Cardio 7 Days A Week
Health professionals typically recommend regular physical activity, particularly cardio/aerobic exercise. So, you may wonder if you’ll gain more by performing cardio 7 days a week.
Well, it depends on safety considerations, your workout goals, and even your age. Exercising daily can make you susceptible to injury if performing high-intensity exercises. If you want to lose weight, you may gain more from fewer workouts per week than daily exercises. Similarly, muscle building programs work better with fewer cardio workouts.
This in-depth article covers the intricate details that will help you decide whether or not to do cardio 7 days a week.
Should you do cardio 7 days a week?
Take a look at the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (13). You’ll notice that the recommended aerobic activities for adults don’t give a specific number of days in a week for workouts. That’s different from the recommendations for muscle building activities which specifically mention 2 or more days in a week for adults.
But that doesn’t apply to children.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans specifically recommended at least 3 days of aerobic exercise weekly for kids aged 6 to 17 years old.
However, one key recommendation applies to nearly everyone, including adults, children, women during pregnancy, and adults with chronic health conditions or disabilities. The recommendation is to spread out your aerobic activities throughout the week.
But, should you do it every day?
To figure that out, you’ll need to evaluate the following aspects.
Is it safe to do cardio 7 days a week?
To answer the question, “Is cardio 7 days a week bad or good?” you need to evaluate the risk of injury.
This issue was analyzed in one study carried out by L. R. Gettman, M.L. Pollock, C. A. Milesis, L. Durstine, M. D. Bah, and R. B. Johnson (8). The 1977 study showed a higher incidence of injuries in test subjects who participated in jogging 5 days per week. This was contrasted to a lower injury rate for those who participated in jogging 1 or 3 days per week.
That means exercising daily would increase your risk of injury.
However, it also depends on your level of fitness.
The researchers in the 1977 study made a recommendation that beginners should exercise for fewer days to avoid injuries. More experienced athletes or physically fit individuals are more resilient, hence, they may not experience as many injuries.
However, various other factors apply, based on the FITT (frequency, intensity, time, and type of workout) Principle.
Which type of cardio should you do?
The type of exercise you do may influence the intensity of your workout, which can determine the ideal frequency.
For example, burpees exert more muscles on your body compared to a simple squat. Therefore, if you do more high-intensity burpees, you’ll need more rest in-between workouts. That means a lower frequency of fewer workout sessions in a week.
So, if you want to work out every day, you should probably avoid high-intensity exercises.
The type of exercise will also affect the duration of your workout. You can achieve similar benefits by exercising for a shorter duration with higher intensity workouts as you would from a longer duration with lower intensity workouts.
When thinking of cardio/aerobic activities, you should realize that they include many more activities besides workouts. MedlinePlus, an online platform run by the United States National Library of Medicine, gives these suggestions of some aerobic activities you can do every day (9):
- pushing your kids on a swing
What is the ideal intensity for daily cardio workouts?
If you want to do cardio every day, you certainly must consider the intensity of your workouts.
One study revealed that athletes experience cardiac fatigue following marathons and ultra-marathons (14). Due to the high intensity of such aerobic activities, you’ll need an extended period of rest, meaning that you can’t do it daily.
On the other hand, the same study found no signs of cardiac fatigue following most types of cardio workouts. Therefore, you are less likely to experience negative health effects when working out daily at lower intensities.
So, what is the ideal workout intensity?
According to the recommended guidelines by the American College of Sport Medicine (ACSM), your workout intensity should be 60-85% of your maximum heart rate. The workout session should last between 20-60 minutes with a frequency of 3-5 times every week (15).
Note that the maximum recommended frequency is 5 days per week.
One reason why most workout guidelines don’t recommend frequencies beyond 5 days is because of the precaution against doing too much cardio.
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Can you do too much cardio?
Although you can work out every day, you should be cautious about doing too much cardio.
Your body functions through cycles of activity and rest. Therefore, you must be careful about the way you set up your exercise program to get enough rest between workouts. You may desire quick results from your workouts, but your body can only do so much. If you’re not aware of your physical state, you may over-exert yourself without knowing, or you may only realize the negative effects of too much physical exertion after a long period.
Here are some of the signs to look out for in case you overdo it unknowingly.
What happens if you overdo cardio?
If your goal is to achieve the highest level of physical fitness, you must continually “listen” to your body. Being aware of how your body works will help you identify anomalies that are clear signs of over-exercising.
Here are some key signs of too much exercise (3):
- Inability to perform at your usual level: If you find that your performance is falling despite working out more, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your workouts.
- You need longer rest periods and feel tired: This shows that your body is overworked and needs rest so you can feel rejuvenated.
- You are feeling depressed or irritable, losing motivation, and having mood swings: Your emotional state can be a useful sign of an underlying physical issue.
