activity in a day contributes to several health benefits, including:

Reduced Risk of Diseases

One of the most significant benefits of exercising 30 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.

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Running Rules to Beat the Fatigue and Make Your Runs More Fun

This helps lower your risk of heart disease and associated risk factors. These are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, high triglyceride levels, and coronary heart diseases (4).

Regular exercise may also reduce the risk of some cancers, including uterine, breast, lung, and colon cancer(4). In addition, getting 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity lowers your blood sugar levels and makes insulin work better.

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 will help you manage them better (4).

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Improved Mental Health

Exercising for half an hour with a cardiovascular activity can also improve your mental well-being. In addition, research has shown that exercising helps relieve stress and reduce the impact of anxiety, depression, and ADHD.

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 such as running for 30 minutes has also been linked to improved self-esteem, memory, and cognitive function(4).

Regular aerobic exercise has also been linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most common forms of dementia (16). All of this contributes to enhanced mental well-being.

30 mins of cardio a day  

Strengthened Bones and Muscles

Performing cardio for 30 minutes makes your muscles work harder than at rest and this increases their strength, endurance, power, and size. In addition, enhanced muscle incorporation causes hypertrophy, which builds muscle mass and strength. 

Muscle strength is significant as it increases your ability to perform daily activities such as lifting items, doing yard work, or doing house chores. In addition, cardio strengthens your bones, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis, falls, and fractures. Research has shown that older adults who perform a moderate-intensity aerobic activity or cardio have a reduced risk of falling (4).

See also
Types Of Cardio, Their Pros And Cons

Improved Sleep

30 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 (4).

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 (4). That being said, experts discourage exercising just before bed. 

If you’re the type of person who exercises at night, you’re 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 (4).

You may need to talk to your doctor if you have a sleeping disorder. Some of these disorders cannot be fixed by exercise alone, particularly 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 such as the hippocampus.

In addition, exercise helps with better brain control responses to stress, increases resistance to oxidative stress, and reduces inflammation (16). 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 such as 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 30 minutes of cardio per day.

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No Equipment Needed: These Are The 10 Best Cardio Workouts To Do At Home

This simple activity reduces numerous health conditions, as we’ve discussed, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, and type 2 diabetes(4). In addition, 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. It also limits weight gain associated with smoking, which is linked to diseases such as heart disease (4).

We all know that exercise and diet go hand in hand, so you’ll most likely focus on good nutrition when you start exercising. This is yet another way that exercise promotes a healthier lifestyle.

30 minutes of cardio  

What Is the Effect of 30 Mins of Cardio on Weight Loss?

As we’ve seen from above, getting 30 minutes of exercise a day can help you reap numerous health benefits. However, the million-dollar question is whether these 30 minutes of cardio can promote weight loss.

Studies have found that regular aerobic or cardiovascular training can result in weight loss. For example, a 2013 study that explored 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 (13). Note that this was only possible with high exercise volumes.

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 13 kilograms (13).

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 volumes of exercise.

Read more: Cardio Calisthenics: Why & How To Combine These Two Forms Of Exercise

Is 30 Minutes of Cardio a Day Enough for Weight Loss?

Depending on your goals, you may feel that getting 30 minutes of cardio per day might 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’ve set the bar so high for yourself. For example, if you aim to lose 10 pounds in two weeks or 20 pounds in a month.

See also
Low Intensity Steady State Cardio: Yay Or Nay?

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 (13). Some unrealistic expectations have been stated above, such as losing 20 pounds in one month. Even if possible, it would be deemed rapid weight loss, and rapid weight loss has a list of side effects, including dehydration, hair loss, muscle loss, gallstones, malnutrition, headaches, and electrolyte imbalances (11).

It’s natural to want to lose weight quickly. However, it’s important to remember that rapid weight loss comes with certain side effects and the possibility of regaining the weight after some time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends losing weight gradually and steadily.

By doing so, you’re advised to aim to lose one to two pounds weekly (9). 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 has shown that 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity is enough to help you shed pounds (1).

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 need to implement other weight-loss interventions, such as:

  • Consuming low-calorie, high-volume foods
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Eating foods that are 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

Lean and toned up body isn’t just a far-fetched fantasy. Check out the BetterMe app and watch it propel your weight loss journey into high gear!

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HIIT Vs Cardio For Weight Loss And Health Benefits: Which One Should You Do?

Calories Burned Doing 30 Mins of Low-Impact Cardio

To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. Most people burn calories by exercising. To lose one and a half pounds, roughly 0.7 kgs, you need to burn 500 to 750 calories daily (8). 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’s 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 (8):

  • Dancing (ballroom) – 110
  • Swimming laps – 212
  • Waking at a speed of 3.5 mph – 157
  • Running at 5 mph – 303
  • Low-impact aerobics – 183

30 mins of cardio a day  

How to Start Doing 30 Mins of Cardio a Day

Generally, cardio is safe to perform for most people. However, this isn’t a free pass to perform an activity without consultation. The first thing you must do is talk to your doctor and trainer if you’re interested in this exercise program.

It’s 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. However, again, it’s essential to let your doctor know if you have any medical issues before you start to follow an exercise program. For example, some conditions, such as high blood pressure, may worsen with increased intensity.

