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How much cardio do I need to lose weight?

The question: For weight-loss purposes, how many hours of cardio a week do you recommend? Is it possible to do too much cardio?

The answer: I wish there was a magic number of hours that I could recommend, but weight loss is a problem that requires a multifaceted solution.

No amount of cardio will make you lose weight unless you watch what you eat. Further, your lifestyle, genetics, age, metabolism, sleep patterns and weight-loss history are all significant.

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Believe me: When I train for an Ironman, I wish my copious amounts of swimming, biking and running would allow me to eat anything and everything, but it doesn't. In fact, I often gain weight because I mistake thirst and exhaustion for hunger.

Plus, I talk myself into believing I "deserve" treats. In my experience, endurance athletes, as well as people who use excessive cardio to lose weight, often experience these negative side effects.

Instead of thinking endless cardio is the key to weight loss, try watching what you eat, doing interval cardio workouts and strength training. Strength training will build lean muscle, and the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism.

Here are some more suggestions:

  • Weight train three days per week. Do exercises that work large muscle groups like squats, push-ups and lunges.
  • Move for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Garden, play with your kids, walk: Whatever you do, don’t just sit at your computer!
  • Do three to five interval-style cardio workouts per week. After warming up, alternate periods of intense work with periods of moderate work for 20 minutes.
  • Eat well. Pay attention to how much and what you eat. Aim for lots of fresh vegetables, lower glycemic index carbohydrates (sweet potatos instead of white pasta, for example), lean protein, plenty of water and moderate portions.
  • Sleep. At minimum, you need seven hours a night.

Trainer's tip: If you have relied on quick-fix diets in the past, make sure to prioritize strength training. The weight you lose during most rapid weight-loss programs is usually predominantly water and muscle. Then when you gain the weight back, it is often predominantly fat. Strength training will help break the cycle of muscle loss and fat gain, and help regain control of your metabolism.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is

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