How to Improve Cardiovascular Endurance

woman improving cardio endurance

Why Improve Cardiovascular Endurance?

Cardiovascular endurance is the most important element in any fitness program, as aerobic exercise is basically strength training for your heart. A strong heart will not only help prevent a number of health problems, but it can essentially help add years to your life!

Here’s how to improve cardiovascular endurance to allow the body to successfully distribute oxygen to other body systems, increasing both muscle function and performance.

Cardiovascular Training Guidelines

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most adults need a minimum of 150 minutes, or 5 30-minute sessions, of moderate-intensity aerobic activities each week. Aerobic sessions can include any activity that gets the heart pumping, such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or dancing.

To get the most out of training, and to help prevent injuries, each session should begin with a 5-15 minute warm up and conclude with a 5-15 minute cool down.

Understand the Role of Your Heart Rate

Just as a bodybuilder would not begin his first strength-training session with excessive weight or repetitions, it is important for those wishing to improve cardiovascular endurance to avoid working the heart too hard, too soon. Click here to learn about cardio conditioning.

The best way for an individual to improve cardiovascular endurance is to consistently and systematically work within his/her target heart rate range, increasing intensity and duration over time. The idea is to make the heart work hard enough to allow it to gradually adapt and improve its function, without forcing it to work so hard that it gives up. It is best to increase duration before increasing intensity.

How to Calculate Your Target Heart Rate Range

Calculating Your Target Heart RateLearning how to monitor heart rate during training sessions is key to maintaining an appropriate level of intensity during workouts. While there are many heart rate monitors on the market, and most aerobic exercise machines come equipped with one, it’s easy to estimate your heart rate without any technology at all. Simply find your pulse at the carotid artery in your neck or in the radial artery on the inside of the wrist and count the number of beats for 10 seconds.  Multiply this number by 6 to get a quick estimate of your heart rate in beats per minute.

An individual’s target heart rate range can be calculated by subtracting his/her age from 220 and then multiplying by an appropriate training intensity percentage, ranging from 40-85% (.40-.85). As cardiovascular endurance improves, intensity percentages increase, until cardiovascular endurance has been established. Click here to learn more about cardiovascular exercise.

Implement a Three-Stage Program

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends a three-stage training progression to improve cardiovascular endurance in healthy individuals.

Initial Stage

The Initial Stage of training generally lasts for 4 weeks. During this stage, healthy individuals should begin to incorporate a consistent aerobic exercise program consisting of 15-30 minute workouts on 3-4 days each week. The duration and frequency of workouts should be determined by how well an individual tolerates the training, his/her age, and his/her health history. Workouts should be completed at a target heart rate range of 40-50%.

Improvement Stage

The target heart rate range for individuals in the improvement stage should gradually increase from 60-70% to 70-85% over the course of 20 weeks, or 5 months. Workouts prescribed during this stage should generally be completed on 3-5 days each week and should last for 25-40 minutes. Again, it duration and frequency should be increased before intensity.

Maintenance Stage

In the final stage of the progression, individuals are ready to maintain their current healthy cardiovascular function, hence the term, Maintenance Stage. Workouts during this stage should be completed in 30-45 minute sessions on 3-5 days each week at a target heart rate range of 70-85%.

Final Thoughts

With these simple tips and guidelines you should be well on your way to improved cardio stamina and performance.  Regular cardiovascular training will keep your body in peak shape and you will definitely see tangible results from an effective and consistent cardio routine.  Remember, cardio isn’t only great for maintaining your body weight, you will likely add more years to your life. This means more time with your loved ones and more time with them means a healthier happier life!

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Author Profile: Kym Votruba

Kym is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, a health/fitness advocate, youth sports coach, and an experienced freelance writer who specializes in active lifestyle content including health, fitness, sports, nutrition, travel and more.

Disclaimer: The views of the author are his or her own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Ask The Trainer.
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