10 Benefits of Cardio

Why you should do cardio, how much you should do, and what type you should do

Disclaimer:  Consult your doctor or other medical professional before beginning any new exercise regime to see if it is appropriate for your needs. This site offers health, fitness and nutritional information and is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with your doctor or other health-care professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical or health related advice from your health-care professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk. See the full disclaimer.

Most people associate cardio with weight loss. And while that's one benefit of aerobic exercise, getting your heart rate up regularly boasts many other benefits.

No matter your health and fitness goals, dedicating some time to cardio is incredibly beneficial both in the short and long term.

But apart from the obvious, why else should you do cardio? How should you do cardio? How long should your sessions be? A thousand questions arise.

Today, we'll answer each of these and more. Let's get to it.

What are the main benefits of doing cardio?

1. Makes you feel more energetic

The most obvious benefits of cardio are its effects on our cardiovascular system [1]. More specifically, regular cardio improves our aerobic capacity - the body's ability to take oxygen and use it to produce energy more effectively [2]. This helps us build endurance, and recover better and more easily between training sessions [3].

In essence, cardio helps us build stamina and consequently, feel better and more energetic.

2, Makes your heart more efficient

Cardio also directly affects the heart: it makes it more efficient and allows it to pump more blood with each beat. This is great because it strengthens our heart, lowers our resting heart rate, and contributes to our overall stamina [4].

3. Helps you lose weight

The most notable benefit of cardio today (and why most people do it) is the caloric burn. This is what helps us lose weight and more easily maintain our results once we achieve them [5].

However, besides these fitness-related benefits, regular cardio is also integral for good health. You see, cardio:

4. Elevates your mood and motivation

Thanks to the rush of endorphins produced by exercise, cardio can elevate our mood. Endorphins are the body's natural painkillers that it releases when we are doing something pleasurable or when we get injured [6].

5. Can help lower blood pressure

Regular aerobic exercise can help reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. It's not clear how much exercise is needed to achieve this effect, but it seems that at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week is beneficial [7].

Aerobic exercise is defined as "activity that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe harder." This can be in form of fast walking, slow jogging, bicycling, swimming, dancing or anything else. As long as it gets your breathing and heart rate up and keeps them raised for an extended period of time (at least 10 minutes) [8].

6. Could help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels

There is some evidence that regular aerobic exercise may help regulate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes or prediabetes, although more research is needed [9].

Exercise seems to improve how the body responds to insulin (a hormone that helps control blood sugar levels), preventing blood sugar from rising too high after eating. In addition, exercise can help burn off excesscalories and promote weight loss, which can also help regulate blood sugar levels. However, it's important to note that people with diabetes or prediabetes should always check with their doctor before starting a new exercise program [10].

7. Improves your sleep

Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise can improve sleep quality in people with insomnia. It seems to help reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep and reduce the number of times you wake up during the night [11, 12].

8. Could help boost your immune system

There is evidence that regular moderate intensity exercise and cardio can help improve immune function by helping reduce inflammation and improve our immune system's response to viral infections [13].

9. Might help improve brain function and health

According to one study, cardiovascular fitness reduces cognitive function loss, suggesting regular aerobic exercise may improve brain function (particularly in older adults) [14].

It's also been suggested that regular physical activity may reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia [15].

10. Can improve our quality of life

While more research is needed, many studies with a range of participants affirm that cardiovascular activity helps your feel healthier, gives you more energy, and helps you stay active and functional as you age.

How can I incorporate cardio into my routine?

If you want to get serious about incorporating regular cardio into your workout routine, but don’t fancy joining a gym, one of the best ways to do that is to get a cardio machine for home. Not only is this more economical in the long run, but it’s much easier to commit to even 10 minutes of cardio a day when you have a machine at home.

What are the best cardio machines?

Walk into any gym today, and you're bound to come across a wide array of cardio machines. Without a doubt, the five best options are:

cinta de correr

1. Treadmill

Treadmills are among the most popular cardio machines. They are typically used for walking, jogging, and running. You can also adjust the incline to vary the difficulty.


2. Elliptical

Ellipticals are large machines with pedals for your feet and dynamic handles for your arms. The pedals move in an ellipse pattern, hence the name of the device, and dictate the handles' movement to create a natural motion, similar to walking.

bicicleta estatica

3. Exercise bike

The stationary bike offers us the ability to bike indoors. Unlike regular bicycles, the force we generate onto the pedals doesn't propel us forward.

maquina de remo

4. Rowing machine

Las máquinas de remo ofrecen un entrenamiento para todo el cuerpo, que nos ayuda a desarrollar resistencia, músculo, fuerza y atletismo [16]. Este movimiento trabaja principalmente nuestra espalda y bíceps, pero también involucra a las piernas en cierto grado.

