Leading a sedentary, or inactive, lifestyle is one of the five major risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. While leading an active, healthy life is not a guarantee against heart disease, it can significantly lower your risk. If you are new to exercise, or returning after a long break, it can be daunting to start a cardiorespiratory program. Setting small, attainable goals will help you improve your endurance and your health.
Cardiorespiratory, or cardiovascular, endurance is defined as the body's ability to continue exertion while getting energy from the aerobic system used to supply the body with energy. It lasts for an extended period of time, and raises your heart and respiration rates. As your cardiorespiratory endurance improves you become more efficient at exercise and your heart and lungs work better as well. Gradually working harder and longer during your exercise sessions will allow you to safely and effectively reach your goals.
Frequency of exercise is one of the principles you need to address to improve endurance. Start with a small goal, one that is easily attainable and fits into your life. For example, if you do not currently exercise, try performing cardio three times per week on nonconsecutive days. Look at your schedule and choose a time of day that works for you and write it down in your calendar like any other appointment. Try this for two to four weeks, then add another day each week. Build up so you are doing cardio at least five times per week.
The more intense your exercise, the more benefits you can gain. But this does not mean you should exercise all out right from the start. Begin with a moderate-intensity exercise such as brisk walking or cycling. Once this becomes easier, increase your intensity. Walk on a hill, add brief intervals of jogging or try the elliptical or another piece of cardio equipment. Build up so you are exercising at a moderate to vigorous intensity, but not so hard that you feel dizzy or lightheaded.
The amount of time you spend exercising is another factor you can use to set goals. You may need to start with very little exercise and increase duration over a few weeks. Start with as little as 10 minutes up to three times per day each day you plan to exercise. Each week add 10 percent, so the next week do 11 minutes per session. Build up so each session lasts 30 to 60 minutes. This will help you fit exercise into your life, improve your endurance and make exercise a habit.
- Circulation: Exercise and Cardiovascular Health
- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription
- Health Guidance.org: Definition of Cardiovascular Endurance
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