- Inability to sleep: Exercise affects various physiological functions in your body and can cause such instances of insomnia.
- Sore muscles, overuse injuries, and a feeling of heavy limbs: This is a clear sign of physical issues that you should address as soon as possible.
- Weight loss: If you’re burning more calories in your workouts than what you’re consuming, you’ll likely end up losing weight. This would be counterproductive if your goal is to build muscle mass.
- Women stop having periods: Too much exercise can affect the hormones in one’s body, which affects women’s periods.
How to avoid overtraining?
So, how can you do cardio everyday without overtraining?
For starters, if you find that you’re already experiencing the signs of overtraining, you need to cut back on exercise immediately. You may even need to rest completely for 1-2 weeks. Your body will typically recover after resting.
In case you still feel tired after the rest period, you need to see a doctor. Your doctor can help you decide when and how to safely resume exercising.
To avoid overtraining in the first place, here are important strategies to adapt:
- Eat enough calories: The intensity of any workouts you do should match the number of calories you take. This will ensure that you don’t take too much or too little calories.
- Decrease workouts before competitions: Competitions are typically high-intensity sessions; therefore, it’s wise not to participate in other high-intensity activities beforehand.
- Drink enough water during workouts: Being adequately hydrated will help your body to function optimally, which prevents unnecessary exhaustion or injuries.
- Get enough sleep at night: Take full advantage of the night-time by sleeping for at least 8 hours, which helps your body recover from the day’s workout.
- Avoid exercising in extreme temperatures: Too much heat or cold can put added pressure on your body. This can affect your performance and ability to recover quickly.
Should you do cardio 7 days a week for fat loss?
Yes, a cardio 7 days a week fat loss program can help you lose weight. However, it depends on the intensity of the workouts.
Surprisingly, a study published in the American Physiological Society Journal showed that a daily cardio program with lower intensity workouts was more effective than high-intensity workouts. In the study, overweight men who exercised for 30 minutes daily lost more weight than those who exercised for 60 minutes daily (4).
Although that seems counterintuitive, there are good reasons why.
One reason stated by researcher Mads Rosenkilde (PhD student at the University of Copenhagen) is that a 30-minute workout appears more doable than a 60-minute workout. This gives you more motivation to workout and energizes you to perform more physical activities.
After the 30-minute workout, you’ll likely have extra energy to be physically active throughout the day. In comparison, you may feel tired and choose to relax after the 60-minute workout. Additionally, you’ll probably eat more due to a stronger appetite caused by longer workouts.
So, is it cool to do cardio for an hour a day 7 days a week for weight loss?
Based on the research, 1 hour of cardio 7 days a week is less effective compared to 30 minutes of cardio 7 days a week. That conclusively answers the question, “Will 30 minutes of cardio 7 days a week help me lose weight?”
You can make it even more effective by doing both cardio and weight training for weight loss 7 days a week. This combination will not only reduce body fat but also build muscle mass (7).
Should you do cardio 7 days a week for muscle building?
Cardio is typically associated with weight loss, but it can also help with muscle building.
When you do aerobic exercises, you’ll cut down fat in your body, which will help you have a better muscle definition. Moreover, a study on the effect of aerobic activity on young and old men found that cardio improves muscle size too (2). However, you must do it right to gain those benefits.
Doing cardio every day may not be the best way to help you build muscle. That’s simply because a muscle-building program requires a greater focus on strength training compared to aerobic exercises. Increased frequency and duration of cardio workouts can also negatively affect your muscle-building goals (5).
Although cardio doesn’t prevent muscle gain, it can cause a slowing down.
If you include more than 3 cardio sessions per week of 20-30 minutes workout, you’ll likely experience slower muscle-building progress.
With that being said, you shouldn’t completely eliminate cardio from your muscle-building program, but learn how to incorporate it properly.
Cardio Before or After Weights to Gain Muscle
Doing cardio before or after strength training can have a major difference.
A 2016 study found that a 20-minute cardio session before strength training led to participants performing fewer reps (1). Aerobic exercises tire your muscles, making it hard to perform at the highest possible level. Therefore, it’s better to do cardio after weight training.
The cardio session can be a useful cooldown workout. It will gradually restore your body to its normal state so you can get back to your daily activities. The cardio sessions will also stretch out your muscles, helping restore flexibility and enhancing recovery after workouts.
Better still, schedule the cardio sessions on a separate day.
There’s a significant benefit to gain from doing cardio on a separate day. You might benefit from a two-fold increase in bicep growth, as seen in a 2017 study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (11).
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The Right Type of Cardio for Muscle Building
One more consideration you should make is the type of cardio.
Since your muscles need to rest after a weight training workout, the cardio you perform after strength training should not further exert the same muscles.
