You know that feeling you get when you feel tanked during exercise and can’t go on any more? That’s related to your level of cardio endurance—or your stamina. You may think the term only applies to seasoned athletes, but cardio endurance affects everyone, no matter what your fitness level.
Improving your cardio endurance makes it easier for you to perform everyday activities and more strenuous exercise. You won’t get winded as easy when you’re taking a walk and will be able to perform any type of physical activity for a longer period of time before you feel like you’ve hit a wall. That’s because your cardio endurance measures your body’s ability to supply oxygen to your muscles and organs during sustained physical activity.
What is cardio endurance?
Cardio endurance, also called cardiovascular endurance or aerobic endurance, refers to how well your respiratory and circulatory systems can deliver oxygen throughout your body. It starts with your heart and lungs. These two major organs work together to pump and transport oxygen-rich blood through your veins so they can reach your muscles and organs. The better they can do that, and the longer they can keep it up when you perform any type of physical activity, the higher your cardio endurance.
How can I improve my cardio endurance?
Any exercise that increases your heart rate and makes you breathe harder works to strengthen your cardio endurance, but aerobic exercise does it best. Walking, jogging, running, cycling and swimming all improve the ability of your heart and lungs to transport oxygen through your body. Other activities involving repetitive movements that keep your heart and breathing rate elevated, such as playing tennis or basketball, also are good options. Increasing the length and/or intensity of your workouts can boost your cardio endurance, but do it slowly so your body has time to adapt. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can also help.
Is there an easy way to measure my cardio endurance?
One of the easiest ways to gauge your cardio endurance is with something called the “talk test.” Exercise at a level where you can still carry on a conversation and see how long you can do it for (also note how fast you’re going). As your cardio endurance improves, you’ll find that you can maintain that same intensity for a longer period of time, or you can up the intensity and maintain that higher intensity for the same amount of time, while still being able to talk. When this happens, it’s a sign that your cardio endurance is improving.
If I’m not an athlete, why should I care about my cardio endurance?
The better your cardio endurance, the easier you’ll find it to take a walk, play a sport or go for a bike ride. You won’t quickly get winded when you do other types of activities either, such as carrying groceries or playing with your grandchildren. But since you’ll need to exercise to improve cardio endurance, you’ll also reap other benefits in addition to improving your stamina. These include reducing your risk for heart disease, diabetes and some other chronic health conditions; improving immune health and sleep quality; strengthening bones; and making it easier to lose weight or reduce stress.