Cardiovascular Endurance: What It Is and How You Can Improve It

Those of us interested in fitness are always looking for new ways to improve performance and overall health. Working on cardiovascular endurance is one way for health-conscious individuals to hack their fitness regimen. Also known as cardiorespiratory endurance or cardiovascular fitness, this health indicator reflects how well your body performs during high-intensity exercises.

Understanding cardiovascular endurance is the first step to being able to improve it. Here, we’ll show you what cardiovascular endurance is, how to measure it, and how to improve it. You’ll find ways to support your heart, lungs, and muscles so they can perform better and you can reach new fitness goals.

Note: The information in this article is the opinion of the article’s author and does not represent the opinion of Biostrap or its affiliates. This article is for informational purposes and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult a qualified professional if you require medical attention.

What Is Cardiovascular Endurance?

Cardiovascular endurance: Swimmer doing butterfly strokeCardiovascular endurance is a metric used to measure your body’s overall performance during higher intensity exercises. It’s an indicator of heart health, lung health, and muscle function. It’s a measurement of your body’s ability to remove carbon dioxide and pump oxygen-rich blood to your organs. 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 breathe, your body draws in oxygen from the outside world, filling your lungs with air. Some of this oxygen helps you continue breathing while other oxygen atoms are transferred into the bloodstream. This oxygen-rich blood then moves to the heart where it’s pumped out to your muscles, cells, and organs via blood vessels.

When you partake in strenuous physical activity, your muscles need more oxygen than when you’re resting. This means your cardiovascular system works harder than normal to pump oxygenated blood to your working muscles. If you have poor cardiovascular endurance, you won’t get enough oxygen to your muscles, and you’ll start to experience fatigue.

How To Measure Cardiovascular Endurance

Cardiovascular endurance: Woman running up the mountainCardiovascular 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. Here’s a quick breakdown of how each works.


Metabolic equivalents (METs) is a ratio of the amount of oxygen you use at rest compared to when you’re exercising. One MET is the calculation of how much energy you expend while at rest. The number of METs you expend during exercise indicates how much harder you’re working. For example, a four METs indicator during moderate exercise means your body is working four times as hard as when you’re at rest.

This test — also known as a stress test — is typically done at a sports clinic or medical office. During the test, you’ll ride a stationary bike or run on the treadmill while your doctor tracks your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing using electrodes.

VO2 Max

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 high-intensity activities. The measurement used is milliliters of oxygen consumed every minute per kilogram of your body weight (mL/kg/min). VO2 tests are generally expensive and usually reserved for serious athletes.

During the test, the athlete is given oxygen via a mask and is then put under physical strain by an activity like running on a treadmill. The degree of difficulty increases over the course of the test and ends when the athlete reaches peak heart rate.

Since testing is expensive, there are other ways you can measure your VO2 max rate at home. Factors including age, resting heart rate, maximum heart rate, lung health, and heart health can all play a role in your VO2 Max. To determine a general VO2 Max, you can use the following formula:

VO2 Max = 15.3 × (Maximum heart rate ÷ Resting heart rate)

To calculate your maximum heart rate, measure the number of beats per minute, and multiply it by your age. To calculate your resting heart rate, count the number of beats for 20 seconds, and multiply by three.

Why Cardiovascular Endurance Matters

Cardiovascular endurance: A group of bikers in a marathonHaving high cardiovascular endurance means you can perform strenuous activities for longer periods of time. If your main goal is weight loss, you may be able to shed pounds faster by by maintaining high levels of aerobic exercise. Aerobic activity can help burn fat and calories, getting you one step closer to your goal.

Aside from fitness goals, cardiovascular endurance may also help keep you healthy. One study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that high levels of cardiorespiratory endurance were linked to a lower risk of hypertension. Another study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that cardiorespiratory fitness may be effective in reducing the risk of heart disease. Additional studies show that cardiovascular endurance may enhance brain activation and dual-task performance in certain individuals.

Essentially, having high cardiovascular endurance means you can perform at a higher intensity for a longer period of time. So, you’ll get more out of your workouts. Plus you can participate in endurance activities such as marathons, Iron Man races, and triathlons more effectively.

How To Improve Cardiovascular Endurance

Cardiovascular endurance: Running and showing strong leg musclesOnce you know your cardiovascular endurance level and how to measure it, you can work to improve it. The best way to do this is to partake in regular physical activity. 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 your body become more efficient in delivering oxygenated blood to muscles. It may also help improve lung capacity, meaning you’ll increase your VO2 max over time.

Cardio 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 jumping rope, running, swimming, dancing, and mountain biking are all great aerobic fitness choices.

You can also play high-intensity 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 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 weight lifting, and resistance training to improve your cardiovascular endurance.

How Biostrap Can Help

Cardiovascular endurance: Fit lady holding on to ropesWhen it comes to fitness, Biostrap is the ultimate tool. Our wearable tracker makes it easy to track health metrics and gives you insight into your overall fitness. Whether you’re looking to maximize your endurance training or focus on strength training and working certain muscle groups, the tracker makes it easy to reach your physical fitness goals. The wearable can help you calculate your resting heart rate, monitor your oxygen saturation, and find your heart rate variability.

You can also customize activity classification so the wearable will monitor your every move to provide insight into your performance. With Biostrap, you can track everything from rep consistency and caloric burn to exercise duration so you can improve your cardiovascular endurance.

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