When is the best time for cardio exercise? This is always such a debated and hot topic in the workout community. The answer is not as clear cut as you may think!
When is the Best Time for Cardio Exercise?
Well, if you wanted to be sassy about it you could say the best time for cardio exercise would be anytime that works for you! That still is partially true. If you have the choice of doing cardio at a less optimal time it is still going to benefit your fitness goals. However, as you progress in your journey you will start to see timing is indeed part of the equation.
For the Beginner
If you are new to working out I recommend alternating your cardio exercise on days you do not do strength training. It can be a lot to suddenly try tackling both on the same day. So if you are new to the scene my recommendation is to split it up so you do not get completely overwhelmed.
Start with Weights
The next stages are a bit trickier. I am a big advocate of weight lifting as a crucial way to develop muscle and maintain your bone mass. As such, I would always say that you want to give your all to the weight training or resistance portion of your workout. If you slave away on the elliptical for a half hour or more you may start to slow down a bit and feel a little bit sluggish when you start to hit the barbell, machines and free weights. Your best bet is to engage in some mobility exercises and a short dynamic warm up (more to come!) in order to get ready for your main movements. So dive into the actual work and the best time for cardio exercise will be at the end. Around 15-20 minutes is perfect.
If you have days where you move too slowly or are just tired, hungry and cranky then…it is ok to skip it. You will already have done those crucial exercises to move you forward. Make a mental note to move a little more quickly the next time or eat a larger snack beforehand. No big deal! Even if weight loss is your goal cardio exercise should still be your second priority.
The caveat here is if you work out in the morning then add the cardio exercise first. You need time for your body to warm up before you hit any kind of weights.
As with all things when you progress things become more and more complicated. Those beginner “gains” are more hard won and cardio exercise really becomes related to what your goals might be. If you want to get stronger, but maintain where you in terms of body composition then I say to stick to a bit of cardio exercise after you workouts per the usual.
If you want to truly go to the next level that is where things can get interesting. One option is to do cardio exercise (preferably fasted) first thing in the morning as a separate workout. So in order to not have to do one really long or brutal workout you can break it up in this fashion. Another option is to mix up your workout intensity. Plug in your ear phones and prepare to get serious. Make sure to have some super charged music that pushes you faster. One standard route to go is to pick your favorite machine and go “all out” one minute followed by a “moderate/recovery” minute for a total of 10 rounds (20 minutes)
Your Health Journey
So there are definitely ways to break through any potential plateau you may face in your fitness journey. Where there is a will, there is a way!
AND…just because things like a walk in the neighborhood or dancing in your kitchen burn calories does not mean we should shy away because we “got our cardio exercise” for the day. A healthy lifestyle is all about enjoying being active.
How About You?
- When do you do your cardio?
- Would you consider your lifestyle to be active?