BLOCK 1: CARDIO
Pretty much any activity that gets your blood pumping is cardiovascular. When your heart rate rises, muscle cells break down sugar and fat for fuel, burning calories. Clearly there are a ton of ways to do this, but exercise physiologists lump cardio into three buckets—long, slow distance (LSD), medium hard (tempo) and high intensity interval training (HIIT). What’s what:
LSD No surprise, these sessions are long (45 to 60 minutes) and slow—you’re creeping at a pace that you can easily sustain. The whole point is to increase your endurance, so you can build a solid foundation to prep for shorter, tougher sessions, says Michele Olson, Ph.D., a professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama.
Tempo In these more challenging 20- to 30-minute workouts, you’ll close in on your anaerobic threshold, the sweet spot where your body shifts from burning a higher percentage of fat to more carbs, which are easier to access for energy, explains Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise. The upshot: Calorie-burn spikes.
HIIT Kill it, recover, repeat, repeat. On/off bouts like this, lasting 10 to 20 minutes, activate fast-twitch muscle fibers, making you stronger, and create a huge metabolic demand on your body, incinerating calories.
So How Much Cardio Do I Need To Do?
That’s the bare minimum for general health, so bump it to 250 because we know you also want to look good in jeans. Mix up your LSD, tempo and HIIT. High intensity counts double (10 minutes equals 20 toward your weekly total), but do no more than two HIIT sessions a week.