Cardio Options

Cardio Options

Many people have several misconceptions with cardio regarding how long to do it, what type of cardio is best and what target HR is best. Today we are going to go over a few of the highlights that I find important for whatever goal you may have set and give proper advice as well as educate you from fact and myth.

Type of Cardio

Competition-If you are a competitor it is always best to practice how you will perform (cyclist need to cycle and runners need to run)
Weight Loss-Well I have always been fond of the elliptical and recumbent bike, especially for those people who are on a little bit of the heavy side. These machines allow for low impact on the body and will leave you with less achyness in the joints and can also give you one hell of a workout.
Heart Health-This is solely based on preference. The primary objective with heart health will be to maintain a certain HR intensity for a given amount of time(we will go over this momentarily)


Competition-Competitors typically have to do a variation of light intensity with an emphasis in endurance, and also high intensity with an emphasis in power. Again this is all dependent on the sport at hand.
Weight Loss-For weight loss a target HR of around 60-75% of HR max is best for fat burning for at least 30 min or more. This % allows for longer durations of exercise, however weight loss can also be attained at higher intensities(more calories will be burned per min) but it is much more difficult to maintain the higher intensity.
Heart Health-Heart health is best attained at a higher intensity since the heart will have to work more to increase blood flow to the body. A HR max of 75-85% at which is maintained for 30 min is ideal for heart health.


Competition– This is something that is very subjective and depends on how frequently the competitor is doing higher intensity exercise. The more frequent and intense the exercise the more rest will be needed for recovery. The best formula for most competitors is to have 3 days intermittently set for higher intensity with 3 days in between of lower intensity and have a rest day per week. Duration can be anywhere from 15 min of exercise to several hours.
Weight Loss– Since most weight loss programs are low intensity, the duration and frequency can be much higher than those of a competitor. 30-90 minutes of cardio can be performed on a daily basis if so desired.
Heart Health-According to the AHA 5 days of moderate intensity for 30 min is adequate to maintain a healthy heart. They also recommend another option which includes 3 days of vigorous aerobic exercise for 25 min and 2 days of mod-high strengthening exercise.

Visit for more information about target heart rates and guidelines

Other Useful Links

American Heart Association for Physical Activity in Adults
The Truth About Heart Rate and Exercise
Target Heart Rates

Thanks for reading!
Alex Bonnette PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Owner and Doctor Physical Therapy
Bonnette Elite Physical Therapy and Wellness in Azle