5. Stepper

Step machines (also known as steppers) simulate the movement pattern of climbing stairs. This helps develop the entire lower body and improve your cardiovascular fitness.

Which cardio machine burns the most calories?

As far as the caloric burn is concerned, the top three devices are the treadmill, elliptical, and rower. For reference, according to calculators, a 110-pound person running on a treadmill for half an hour can burn anywhere from 260 to 300+ calories [17]. . The rowing machine and elliptical offer an even greater caloric burn because they also involve your upper body.

With that said, we also need to look at the impact of the machines. Undue stress on our joints can lead to aches and overuse injuries. In general, the elliptical and stationary bike offer the lowest impact [18]. The elliptical in particular also offers an excellent caloric burn and works your whole body, making it a great choice if you’re looking for high calorie-burn, low impact workout.

What muscles does cardio work?

Well, it depends on the activity and intensity. For instance, slow jogging primarily trains your calves [19]. It also involves your quads to some degree. But if you do interval running or sprinting, the emphasis shifts toward your glutes, hamstrings, and back muscles [20].

This is one example where simply changing the speed shifts the emphasis.

Por otro lado, con la máquina de remo se entrena sobre todo la parte superior del cuerpo: la espalda, los hombros, los brazos, el pecho y los abdominales [21]. ¿La máquina elíptica? Entrena todo el cuerpo porque los brazos y las piernas se mueven para mantener el movimiento [22].

The treadmill, stationary bike, and stepper all primarily train your lower body.

The bottom line?

Most cardio activities typically work your lower body (quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves). Activities like the battle rope, rower, and elliptical focus on your upper body much better.

For optimal muscular development, it's good to vary the intensities and do several types of cardiovascular work. In doing so, you'll give all of your major muscle groups enough attention.

How much cardio should I do to lose weight?

This typically depends on your schedule, fitness level, workout intensity, and goals. For instance, if you're a complete beginner looking to shed some fat, you might want to start with moderately-intense sessions of 15 to 20 minutes. Many physicians and studies affirm that just 20 minutes of exercise of moderate intensity can result in lasting benefits.

These won't optimize caloric burn but will help you stay more consistent and get the ball rolling. Over time, you can ramp up the training volume and work up to 30, 40, and even 60-minute long sessions.

In contrast, if you're more advanced, there is no harm in doing up to 40 minutes at a time. The goal is to maintain your fitness, feel good after your workouts, and challenge yourself enough.

Don’t have 40 minutes to dedicate to a workout? No problem. In this case, you can ramp up the intensity and condense more work in less time. For example, you can do high-intensity interval training: dash for 60 seconds, walk for 60 seconds, and alternate between the two for ten to fifteen times. In fact, HIIT has its own set of unique benefits (detailed below).


If you want to try out a HIIT workout and burn a ton of calories, check out this 20 minutes HIIT routine.

You can download the exercises in PDF to follow at home and see how to do each of the exercises on our dedicated page. Let's get to it!

This is an example where your intensity can dictate the ideal amount of time to do cardio. In doing so, you can burn more calories in less time if your schedule is jam-packed [23].

For the most part, it's good to leave at least one day of rest in-between cardio sessions. This would mean that you should do around three to four cardio workouts per week. That way, your muscles will recover well, and you won't train in a fatigued state.

What happens if I do cardio every day?

beneficios del cardio

This mostly depends on what type of cardio workouts you're doing each day. For instance, if you're doing 10-minute sessions, you can exercise daily for a long time without any adverse effects. In contrast, if you want to exercise for 40 minutes, having daily workouts will most likely lead to overtraining, which can be detrimental to your health.

In essence, everything comes down to recovery. Your fitness level, workout length, and intensity will mostly dictate how often you can train, recover in time, and improve. What’s important is that you start off gradually (if you’re a beginner) and build up from there, take proper rest and listen to your body.

If you want to do cardio days (for example, as part of a morning ritual), start with a mere five to ten minutes, see how you recover from that, and gradually increase the duration.

How long does it take to start seeing results?

There is a saying in the fitness world:

"It takes four weeks for you to see your body change, eight weeks for your friends and family to see, and twelve weeks for the rest of the world."

There is a lot of truth to it. Sadly, fitness improvements happen slowly, and it's almost impossible to see progress from week to week. But, put together enough consistent weeks, and you can see excellent results.

Of course, how quickly you see improvements also depends on how consistent you are, how well you stick with your diet, and how hard you train. But, in general, you should see positive results (weight loss, reduced waist size, and visual leanness) in around one month.


Caty is a blogger and certified personal trainer. She loves designing workouts for different age groups.