What to know about cardiorespiratory endurance

Sybil T. Mann

Last update July 28, 2020 by editorial board

Cardiorespiratory endurance is an indication of a person’s overall physical health. Cardiorespiratory endurance tests monitor the proper functioning of the heart, lungs and muscles during moderate to intense exercise. Increasing cardiorespiratory endurance improves oxygen uptake in the lungs and heart and can help a person sustain physical activity for longer. Other names for cardiorespiratory endurance include cardiovascular fitness, cardiovascular endurance, and cardiorespiratory fitness. In this article, we discuss what cardiorespiratory endurance is, how a person can measure it, and why it matters. We also see how to improve cardiorespiratory endurance, including some examples of exercises.

What is that?

Cardiorespiratory endurance measures the body’s performance during long periods of exercise. A person with high cardiorespiratory endurance can sustain high intensity activity for a long time without getting tired. Measuring a person’s cardiorespiratory endurance involves examining how the body takes in and uses oxygen. When a person inhales, the lungs fill with air and some of the oxygen it contains passes into the bloodstream. This oxygen-rich blood then travels to the heart, which circulates it around the body to the tissues and organs that need it. Muscles require an adequate supply of oxygen and other nutrients to function properly during intense or prolonged periods of exercise. If your muscles don’t get enough nutrients, waste products begin to build up and cause fatigue. A person’s level of cardiorespiratory endurance can directly affect physical performance.

How is it measured?

Tests that measure cardiorespiratory endurance include:

Metabolic equivalents

Metabolic equivalents (METs) refer to the ratio of energy expended during physical activity to energy expended at rest. Finding a person’s MET involves measuring the amount of oxygen the body uses at rest.

Maximum oxygen uptake

The maximum oxygen test (VO2 max) determines the maximum amount of oxygen the body is able to use during high intensity activities, such as sprinting or cycling. The VO2 max test typically involves running on a treadmill or pedaling on an exercise bike as fast as possible. During the test, the person wears a chest strap or other body attachment that records heart rate and a face mask that measures oxygen consumption.

Because it’s important?

Cardiorespiratory endurance indicates a person’s level of aerobic health and fitness. This information can benefit everyone, not just professional athletes. Having high cardiorespiratory endurance generally means that a person can perform high intensity exercises for longer. People trying to lose weight may want to focus on increasing their cardiorespiratory endurance because doing high-intensity aerobic activities can help a person burn more calories. Scientific research also suggests other potential health benefits of improved cardiorespiratory endurance. For example:

  • A 2017 study suggests that people with higher cardiorespiratory endurance are less likely to develop high blood pressure than those with lower cardiorespiratory endurance.
  • In a 2015 study, researchers found a positive correlation between cardiorespiratory endurance levels and multitasking performance among adults aged 59 to 80.
  • Improving cardiorespiratory endurance can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and all-cause mortality, according to a 2015 study.

How to improve it

People can improve their cardiorespiratory endurance through regular exercise. Authors of a 2019 study reported that resistance training, resistance training, and high intensity interval training led to improvements in cardiorespiratory endurance and muscle strength among adults aged 40-65 and who were not previously physically active. A 2017 study investigated the effectiveness of a 12-week cross-circuit training program in overweight and intellectual disability students. Researchers found that participants who followed the training program had greater physical endurance, muscle strength, and body mass index. The following exercises can help improve cardiorespiratory endurance, build muscle, and burn calories. People can do these physical activities at home or add them to their exercise routine. Try doing these exercises in sets of 10-15 repetitions, or as many repetitions as possible for 1 minute with a 20-second break between sets.

Jumping Jack:

  1. Start by standing with your legs together and your arms at the sides of your body.
  2. Skip. While in the air, open your legs to spread your feet apart and raise your arms above your head.
  3. When landing, bring your feet and arms back to the starting position.

Burpees:

  1. Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees and place your hands on the floor in front to come down to a squat position.
  3. Jump your legs back to enter the push-up position, shifting your body weight onto your hands.
  4. Jump your feet back into the squat position.
  5. Jump into the air with your arms raised above your head.
  6. Land in the squat position.

Alpinists (racing boards):

  1. Start in the plank position, aligning your shoulders over your wrists and keeping your legs straight. Keep your back flat and your head aligned with your spine.
  2. Engage the core muscles.
  3. Bring your right knee towards your chest.
  4. Swap the legs by returning the right leg to the starting position and bringing the left knee towards the chest. This completes one rep.

Side shuffle touches:

  1. Begin in a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart and arms down from the sides.
  2. Bend your knees and squat.
  3. Blend right shoulder width and then tap the floor outside your right foot with the pads of your right hand.
  4. Blend a left shoulder width and then tap the floor off the left foot with the fingertips of the left hand.
  5. This is a repeat.

Other exercises that can help improve cardiorespiratory fitness include:

  • running
  • walking power
  • I swim
  • dance
  • jump the rope
  • high-intensity sports, such as basketball and soccer

Summary

Cardiorespiratory endurance is a measure of how well the heart, lungs and muscles perform during moderate to high intensity physical activity. Regular physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, can improve cardiorespiratory endurance. Aerobic exercises can help promote heart and lung health and improve the way the body circulates and uses oxygen.

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