Minimum cardio to get benefits?

OK first off keep in mind I know zero about working out and I readily admit it. So I know this may be a very "newby" question to ask.

OK so here it is: I think I remember in gym class in high school the teacher saying that there was a time frame that you had to have a high heart rate for in order to get "such and such" minimum benefits. Something to that effect. I think the time may have been like half an hour or twenty minutes or something like that. Anybody ever heard anything like that before? Or did I just dream that or mis hear the teacher.

Anyhow I'm thinking of taking up a little running in the morning and I thinking I'll use that amount of time as my target for the amount of time I'll run.

I don't plan on being a marathon runner or an Iron Man competitor or anything special in any way.

I'm just thinking I'll do the amount of running that experts actually think can have some very real benefits for me (by that I mean the timeframe I mentioned before).

Also if I do that kind of running is that the type of thing you should do every day (every morning)? Because I also thought I heard somewhere you should run every second day to let your body rest for a day. That may be BS to...... I hear all this stuff in passing , and who knows what is true and what isn't.

Anyhow thanks for any help and for clearing all of this up for me.

Na man I'm serious, I'll do it. I might go up over time to get more out of it. But the minimum is where I want to start at, because I'm out of shape right now.

The estimates are 30 minutes 5x a week.

Farmer's walks, IMO.

 If you are working hard, you can get away with less. Clearly one can attain quite a good fitness level in as little as 4 minutes work (TABATA's). For what you have said, I would recommend the SPRINT EIGHT program.

It is short and effective. It can be done using any modality but was created with running sprints in mind. Find a football field, or even just go to a park and "walk-off" the distance.

Then...follow the plan. I expect you will notice a big change in as little as two weeks.


 The most important part of Taku's post was the first 5 words - "If you are working hard".  A lot of people think that they can do intervals, and magically get results - this isn't the case.  It takes real work to get results using intervals - make sure that you're working as hard as possible during those 'work' portions of the intervals.

If not, then you're getting yourself the worst possible scenario - short duration and low intensity.

Most people that don't get results from interval training, I find, do so b/c they don't work hard enough.

If you're not sure if you're working hard enough, you might want to increase the duration just a tad.  Another good program is to head to the track and jog a warmup lap.  Then do 2-4 laps, running the straights hard, and walking the corners.

Simple, yet effective.

Wiggy -

 As Always, great input from WIGGY.



Frequency is also important- 2-3x/week minimum is required to substantially augment cardiorespiratory work capacity.

thanks guys.

This is my new years resolution, and I know for a fact if I aim to high I'll give up so I want to START with the minimum.

I'm off to a great start and following your advice.

As mentioned above the key is how hard you're working.

If you don't have access to a decent heartrate monitor and you wan't a somewhat reasonable way to determine if you're working hard enough you can use the 'talk test'.  If you're able to maintain a conversation during your work periods then you're not working hard enough and need to increase your intensity.

 Talk test = Simple and Effective.


Intervals would be a quick easy answer, but as a beginner, high intensity intervals may cause problems. You will need to build up to that, but thats not saying you still cant do intervals.

Just make sure the high intensity end, is not a maximal effort for now, and increase the low intensity interval. Start slow and basic, see how you feel, and slowly and safely progress. You also might want to think about not only running. There are other, and sometimes safer ways to get a short cardio workout, with much less impact for beginners. Mix it up a bit to ensure you dont give yourself any overuse injuries as you are a beginner.

I absolutely love the airdyne bike for intervals, and beginners can safely push to pretty high intensity intervals.

Let us know hoe it goes.


I'm going to work up to some of the other stuff talked about here (thanks again for the advice). But right now I'm doing 30 minutes 4-5 times a week of jogging.

But I will try some other stuff suggested here.

Just to make sure one more time in case its not the concensus.

30 minutes 4-5 times per week (of jogging)- do most guys here agree, that is the minimum cardio to get benefits? Just makin sure

No many of us do not agree with that.  if you're using the talk test even a beginner can start out with interval training.  As a beginner you're not likely going to be able to push yourself to points that are 'dangerous'.  You can't.  You haven't developed that ability yet.

You don't need to do 30 minutes at all.  10-20 minutes is MORE than enough, provided you are honest with yourself.

I do not agree with much of the advice given here about recommending intervals, although it looks like Steve's advice was on the right track. When you are first starting out as a beginner the most important thing is to increase cardiac output, parasympathetic tone, and peripheral vascular blood flow to the muscles themselves. These adaptations DO NOT result correctly from short high intensity efforts like interval training and this is the WRONG approach.

If your resting heart rate is in the upper 60s or 70s like I'm sure it is, you need to build an aerobic base with longer slower low intensity cardio to stimulate development of the eccentric cardiac hypertrophy you need.

You do not need to be doing intervals until you've establised at least some moderate level of cardiac output and aerobic fitnes level. You should be spending your time in a low heart rate zone of 120-150 for 30-40 minutes 3-5 times per week. When you do begin doing intervals you should not be using fixed rest intervals but rather resting based on your own heart rate recovery.

