Keep moving to improve your cardiovascular endurance

Cardiovascular endurance is a measure of your fitness. Good endurance makes everyday activities like climbing stairs or carrying groceries easier and less tiring. Cardiovascular endurance can be improved through regular exercise.

Cardiovascular endurance is a measure of the ability of the heart and blood vessels to endure regular physical activity. Regular physical activity improves cardiovascular endurance, benefiting the entire body.

Building endurance helps keep the heart healthy, increasing its ability to pump blood to the lungs and throughout the body. A healthy heart and lungs carry more blood to the muscles, increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood. Small blood vessels, called capillaries, also widen to improve blood flow to the entire body and remove waste products.

In this article, you will learn the difference between cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, the benefits of cardiovascular endurance, tests to determine endurance levels, five exercises to improve cardiovascular endurance circuit and how to adjust exercises if you have a metabolic disorder.

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Determine cardiovascular endurance and cardiovascular endurance

Cardiovascular endurance refers to the strength and ability of the heart and blood vessels to function during continuous physical activity. Cardiovascular endurance, also known as cardiovascular fitness, is the ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygenated blood to skeletal muscles during physical activity.

Although cardiovascular endurance and cardiovascular endurance technically refer to two separate things, they are closely related and are often used synonymously.

As your cardiovascular endurance improves, so does your cardiovascular endurance. By increasing the strength and endurance of the heart and lungs, the ability to deliver oxygen to muscles during activity is also increased.


Cardiovascular endurance is improved through exercise. Having good cardiovascular endurance provides many benefits, including but not limited to:

For people with cardiovascular disease, exercise is often recommended as part of the treatment plan.


The gold standard for determining cardiovascular endurance is the assessment of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max). This test looks at your body’s ability to supply oxygen and how effectively your muscles use oxygen during exercise.

VO2max testing is performed using specialized equipment to measure heart rate and oxygen intake during physical activity. This is often done in a medical setting. The person being tested is monitored while performing an activity such as walking or running on a treadmill.

Other tests that can give quick results on VO2max are heart rate measurements before, during, and after exercise. Complex equations can estimate VO2max based on these numbers.

Other indicators of fitness can also be observed. People with good endurance can exercise or perform physical activities for longer periods of time without becoming exhausted. They are less likely to feel short of breath when doing physically demanding work.

When performing high-intensity exercise, their heart rate recovered or dropped faster and their resting heart rate was also low.

Examples of cardiovascular endurance

Activities that increase heart rate and oxygen consumption are great for building cardiovascular endurance. In other words, anything that gets the body moving, the heart pumping, and the lungs working can improve fitness.

In general, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise to improve and maintain cardiovascular endurance.

Aerobic exercises such as cycling, swimming and running are all good examples of activities that are good for building cardiovascular endurance. Other less strenuous examples include walking and yoga.

Anaerobic exercises such as high-intensity interval training, weightlifting and sprinting also have positive effects on cardiovascular endurance.

At any age or any physical ability, there is an exercise that can work to improve cardiovascular endurance.

Exercises to improve cardiovascular endurance: Walking

Walking is one of the most accessible activities. It requires no equipment, can be done almost anywhere, and can be easily added to your daily routine.

When starting a walking program, start with small goals. Maybe a goal for one week is to walk 10 minutes a day. The next week, 20 minutes each day and 30 minutes the next.

As your endurance increases, you may find that 30 minutes of walking is easy and your heart rate doesn’t increase as much.

To continue improving your endurance, you need to change the way you exercise to make your heart work harder. Try walking faster or on an incline. This can be done on hills or by increasing the incline on the treadmill.

Ride bicycle

Cycling can be done outdoors on a regular bike or indoors on a stationary bike.

For indoor workouts, consider cycling classes. They are available at most gyms or fitness studios and are led by instructors who can guide you through your workout.

If you’re cycling outdoors, make it fun. Choose a destination a few miles away and bike there, or explore new areas of your town or city by bike.


Swimming is a low-impact exercise with many benefits. It improves cardiovascular endurance and also improves muscle strength.

To start your swimming workout, choose a stroke that you feel comfortable doing freestyle, breaststroke, side stroke or any other style.

Start with one round, then rest. Rest as often as necessary until you have swam 10 minutes. Every week try adding five minutes to your routine until you can reach 30 to 60 minutes.

If swimming laps don’t work for your body, you can also try walking laps in the pool. This is especially beneficial for people with joint pain or those who have difficulty walking.

Modified for people with chronic pain

Movement and exercise are important for people with chronic pain because they can often improve chronic pain.

Modifications can help you stay active if you live with chronic pain. Low-impact exercises like cycling or swimming are great examples.

Pool exercises, such as walking in the pool or water aerobics, can relieve pressure on sore joints. Pilates can help increase strength and reduce fatigue, which can make other activities more difficult.

Social sports

One study found that social sports, activities that involve a partner or team competing, have beneficial effects on overall fitness, mental health and longevity.

Examples of these activities are tennis, handball, golf, soccer, volleyball, and softball. The social aspect of these activities also creates a fun and responsible environment. Having someone to answer to can help motivate you to maintain a regular physical activity habit.

High-intensity interval training

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an anaerobic activity that can produce results in a shorter period of time. Interval training consists of short bursts of fast, all-out activity followed by short periods of rest.

An easy way to do HIIT without equipment is to start with an easy jog, then work up to intervals. The duration can be determined based on your current fitness level.

If you’re just starting out, try sprinting for 30 seconds and then walking for a minute. Try repeating this circuit until you reach 15 minutes.

You will notice your heart rate will increase when sprinting and then decrease when walking. Once you get used to this type of training, you can increase your sprint time and decrease your rest time.

Improve cardiovascular endurance in children

Cardiovascular fitness is important for children’s overall health. To encourage children to move more, make activities more fun.

Ride your bike as a family to the park. Take a walk at dusk to look for bats, lightning bugs, or other fun creatures. Walk in the forest and explore nature.

Adaptive exercise for people with metabolic diseases

Exercise has a positive impact on metabolic disease and is often used to help treat some of the factors that contribute to the disease, such as insulin resistance (when muscle, fat and liver cells do not respond good with insulin and have difficulty absorbing glucose from the blood, creating the need to use more insulin) and are obese.

If you are new to exercise, talk to your healthcare provider to make sure the activity you have chosen is safe for you.

Slow down. If you’re starting an exercise routine to treat metabolic disease, you don’t need to completely change your life right away. Going all out often causes injury, making people feel defeated and return to their old ways.

Try adding a little exercise into your daily routine so it doesn’t become overwhelming but instead becomes a lifelong habit.


Cardiovascular endurance is a measure of physical fitness and is important for overall health. Regular exercise and physical activity improves cardiovascular endurance and has other benefits such as lower blood pressure, improved quality of life and lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Measuring VO2max is the gold standard for testing heart and lung endurance and strength.

Activities like walking, cycling, swimming, and group sports like handball and volleyball are great activities to start with when looking to get moving.

To start a routine, start slow and gradually build up to longer workouts. There’s no need to feel overwhelmed, remember, anything you can do to get your body moving and your heart pumping will help improve your endurance.

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