Cardiovascular exercise is one of the best ways to burn fat and lose weight, but how much cardio should you do to see results? Read our guidelines to find out.

Regular cardio exercise is essential if you want to lose weight, but for maximum weight-loss and fitness gains, it’s important to consider the following when planning your sessions so that you don’t get stuck in a rut and find your weight-loss goals stalling.

Are you training often enough?

The number of training sessions you do a week is one of the most important things that will determine your progress. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should do between three to five training sessions a week in order to see results. Exercising only twice a week is classified as a maintenance programme, so you will hardly see any results from this.

Are you working hard enough?

The exercise equation is quite simple: the more you put in, the more you’ll get out. Using the same speed or weight for more than six weeks will halt your results. This is called a ‘plateau’. If you complete an exercise and think ‘I don’t feel anything’ or ‘that was easy’, you are probably training in your comfort zone, so you will have to step up the intensity or change the type of exercise you do in order to see results.

How long do you spend working out?

The time you spend on each exercise will depend on your goals. If you want to be a marathon runner, you have to get the miles in. If you hate your bingo wings, you have to spend more time toning your arms. Without knowing what you want to achieve and your personal time frame, it’s impossible to know if you are spending too much or too little time on the different components of your training programme.

When was the last time you changed your programme?

Variety is the key to success. Research has proven that it takes about four to eight weeks for your body to get used to a new exercise. Unless you change the type of exercise, the amount of sets and repetitions or the speed at which you do your exercise, your progression rate will slow down. This is because our bodies are designed to always try to do things easier, quicker and more efficiently.

Are you overtraining?

This factor is often overlooked. Training too hard can have the reverse effect on your results. To determine if you are overtraining, ask yourself the following questions. Do you feel more tired training on a Friday than on a Monday? Did you have to reduce your running speed or the amount of weight you lifted over the last few weeks because you just didn’t have the energy? Do you wake up feeling drained and exhausted? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could be doing too much. Stop training for two weeks, rest and get enough sleep in order for your body to recover.

Are you eating the right foods?

Healthy food and plenty of water are very important when you work out regularly. Your body will need carbohydrates like brown rice and pasta for energy, protein such as chicken and eggs to rebuild the muscles and good fats like those found in oily fish to control your immune and hormone systems. Cutting something completely out of your diet can prevent you from losing weight.

Are you confident in what you are doing?

When you are sick, you go to a doctor. When you struggle to see, you have your eyes tested. If you want to see results and improve your body image, you should consult a fitness professional. Exercises are very specific and with 640 named muscles in the human body and thousands of unnamed smaller muscles, you should seek professional advice to maximise your potential.

Are you training with injuries?

Never train through an injury because it will slow down your progression. Take time to recover because every time you do something that aggravates the pain, you are re-injuring yourself and prolonging your recovery period. You could, though, work with a personal trainer to come up with an alternative fitness routine that won’t impact on your injury.

Do you sleep enough?

We spend about a third of our life asleep. The reason for this is to give our bodies the chance to physically recover (usually between the hours of 10pm and 2am) and to process all the information it has received that day (between 2am and 6am). Lack of sleep can result in loss of strength, coordination, balance and endurance. Prolonged periods of insomnia or sleeplessness can eventually lead to overtraining or injuries.

What time of day should you train?

There is mixed research about what time of the day is the best to train. Some say it’s best to train before breakfast on an empty stomach, whereas others say it doesn’t matter. The truth is that whenever you do cardio you will burn calories. The more effort you put in the quicker you will see results. To determine the best time to train you have to listen to your body. If you are not a morning person your body will find an early-morning session very hard. Doing it before lunch or after work will probably give you better results because you can put more effort in.