What Is Cardiovascular Endurance?

Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on February 27, 2024
3 min read

Cardiovascular endurance is a measure of how well you can do exercises that involve your whole body at moderate to high intensity for an extended time. Improving your cardiovascular endurance can make it easier for you to carry out your daily tasks. It can also lessen your risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. 

You can raise your level of cardiovascular endurance by doing exercises that increase your heart and breathing rates, or aerobic exercise. According to many experts, aerobic exercise is the most important part of physical fitness. To achieve cardiovascular endurance, you should exercise aerobically 30 minutes per day, 3 to 7 days per week.

When you do aerobic exercise, your body responds in the following ways:

  • Your heart pumps more efficiently.
  • Your lungs work better.
  • Your blood volume and delivery system are improved.
  • Your resting heart rate is lowered.
  • Your heart pumps out more blood.
  • Your muscles get stronger.
  • Your ligaments, tendons, and bones get stronger.
  • Your body is more able to use fat as an energy source. 

As you increase your cardiovascular endurance through aerobic exercise, you'll get stronger and fitter. You'll also reap the following benefits: 

Lowered risk of disease. Aerobic exercise reduces your risk of developing many diseases, including: 

Better strength and stamina. Your heart and lungs will get stronger as you exercise. You'll also gain bone and muscle fitness. You may feel tired when you first start exercising, but you'll develop stamina over time.

A more active immune system. You're less likely to catch viral illnesses such as colds and flu if you're a regular exerciser. Your immune system is activated by aerobic exercise. 

Managed weight. Aerobic exercise, together with a healthy diet, can help you lose weight and keep it off.  

Stronger bones. Weight-bearing aerobic exercise, such as walking, can help reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis

Better mood. Aerobic exercise may help you relieve tension and anxiety. It may also help you relax and sleep better. For some people, exercise is as effective as antidepressants at lessening depression.  

Staying independent longer. Exercising makes you stronger and can help you stay mobile longer. It can also lower your risk of falls and injuries. Fitness will improve the quality of your life as you age.   

Fewer unhealthy behaviors. Time spent exercising is better than that spent smoking, drinking alcohol, or gambling. Exercise may also help regulate overeating. 

Almost everyone can benefit from physical exercise. However, not every exercise is right for everyone. Talk to your doctor about the best type of exercise for you. 

Start simple. If you're new to exercise, you may benefit from as little as 15 minutes of exercise. Work your way up to 30 minutes per day at least 3 days per week. Doing this should result in a measurable improvement in your cardiovascular endurance in eight to 12 weeks.  

Pick something you enjoy. Aerobic exercise is any nonstop activity that uses your large muscles and makes your heart and lungs work harder. You can pick one you enjoy or rotate through many different ones. Some examples include:

Don't overdo it. Doing the same type of exercise more than 5 days per week puts you at a higher risk for injuries. If you want to work out more than 5 days per week, change it up with exercises that use different muscle groups. Do some low- and then some high-impact activities to avoid too much stress on your joints and muscles.

Gradually work up. You should aim to push yourself slightly more than your normal movement level. Bump up your speed or distance no more than 10% to 20% each week. You should feel challenged, but not completely exhausted. For every 10 minutes you exercise, add 1 or 2 minutes weekly. 

Warm up, cool down, and stretch. Start by working at a low level for 5 to 10 minutes to warm up. Then gradually build up how hard you work until you reach your limit.

After you finish working at full intensity, slow down for 5 to 10 minutes before you stop. Stretch at this point, since your muscles will be warmed up.