Whether you are training for a marathon, hiking up a mountain, or climbing the stairs to your bedroom, there is one thing you will need for all three activities: cardiovascular endurance.
Understanding cardiovascular endurance is the first step to being able to improve it. We’ll touch on what cardiovascular endurance is, how to measure it and how to improve it.
What Is Cardiovascular Endurance?
Cardiovascular endurance is a measure of how well you can perform large-muscle, dynamic exercises at moderate to high intensity for an extended period of time (typically over 20 to 30 minutes). It is a measurement of your body’s ability to remove carbon dioxide and pump oxygen-rich blood to your organs. This makes cardiovascular endurance a direct indicator of heart function, lung capacity, and muscle function. If you have high cardiovascular endurance, you’ll be able to perform intense exercises and workouts longer than someone who has low cardiovascular endurance.
Here’s the science behind it: When you inhale, your body draws in oxygen from the outside world, filling your lungs. Some of this oxygen helps you continue breathing while other oxygen atoms are transferred into the bloodstream. This oxygen-rich blood then travels to the heart where it’s pumped out to your muscles, cells, and organs through the circulatory system.
When you engage in strenuous physical activity, your muscles need more oxygen than when you’re resting. This means your cardiovascular system works harder than normal to move oxygenated blood to your working muscles. If you have poor cardiovascular endurance, you won’t get enough oxygen to your muscles and you may feel light-headed or start to experience fatigue.
How To Measure Cardiovascular Endurance
Cardiovascular endurance involves measuring the amount of oxygen your body uses during intense exercise. There are two metrics used to provide insight into the health of your cardiorespiratory system: METs and VO2 Max.
Metabolic equivalent (MET) is a ratio of the amount of oxygen consumed while at rest compared to the amount of energy expended when you’re exercising. One MET is the calculation of how much energy, measured in calories, you expend while at rest. The number of METs you use up during exercise indicates how much harder you are working. These MET scores can be derived from a stress test using a treadmill or stationary bike, usually performed at a medical facility or sports clinic.
The second test measures your VO2 Max, which is also known as maximal oxygen uptake. This test measures the maximum amount of oxygen your body consumes during sustained and exhaustive exercise. The test is performed while an individual performs graded maximal exercise on a treadmill or a bike, while wearing a mask measuring oxygen consumption as well as a heart rate monitor. VO2 Max tests are generally expensive and performed by a clinician or exercise physiologist.
Why Cardiovascular Endurance Matters
Having high cardiovascular endurance means you can perform strenuous activities for longer periods of time. This is important not just in the gym, but for performing daily tasks in everyday life. Increasing cardiovascular endurance has a positive impact on overall health and fitness. Focusing on improving cardiovascular endurance can also be beneficial to maintaining a healthy body composition, due to performing higher levels of aerobic activity. Additionally, you may experience improved sleep, decreased stress and improved immune system.
The good news is that cardiovascular endurance can be improved with small changes to daily movement and exercise.
How To Improve Cardiovascular Endurance
The best way to improve your endurance levels is to increase the volume and intensity of your exercise. While all types of exercise can improve endurance, some are more effective than others.
Aerobic activity is particularly useful as it involves sustaining high output for extended periods of time. This can help increase your heart’s stroke volume, so your heart will become more efficient in pumping oxygenated blood to muscles with every beat. It may also help improve lung capacity, meaning you’ll increase your VO2 max over time.
Aerobic exercise is different from anaerobic exercises, which involve short bursts of energy and include activities like weight training programs, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and sprints. Endurance exercises like jump rope, running, swimming, dancing, and mountain biking are all great aerobic activities.
You can also play sports including: soccer, hockey and basketball. Basically, you’re looking for exercises that require you to maintain moderate activity levels for long periods of time. This will help train your body to use oxygen more efficiently and improve your cardiovascular endurance.
Anaerobic exercise programs on the other hand are also important as they can strengthen your ability to perform at peak levels. This will help increase your VO2 max, and over time, you’ll be able to perform at a higher intensity without feeling fatigued as quickly. Incorporate higher intensity exercises such as calisthenics, heavy weightlifting, and resistance training to improve your cardiovascular endurance.
How Biostrap Can Help
When it comes to health and performance, Biostrap is the ultimate tool. Our devices make it easy to track health metrics and give you insights into your overall health and performance. Whether you’re looking to maximize your endurance training or focus on strength training and working certain muscle groups, our devices make it easy to reach your goals.
Our Biostrap Recover Set is perfect to monitor your health while you’re asleep. Besides various sleep parameters, it measures your resting heart rate, oxygen saturation, heart rate variability, and respiratory rate. To accurately track your active heart rate, HRV, caloric expenditure and heart rate progression, make sure to grab one of our external heart rate monitors — armband or chest strap.
With the Biostrap Active Set, you can track everything from rep consistency and caloric burn to exercise duration and heart rate progression, so you can quantify and work toward improving your cardiovascular endurance!