Exercise for Weight Loss Cardio Workout Program for Weight Loss By Paige Waehner Updated November 05, 2018 Pin Flip Email Print Cultura RM Exclusive/Mischa Keijser/Getty Images More in Weight Loss Exercise for Weight Loss Basics Procedures Nutrition for Weight Loss Diet Plans Medications Pills and Supplements Setting up an effective cardio program for weight loss can be confusing. The guidelines of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggest: For health benefits: Thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise, five days a week or 20 minutes of vigorous cardio, three days a weekFor weight loss: Working up to 60-90 minutes of activity several days a week What the guidelines don't explain in detail is how to set up a routine that incorporates a variety of workout intensities, activities, and durations. If you only do slow workouts (or staying in your 'fat burning zone'), you not only risk boredom, you may experience slower weight loss. Working harder forces your body to adapt by building more stamina, all the while burning more calories. On the other hand, too many high-intensity workouts can lead to burnout, overtraining, or even injuries. The key to a well-rounded cardio program is to include all levels of intensity each week so that your workouts don't get stale and your body isn't always doing the same thing all the time. How to Set Up Your Weekly Cardio Program When mapping out your weekly cardio workouts, you'll want to include three different intensity zones so you hit all your energy systems without overdoing it or having to spend too much time at an uncomfortable intensity, which may just turn you off of exercise. You'll want low-moderate intensity workouts, moderate workouts, and high-intensity workouts. Low to Moderate Intensity Workouts This is between 60-70% of your maximum heart rate or a Level 4-5 on the perceived exertion chart. You should be able to talk easily. Examples: A slow bike rideTaking a walkA leisurely swimLight strength training Moderate Intensity Workouts This is between 70-80% of your maximum heart rate or a Level 5-7 on the perceived exertion chart. You should still be able to talk with some effort. Examples: Brisk walkingStep aerobics, Zumba or other types of aerobicsLight jogging High Intensity or Vigorous Workouts This is between 80-90% of your maximum heart rate or a Level 8-9 on the perceived exertion chart. You should have difficulty talking. Examples: Jumping ropeRunning/sprintingHigh-intensity interval trainingHigh-intensity circuit trainingTabata workouts To monitor your intensity, make sure you keep track of your target heart rate or use a perceived exertion chart. Building Your Cardio Routine for Weight Loss Below is a chart detailing a sample week of cardio workouts for a person who exercises six days a week. This is simply an example of how to incorporate different types of cardio workouts into a typical week. Modify the workouts according to your own fitness level, time constraints, and preferences. Day Intensity Length Sample Workouts Mon HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) 20-30 min Sprint Interval Workout Tues Moderate Intensity 45-60 min Brisk Walking or jogging Wed Low-Moderate Intensity All day Use a pedometer and try to get 10,000 steps Thurs Moderate-High Intensity 30-60 min 45-Minute Treadmill Workout Fri Moderate Intensity 30-45 min Cardio Endurance Intervals Sat Low-Moderate Intensity 30-60 min Walking or a long bike ride Sun Rest Rest Rest Don't forget to: Start slowly, if you're a beginner, and work your way up to this level of exercise. How much you need is based on a number of factors, including your fitness level, age, gender, and your goals. More about beginner cardio.Warm up and cool down for each workoutStay hydratedStretch after your workout Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Get one simple hack every day to make your life healthier. 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