Cardio for weight loss: What experts say you should do to shed pounds.

With warmer weather finally here, many people are excited to get outside to see and do more. Though gyms continue bustling and fitness classes remain popular year-round, this is the time of year for family bike rides, morning runs and long hikes.

Though all forms of cardio have a host of health benefits, some are known to burn more calories and to provide a more satisfying workout than others. Experts share the benefits of moderate- and high-intensity activities, and how cardio can help you shed excess weight and keep it off.

What are the health benefits of cardio?

Cardiovascular (cardio) activity is any movement that gets one's heart rate up and keeps it there for a period of time. Such activity includes running, cycling, swimming, jumping rope, dance, brisk walking or playing sports. Frequent cardio activity is one of the most important things a person can do to ensure longevity and quality of life. Regular cardio activity reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and many types of cancer, in addition to "improving a person’s endurance capacity," explains Roger Fielding, PhD, leader of the nutrition, exercise physiology and sarcopenia team at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. What's more, "cardio leads to improvements in maximal oxygen uptake as well," he says.

It also boosts one's metabolism. "Cardio exercises can help to improve your metabolism, which can help you burn more calories throughout the day," explains Austin "Ozzie" Gontang, Ph.D. a licensed psychotherapist and the director of the San Diego Marathon Clinic. He adds that cardio activity lowers one's blood pressure "by strengthening the heart muscle," and lowers cholesterol levels "by raising HDL (good) cholesterol and lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol."

Cardio has also been shown to improve sleep quality, help control blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, and release endorphins, which reduces stress and improves one's mood.

Is cardio good for weight loss?

Though experiencing such mental and physical advantages are a primary goal for many who exercise, some people also want to glean the weight-loss benefits of cardio. "You burn calories when you are engaged in endurance exercise," explains Fielding.

Of course, the number of calories burned depends on which exercise one is doing. Running, for instance, has been shown to burn more calories than any other cardio activity (between 650 to 1,000 calories per hour depending on intensity levels and one's weight), followed by swimming and then cycling. "The more calories you burn, the more weight you will lose," explains Gontang. Because of this, he explains that targeting fat through exercise simply comes down to a matter of math. "One pound of fat has 3,500 calories," he says.

And cardio doesn't only help one lose weight, but also builds muscle tissue, "which burns more calories than fat tissue," Gontang says. It also helps keepweight off. "A number of studies have shown that being physically active helps prevent weight regain after weight loss," explains Fielding.

Combining cardio activities with healthy eating is also imperative. "If you're trying to lose weight, you should aim for doing cardio at least five days per week along with limiting the number of calories in your diet," suggests Michael Fredericson, MD, director of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation division of Stanford University.

How much cardio should I do each day?

Similar to Fredericson's suggestion, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week (about 20 minutes every day or 30 minutes every weekday) and spending two days a week working on muscle strength training specifically. The agency also suggests moving throughout one's day and sitting less often.

Despite the proven benefits of such recommendations, Fredericson says a large portion of Americans aren't getting half that suggested level of activity. Even still, "just 75 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 17 percent and reduces the risk of developing cancer by 7 percent," he explains. "The same amount of exercise, the equivalent of one 11-minute brisk walk every day of the week, was associated with a 23 percent lower risk of early death."

In other words, even if one doesn't have the ability to commit large chunks of time to high-intensity cardio workouts, any activity is better than none. "When asked what’s the best exercise, my answer is always the one you do," says Gontang. "And the one you'll do on a regular basis will make all the difference."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Best cardio workouts for weight loss.