The first step of introducing intervals should be short work intervals, 10-12 seconds against moderate resistance and then resting until heart rate is down to the 130 range. From there you proceed to more intense intervals working on different aspects of fitness as you adapt and as you build your fitness levels.

Someone who has never lifted weights should not start their training by doing 1 and 3 rep max effort lifting and cardiovascular fitness development is no different. A beginner does not need the high intensity to stimulate aerobic adaptations and they need to instead develop the cardiac output and peripheral vascular blood flow that results from the higher volume low intensity training.

I would suggest starting out with my recommendations above and at least seeing a 5-10 beat per minute drop in resting heart rate before doing any sort of interval work. This will help you develop a foundation for more intense work later on that you will then benefit much more from.

It sounds like are actually doing the right things and starting with some low to moderate intensity training. You probably also should use the bike, swimming, jumping rope, etc. and do a variety of cardio rather than simply jogging all the time. Pay attention to your heart rates and you'll quickly notice you're able to perform at a higher rate of work with the same or lower heart rates. Once you get your resting heart rate into the low to mid 60s then I would suggest beginning intervals, threshold training, and more intense work.

Joel if you take a look at Taku's interval program you'll see that it clearly takes beginner and novice trainers into account.  There is a gradual build up to the 'high intensity work'.

Yes I did look at it and while it does look like a fairly low intensity interval program the point is that you need a higher volume of low intensity to stimulate the adaptations a beginner needs that I'm talking about. It takes more than 20 minutes of work to increase cardiac output. It's important for the purposes of cardiac output that the workout be of a fairly constant pace and the heart rate not go over the low 150s because this is generally where stroke volume can begin to decrease. A beginner would be best served by spending the majority of their time working in this way for at least 4-6 weeks before doing any type of interval work.

Joel, this is absolutely great advice. Thanks very much. I'm getting back into shape after a long layoff and I'm going to follow your approach for the near term.

Thanks again.

I have found that people do not need to waste time on building a base. The adaptations you mention (Joel) will happen when following interval plans that are adjusted to the individuals current fitness level. All intervals are not H.I.I.T. based. As most of us here know, there can be both aerobic and anaerobic based interval protocols.

My interval program (when followed correctly) offers 20 minutes of L.S.D. type work. This coupled with the fact that the actual "harder" sections are adjusted for the individual, will acomplish all that is needed for most, very effciently. How do I know this? Becuase I have seen it and heard it from my clients for 20 years.

The standard recommendation that intervals are too intense for un-trained populations etc does not hold up. I use intervals with people in there 80's and 90's (age and ability adjusted of course) among others.

Food for thought 1.  & 2.




I suppose this is another area we will have to agree to disagree because I do not believe developing a base is a waste of time and I certainly do not believe higher intensity methods are the best way to achieve the adaptations that come along with it.

The first point is that 20 minutes is only enough volume to stimulate the eccentric cardiac hypertrophy and peripheral vascular development that's necessary for someone who has done next to zero training. Once someone has been training for a few weeks they will need more than 20 minutes to continue to see these adaptations.

The second point is that aerobic improvements come the fastest when the frequency is fairly high, you need to do some kind of aerobic week 4-5 days per week and a beginner who uses higher intensity methods doesn't have to work capacity to be doing so nearly that often, even when adjusted for individual fitness levels.

Lastly, it is a fundamental mistake to try to use intensity as a means of saving time and increase the intensity before it's necessary. A beginner will see aerobic improvements from low intensity work because their intensity threshold is very low. With regards to adaptation it is the intensity that serves as the primary stimulus and volume which acts as an amplifier, this is a fundamental principle many don't understand.

This simply means that below a certain intensity threshold no adaptations are triggered no matter how high the volume may be. Once this threshold is reached however, there is no point in increasing the intensity higher because it is the volume that leads to the increased acute and delayed hormonal responses that are the primary triggers and catalysts for tissue remodeling. As an individuals fitness contiues to improve their intensity threshold increases to the point that they need a higher and higher intensity and then increased volume to continue to see improvements.

When you increase intensity too fast when it's unnecessary for improvement you are compromising your primary means to see continued develpoment. You should ALWAYS seek to use the lowest intensity means necessary to achieve the adaptations you are looking for so in this way through continued intensification you can see improved results.

Doing interval training, even at a low level, with someone who is just starting their training is like taking someone with very little strength training experience and having them do depth jumps to improve power. Sure it will help their power, but this is a waste of such an effective means. A beginner will see improvements from low intensity efforts and this is where their programming should begin.

I believe it is a fundamental mistake to try to use a higher intensity program than necessary simply because you believe you can do 20 minutes of it instead of 30 or 40 minutes of a lower intensity.

You should increase intensity only when necessary, not just because you can. Even if you want to make the argument that intervals are too intense for the untrained population, this still doesn't mean they should be used.