My recommendation for general cardiovascular health and fitness is to do cardio 30 minutes to 1hr (max) 3 days a week. If you are looking to drop serious pounds or increase cardiovascular capabilities then 5 days a week. Adjust your plan to fit your goal.
Cardio does not have to be running or sitting on an elliptical. Cardio can be any activity that is done at challenging intensity with little rest. I knock my cardio out in hot yoga, kayaking/ rowing machine, running, cardio kickboxing, cycling, and swimming. Occasionally, I will be on the treadmill or elliptical for 20-40 minutes. I never sit there for an hour. I also rarely do my cardio at the gym. In my opinion, it is very easy to zone out or get repetitive which will lead to a plateau.
I only warm up 5-10 minutes before working out. If I do cardio after a workout it will only be 20 or 30 minutes at maximum. DO NOT do your cardio before lifting weights. IDEALLY, cardio is done completely separate from resistance training days or 8hrs apart.
Here are some more tips:
- Vary your activity and equipment for best results.
- Dry cardio, first thing in the morning is best.
- Listen to up beat music.
- Do not read or zone out to the tv.
- Do not hold onto the treadmill while running or on an incline. If you need to hold on then your body isn't ready for that incline or speed. If you don't need to hold on you are just cheating and taking away from a real challenge.
- Dynamic stretching before, static and foam roll after.
Go slow and progress your workouts. Know your body and your limits. If you don't know or aren't confident, talk to your doctor or at least a personal trainer familiar with your situation.
Entry level cardio ideas- walking, hiking, aqua aerobics, basic yoga, recumbent bike, and elliptical. Moves like trampoline bouncing, hula hoop, mountain climbers.
Intermediate level- all the above with long duration or high intensity, cycling class, swimming, dance, step class, and jogging. Moves like jumping jacks, burpees, or jump rope.
Advanced- All the above increased, HIIT, trail running, track workouts, cardio kickboxing, rock climbing (real or machine), hot yoga, Tabata, boxing, and running stairs.
These are just a few on my brain but definitely not limited to this list. Get creative but be safe and if you are in doubt, ASK!