Read more: Low-Impact Cardio Workout Plans for Beginners and Seniors at Home or the Gym

FAQs

  • Is 30 minutes of cardio a day enough?

Yes, 30 minutes of cardio a day is sufficient for maintaining overall cardiovascular health, improving endurance, and enhancing your mood through the release of endorphins. Let’s take a closer look at why this number is considered good. 

1. Cardiovascular Health

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, which averages to about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Such a routine can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes (3).

2. Endurance and Lung Capacity

Consistent cardio exercises are also known to improve lung capacity and circulation. A 30-minute cardio routine allows you to perform daily activities with less fatigue, leading to a more active lifestyle (7)

While 30 minutes of daily cardio provides numerous health benefits, the overall effectiveness depends on individual fitness levels and goals. It’s also influenced by other lifestyle factors such as nutrition, sleep, hydration, and rest. Consulting a fitness professional can help tailor a more personalized and effective workout plan.

  • Can I lose weight with 30 minutes of cardio?

Yes, you can lose weight with 30 minutes of cardio daily, especially when combined with a healthy, calorie-controlled diet. Consider the following:

  • Caloric Deficit

Cardio exercises such as running, cycling, or swimming increase your heart rate and burn calories, which contributes to a caloric deficit. This is essential for weight loss. Calorie deficit is the process in which you aid weight loss by consuming fewer calories than you burn (17). 

  • Factors that Affect Weight Loss

Current weight, exercise intensity, and diet play significant roles. For example, a 155-pound person can burn approximately 260 calories in 30 minutes of brisk cycling.

Metabolism and individual health conditions also influence weight loss outcomes (18).

  • Consistency

Another crucial aspect of weight loss is ensuring consistency. Making sure you’re eating right, doing your exercises, and getting good amounts of sleep, rest, and hydration are all important in the context of adherence to a particular routine. 

  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be particularly effective for burning calories and losing weight (6).
  • Variety in crafting your cardio routine can help prevent boredom and plateaus in weight loss progress.

To maximize weight loss, it’s important to (15):

  • Pair exercise with a balanced diet to make sure you’re not consuming more calories than you burn.
  • Focus on whole foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats while limiting processed foods and sugars.
  • Ensure proper hydration to help metabolic processes and exercise performance.
  • Ensure adequate rest and recovery to prevent injury and overtraining, which can hinder weight loss efforts.
  • What happens to your body after 30 minutes of cardio?

After 30 minutes of cardio, several physiological changes occur in your body, including:

  • Increased heart rate and breathing rate to supply more oxygen to your muscles. This enhances cardiovascular endurance and strengthens the heart over time (5).
  • Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which are often referred to as “feel-good” hormones. This can improve mood, reduce stress, and provide a sense of well-being (12).
  • Regular cardio can improve insulin sensitivity, helping regulate blood sugar levels (14). This is particularly beneficial for the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes. 
  • Cardio exercise also lowers blood pressure, which contributes to better heart health and reduced risk of stroke (2). 
  • During cardio, your muscles may produce lactic acid, which can lead to a temporary feeling of fatigue. However, this also signals adaptation and strengthening with consistent practice (10).

Incorporating 30 minutes of cardio into your daily routine can definitely be a game-changer when it comes to your overall health.

  • Will I lose weight if I do cardio every day?

Yes, doing cardio every day can contribute to weight loss, provided it creates a caloric deficit. Some other complementary factors to consider include: 

  • Combining daily cardio with a balanced diet is important. Nutrient-dense foods, portion control, and avoiding empty calories are essential.
  • Getting enough rest and recovery to prevent overtraining and injury. 
  • Mixing different types of cardio (e.g. running, cycling, swimming, HIIT) to prevent boredom and promote continuous progress.
  • Aiming for gradual, steady, and sustainable weight loss rather than wishing for rapid results. 
  • Keeping a record of your workouts, diet, and progress to stay motivated and make necessary adjustments.

The Bottom Line

Getting 30 mins of cardio a day is beneficial for various reasons. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, and 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 you make any changes to your workout plan.

DISCLAIMER:

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 to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. 30 Minutes of Daily Exercise Enough to Shed Pounds (2012, webmd.com)
  2.  Acute Effects of Exercise on Blood Pressure (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids (n.d.,heart.org)
  4. Benefits of Exercise (2021, medlineplus.gov)
  5. Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. Evidence-Based Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training on Exercise Capacity and Health (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. Exercise and Lung Health (n.d., lung.org)
  8. Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour (2019, mayoclinic.org)
  9. Losing Weight (2021, cdc.gov)
  10.  Muscle fatigue: general understanding and treatment (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  11. Rapid Weight Loss (2021, webmd.com)
  12. The Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood, Cognition, Neurophysiology, and Neurochemical Pathways (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  13. The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenace (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  14. Update on the effects of physical activity on insulin sensitivity in humans (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  15. Weight-Loss and Maintenance Strategies (n.d., ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  16. What are the benefits of aerobic exercise? (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
  17. What Is a Calorie Deficit Diet? Experts Explain How It Works (2024, prevention.com)
  18.  Why people become overweight (2019, health.harvard.edu)
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