Cardiovascular endurance is a way to estimate a person’s physical fitness. People of all ages can improve their cardiovascular endurance by adding aerobic activity to their days and increasing the amount and difficulty of the exercise. This provides many health benefits, whether you’re a child or an adult.
Cardiovascular endurance, or aerobic fitness, is how well your heart and lungs can supply the oxygen you need while you exercise at medium to high intensity. If you have good cardiovascular endurance, you can exercise at medium intensity for a long time (and high intensity for a while) before it makes you tired. This is because your body is able to keep getting the oxygen it needs during exercise.
Strong cardiovascular endurance allows your body to move your blood efficiently so you can get more oxygen to your cells. This oxygen serves as an energy source to fuel the cells in your tissues and muscles.
Cardiovascular endurance has many benefits, including:
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Using equipment made for this purpose, you can measure the estimated maximum amount of oxygen you consume with tests that involve:
The advantage of using the shuttle run is that it doesn’t require equipment. For the purposes of judging school teammates’ cardiovascular endurance, a coach can count how many times each student can run between the two set points.
Active young people may have a maximum oxygen consumption (use) of 35 to 50 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of weight per minute. Endurance athletes may use 70 to 85 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of weight per minute.
People who’ve had a stroke may only have a maximum oxygen consumption of 8 to 23 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of weight per minute. With modest aerobic exercise, they can improve this by 10% to 15%.
You can improve your cardiovascular endurance by doing activities that increase the amount of oxygen you breathe in. You can start with 10 to 15 minutes of cardiovascular endurance exercises a day. Then you can challenge your body a little at a time by adding a few minutes each day. (Adults should get at least 150 minutes of exercise every week.)
In addition to adding more minutes, you can increase how far you walk or make it harder by raising the incline on your treadmill. All of these push your body harder and improve your cardiovascular endurance.
A study of children in elementary school found that they increased their cardiovascular endurance after they went to physical education class four times a week instead of twice a week.
Multiple studies found people improved their cardiovascular endurance by 4% to 13.5% after two to eight weeks of sprint exercises. Three times a week, they pushed their hardest for 10 to 30 seconds at a time. They repeated this three to seven times with two to five minutes to recover between sprints.
This type of exercise adds brief times of high-intensity activity between periods of lower-intensity activity. A study found that HIIT improved people’s cardiovascular endurance by 38% to 79%.
Exercises that improve your cardiovascular endurance make you breathe in more oxygen and make your heart rate go up. Examples of cardiovascular endurance activities include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
No matter what age you are, you can improve your cardiovascular endurance. Ask a healthcare provider to help you make a plan to boost your cardiovascular endurance. You’ll feel better and have an easier time with everyday tasks. Start slowly and stick with it to see the best results.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/21/2023.
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