Cardiovascular endurance is a vital part of any fitness routine. Here are some ways to improve yours

This part of your training can be beneficial to anyone, even if you are not a marathoner.

You can run your first 5k or half-marathon PR.

Although this fitness term is commonplace, it can be unclear to some people due to the amount of fitness terminology out there.

You’re likely to have worked on your cardiovascular endurance during workouts, even if you don’t know it. This guide is your best friend for cardiovascular endurance.

What is cardio endurance?

First, let me tell you a quick fact: Sometimes cardiovascular endurance is also known as “aerobic endurance,” so don’t be alarmed if the terms are used interchangeably.

Once that’s done, let’s get to the basics: Cardiovascular endurance is, in straightforward terms, the ability to perform any exercise for an extended period (typically over 20-30 minutes). Rick Prince, CES, kinesiologist and founder of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy, tells Health.

Prince says that aerobic endurance is dependent on how efficiently your body can deliver oxygen into your working muscles. This is determined by how efficient your heart (which pumps oxygen-carrying veins through your veins), as well as your lungs (which provide oxygen to your blood), can do their job.

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You see, to make any movement, your muscle cells need the energy molecule ATP (that’s short for adenosine triphosphate), says Prince. Although your muscles can make ATP in various ways, endurance training requires oxygen as the main ingredient. Your muscles require oxygen to produce ATP, so you can continue running, walking, and cycling for miles after miles.

What exercises increase cardiovascular endurance?

Any exercise you do that increases your heart rate technically requires cardiovascular endurance, says Prince. A few activities have a strong endurance focus, such as running, swimming, cycling, and walking. Cross-country skiing and aerobics are also good options.

What does each of these exercise types have in common? Prince explained that each of these types of exercise involves repetitive movements over and over for a long time. How muscular your cardio endurance is will determine how long you can keep doing those movements. A beginner jogger may only be able to move for 20 minutes, while an experienced cyclist can go on for hours.

What are the benefits of building cardiovascular endurance?

You will feel great on your runs or biking rides with your friends. Increasing your cardiovascular endurance can also have many health benefits. These are just a few of the many benefits Prince claims.

  • Greater cardiovascular Health
  • Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease
  • Improved sleep quality, especially if you are waking up in the morning sweating.
  • Stress reduction
  • More effortless weight loss (when combined with a healthy diet, of course)
  • Stronger bones
  • Immune Health improved
  • Better cardiovascular exercise performance

Wait! What is the difference between cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance?

If there’s any confusion: Yes, typically, your cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance develop hand-in-hand, Prince explains. This is because both your heart and muscles work together to keep you going while you’re running, swimming, or doing other activities like jogging.

These types of endurance don’t necessarily have to be the same. Prince says that if you start running more, the strain on your heart will build cardiovascular endurance. Meanwhile, the demand on your actual leg muscles builds muscular endurance.

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What happens to your body when your cardiovascular endurance is increased?

Prince says that aerobic endurance increases your cardiovascular system’s “fitness”. There are a few changes you can make in your body:

  • Lower resting heart rate indicates that your heart pumps blood faster
  • Higher stroke volume means that every beat of your heart pumps more blood.
  • Greater capillary density means you will have more blood vessels to carry oxygen to your muscles.

What is the best way to measure your cardiovascular endurance?

It’s not difficult to gauge your cardiovascular endurance. A straightforward way to do it is with a protocol fitness pros call the “Talk Test.”

During the Talk Test, you’ll do some cardio exercise (trainers often use treadmill walking) while wearing a heart rate monitor and increase the intensity every minute or two until you’re working hard enough that you can no longer comfortably carry on a conversation, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

You can’t talk and suck back oxygen at the same time, so when talking becomes difficult enough that you can’t string together more than five to 10 words at a time, it’s a sign that your body is no longer taking in oxygen efficiently enough to turn it into the ATP your muscles need. This is the end of your cardiovascular endurance.

Keep track of your heart rate and the intensity of your workouts. Stay below these numbers during your workouts–and ensure you can carry a conversation–and you’ll be working within the limits of your aerobic endurance, according to ACE.

Prince suggests that you use a fitness tracker or heart rate monitor during your workouts to watch your endurance. Prince says that the higher your heart rate trends are, the better you will be at cardiovascular endurance.

Prince says that you can track your progress by logging how long you can exercise at a given effort level. You can now do 25 miles per hour if you could comfortably jog on the treadmill for five minutes. That is a sign that your endurance has improved.

What can you do to improve your cardiovascular endurance?

What are the two main strategies to increase endurance? Prince suggests increasing your volume (read, the number of minutes you exercise) and your intensity.

Prince advises that you gradually increase the difficulty of your workouts as your heart adapts to more challenging workouts quicker than your bones, muscles, or connective tissues (think about tendons and ligaments).

ACE recommends increasing the length of your workouts by just 10 per cent each week. If you run for 80 minutes this week, your running time should be reduced to 90 minutes (or 88 minutes) next week.

Follow this rule, and you can add some high-intensity interval training (or HIIT) to your routine, too, Prince adds. Made up of alternating intervals of hard effort and easy recovery, HIIT is highly effective to boost your cardio abilities. Prince says that you should limit your HIIT workouts to a maximum of twice per week because it’s so intense. You can gradually cut down on how much you rest between work intervals over a few weeks to up the ante there. For example, you may run for one minute, then rest for two, but you can alternate running with recovery by week three.

What is the time it takes to increase your cardiovascular endurance?

You can increase your endurance quickly by following a well-balanced workout, properly nourishing your body, and taking adequate time to rest and recuperate.

Prince says that although progress can be slow and uneven if you check all the boxes, you will start to notice improvements in your cardiovascular endurance within three to four weeks.

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Prince says that beginners experience faster, more dramatic results than those who have more distance. Don’t be surprised if your 5k run feels a little slower than the finish of your first 5k.

What are the best times to seek professional help?

Although you can make significant endurance gains just by sweating, there are some situations where you may want to hire a certified personal coach or trainer to assist you.

Prince says that the most common reasons people seek pro help to improve their endurance are: they do not see results, have been injured, are training for a race, or want to take the guesswork out of training. Your doctor may recommend that you exercise under the care of a professional in some instances, such as if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.

Whatever your motivation, however, a coach or professional trainer can help you stay on track with your training and ensure that you can train as efficiently as possible to continue to see results in your cardio endurance.

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