For instance, after doing leg press workouts, you shouldn’t follow it up with jogging exercises. That will further exert your leg muscles. You can instead do upper body sprints that imitate your arm movements when running, but the workout is done while seated.
Also, consider the workout intensity.
High impact cardio may not be good for your muscle-building program. High-impact cardio activates most of the muscles in your body which further exerts those muscles that should be recovering after weight training.
Some high-impact cardio workouts to avoid include:
- Jumping rope: Targets your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, deltoids, abdominals, and forearms. Boosts your agility, balance, and hand-to-eye coordination.
- Jogging in place: Activates your glutes, hip flexors, and hamstrings. Improves your endurance while boosting cardiorespiratory fitness.
- Jumping jacks: Exerts almost all muscles in your body, including triceps, biceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, lats, chest muscles, quads, and abdominals.
- Side to side jumping lunges: Engages your quads, glutes, inner thighs, and outer thighs.
- Burpees: Activates your entire body by exerting your quads, hamstrings, glutes, arms, chest, and abs.
Instead, try out some of these low-impact/non-weight-bearing cardio workouts:
- Cycling: Mainly targets your quadriceps and hamstrings, as well as your calf muscles.
- TRX: Different variations of workouts target different body parts.
- Rollerblading: Chiefly activates your hips, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles.
- Swimming: Due to the buoyancy in water, swimming doesn’t require as much effort as land-based workouts.
Should you do cardio 7 days a week to stay healthy?
For someone who simply wants to stay healthy, it’s not necessary to do cardio every day.
According to Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center, you won’t gain any clear advantage from having more frequent cardio sessions (16). In fact, you can do 5-minute walks throughout the day and gain the accumulated health benefits similar to doing a single 20-minute workout.
The important thing is to have a physically active lifestyle.
For healthy adults, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio every week (6). You can shorten the workout duration by doing 75 minutes of high-intensity cardio. That will have the same effect as the moderate-intensity workout.
Some examples of moderate aerobic workouts include brisk walking and swimming. On the other hand, you can get a high-intensity workout from running.
Although you can space out your workouts throughout the week, aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate cardio in a day.
Should you do cardio 7 days a week if you’re 60 and over?
As you get older, your muscles, bones, and other body tissues may experience reduced functionality. This may affect your ability to exercise. It will also limit the benefits you get from workouts.
So, should you do cardio 7 days a week if you’re 60 and over? Adults who have reached the said age needs to consider the cost vs. benefit aspects to figure that out.
Exercising daily may mean less time for your muscles to recover, which is counterproductive.
Moreover, a 2013 study found that you may not gain extra benefits from a higher frequency workout schedule (10). The study compared the improvement in muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness in women above 60 years of age. Separate groups had a 1-day, 2-day, and 3-day workout schedule per week.
Therefore, a daily workout schedule isn’t necessary for elderly people.
Instead, follow the World Health Organization’s recommended physical activity guide for adults aged 65 years and above (12):
- Do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous cardio per week).
- Your cardio sessions should be a minimum of 10 minutes.
- If you have poor mobility, perform workouts to enhance balance at least 3 days per week.
- If you cannot perform the recommended workouts due to health conditions, try to be as physically active as you can.
As you can see, you need to evaluate the potential cost and benefit of doing cardio 7 days a week, based on your situation.
Working out every day may be beneficial for one person and detrimental to someone else. You just need to figure out your personal goals, your physical ability, and how to design an appropriate workout program.
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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!
- Acute Resistance Exercise Performance Is Negatively Impacted by Prior Aerobic Endurance Exercise (2016, journals.lww.com)
- Aerobic exercise training induces skeletal muscle hypertrophy and age-dependent adaptations in myofiber function in young and older men (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Are you getting too much exercise? (2018, medlineplus.gov)
- Body fat loss and compensatory mechanisms in response to different doses of aerobic exercise—a randomized controlled trial in overweight sedentary males (2012, journals.physiology.org)
- Concurrent Training: A Meta-Analysis Examining Interference of Aerobic and Resistance Exercises (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Current Guidelines (n.d., health.gov)
- Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of Frequency and Duration of Training on Attrition and Incidence of Injury (1977, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Exercise and age (n.d., medlineplus.gov)
- Frequency of Combined Resistance and Aerobic Training in Older Women (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Moderate Intensity Cycling Exercise after Upper Extremity Resistance Training Interferes Response to Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength Gains (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Physical Activity and Older Adults (n.d., who.int)
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2nd edition (n.d., health.gov)
- The cardiovascular system after exercise (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Updated Physical Activity Guidelines Now Available (2018, acsm.org)
- Which is better — 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day or one hour of aerobic exercise three times a week? (2019, mayoclinic.org)