If you’re like me, think about your heart health every day. Whether it’s cutting out red meat at dinner, choosing heart-healthy cereals for breakfast, or taking a long walk every afternoon, there are many ways I make to support this vital organ. Of course, we all know how important heart health is, especially as we age, and one of the best ways to keep our hearts in tip-top shape is to improve our cardiovascular endurance. But what exactly is cardiovascular endurance and how can you improve it? Read on for answers to these questions and more.
What is cardiovascular endurance?
Cardiovascular endurance, also known as cardiorespiratory fitness or cardiorespiratory endurance, is a measure of how well you can exercise over time. If you have high cardiovascular endurance, you might be able to run a few miles without stopping. If you’re low on endurance, chances are you’ll be huffing and puffing after just a few minutes of endurance training. (Guilty!)
While all types of exercise are important to maintaining your overall health, cardiovascular endurance holds a special place in my heart (pun intended) as it can help improve your body’s ability to fight off certain diseases, in particular as you get older. We’ve all heard from doctors about the importance of regular exercise in slowing down the aging process of your heart and arteries, and recent scientific studies have shown that people with higher cardiovascular endurance have a lower risk of developing high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease Diabetes.
So, even if you loathe cardio, it’s time to put that hatred aside. It’s clear that cardio and high-intensity exercise are vital to maintaining heart health and improving longevity. And the health benefits don’t end there.
How is cardiovascular endurance measured?
Cardiovascular endurance is measured by how well your body can use a given amount of oxygen. H. how much oxygen you can take in during high-intensity aerobic activity like sprinting or swimming. There are several ways to measure cardiovascular endurance and aerobic fitness, some you can do at home and others are more challenging.
In order to measure your cardiovascular endurance, it’s important to understand the different types of heart rates and what they mean. According to the Experts, your resting heart rate is your resting heart rate, ideally right after waking up in the morning, but at least more than two hours after a workout or stressful event. The normal resting heart rate for an adult is 60 to 100 beats per minute.
Your target heart rate is the heart rate you need to achieve to give your lungs and heart a solid workout, and this varies by age. For example, for adults around the age of 55, your target heart rate is between 83 and 140 beats per minute. To measure your heart rate, you can find your pulse either on your wrist just below your thumb or on your neck. Press two fingers on your pulse and count the number of beats for 15 seconds. Multiply that number by four, that’s your heart rate.
How are you? Is your resting heart rate closer to 60 beats per minute or closer to 100? This can give you an indication of how high your cardiovascular endurance is or how much room for improvement you have. More sophisticated tests to measure cardiovascular endurance include metabolic equivalents or METs and maximal oxygen uptake or VO2 max. These tests would likely be performed by a sport medicine specialist or professional athlete hoping to improve their performance.
So how can you improve your cardiovascular endurance? The answer is simple: incorporate more cardio into your daily physical activity. But before you groan and stop reading, listen to me, it doesn’t all have to be great or all joyless. Below I’ve compiled my four favorite ways to improve cardiovascular endurance.
One of my favorite ways to improve cardiovascular endurance is by dancing. There’s no better way to exercise and relieve stress than by blasting a move. To start dancing, drop by your local YMCA or gym, they likely offer different types of dance classes, from zumba to ballroom to water dancing.
It can be difficult to push yourself enough to reach your target heart rate on your own, but a fitness trainer will make sure your muscles are working and getting in the perfect zone. Plus, you can join a friend for a workout AND a social hour? Yes, please! If you don’t have a gym membership or are afraid to dance in front of a group, have another resource at hand: there are hundreds and hundreds of exercise programs on YouTube, including dance classes. No matter your skill level or time commitment, a YouTube workout is available.
You can perform these dance moves and increase your cardiovascular endurance without ever leaving the comfort of your home.
Another of my favorite cardio workouts is swimming. As with dancing, you’ll likely find countless swim training classes at your local gym or YMCA, or check when lap swimming is open and do your own thing.
While swimming may be less accessible than other types of cardio, it’s not like you can do a YouTube swim workout in your basement. I put it number two on my list because it’s so amazing for your heart and lungs. The double whammy of using your whole body while holding your breath means that a good swim will push your fitness level and overall health to the max. In fact, some studies show that swimming may be the best thing you can do to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and increase cardiovascular endurance. Talk about a good workout!
But the real reason I love swimming so much is the lack of impact. Water cushions and supports your joints, allowing for high-intensity aerobic activity without the effects of running, dancing, or other types of cardio. For those of us aging out of our marathon days, cardio doesn’t get much better than swimming.
High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
There’s no resource more valuable than time, which probably explains the explosive popularity of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. HIIT provides the best workout in the least amount of time by alternating between high-intensity and low-intensity cardio (hence interval training).
For example, you could run three miles with a one-minute sprint every half mile. Or do a 30-minute dance workout with one minute of burpees every six minutes. The combination of endurance and high-intensity workouts pushes your heart and lungs to the limit and is scientifically proven to increase your aerobic capacity, burn fat and improve your overall fitness level.
But the craziest part is how HIIT compares to traditional cardio workouts. A 2016 study found that daily 10-minute interval training was just as effective at improving oxygen uptake as 50-minute continuous pace training.
In other words, work some sprints into your run and you’ll see the same improvement in your cardiovascular system in 10 minutes as you would from a 50-minute jog. Ten minutes of running or 50? Um, I’ll take 10, please! The best thing about HIIT is that you can incorporate it into any type of exercise, be it dancing, swimming, boxing, rowing or any other type of cardio. If you’re a runner, add some sprints to your routine. If you enjoy bodyweight training, add in some burpees. You can use HIIT for whatever workout routine you like the most.
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