The physical activity from cardiovascular exercise is generally considered an important part of a healthy lifestyle. These activities fire up your cardiovascular system to move oxygen to your muscles, a vital bodily function that supports an array of potential health benefits. Learn more about why cardiovascular fitness is so important — and how to best include it in your life.
What Is Cardiovascular Fitness?
Cardiovascular exercise increases your heart rate in order to supply oxygen to your muscles. You can typically identify cardiovascular exercise as any activity that:
- Activates your body’s large muscle groups, like the legs
- Is continuous and done with rhythmic movements
- Increases your heart rate and breathing1
What’s The Difference Between Cardio And Aerobic Training
Aerobic fitness also increases your heart rate and breathing, which makes it a type of cardiovascular fitness. So, many people use the terms “cardio” and “aerobic” interchangeably.
Aerobic training, however, is a distinct form of cardio exercise that is done over an extended period of time. Anaerobic exercise, which is also a type of cardiovascular exercise, is done in short intervals. Both are forms of cardiovascular fitness and effective ways to increase your heart rate.2
Common Types Of Cardiovascular Exercise
Many types of physical fitness activate the heart and cardiovascular system. Some of the most common training methods, both aerobic and anaerobic, include:
Easy to moderate-intensity distance exercises:
Moderate-to-intense interval style training:
- Stair climbing
- Dance and aerobics for fitness
High-intensity continuous activity:
- Cross-country skiing
Additional Types Of Cardiovascular Fitness
Not all cardiovascular exercise has to take place in the gym. Fun activities and even chores around the house can increase your blood circulation to support your physical stamina. Common alternative cardiovascular fitness options include:
- Mowing the lawn
- Tai chi
- Heavy gardening5
Understanding Cardiovascular Endurance
Your cardiovascular endurance refers to how long and effectively you’re able to perform a particular cardio workout or activity. Your cardio endurance depends on your body’s ability to supply oxygen to active muscles for energy. The stronger your cardio endurance, the longer your body can provide energy to your muscles. That’s why a new runner may only do a few laps around the track, whereas a seasoned runner can go for hours.6
How To Build Your Cardiovascular Endurance
Some of the more common endurance exercises – running, swimming, biking – might come to mind when you think about building your endurance. But, any activity that requires repetitive motion over an extended period of time can help build your cardiovascular endurance. So, an evening of dancing or an afternoon tending to the garden may also build up your endurance.7
Why Is Cardiovascular Exercise Important?
As the name suggests, cardiovascular exercise relates to the heart and the way in which it provides energy to the body. When your heart rate increases from cardiovascular exercise, it moves oxygen-rich blood to your muscles for energy. This circulatory process powers your exercise and motion. It also supports many crucial bodily functions that support your heart health and physical well-being.8
Potential Health Benefits Of Cardiovascular Fitness And Endurance
Regular cardiovascular exercise may help support:
- Weight loss
- Heart health
- Healthy cholesterol levels
- Lung health9
Regular cardiovascular fitness can support your body’s ability to consume and convert oxygen into energy. This can boost general muscle function and physical performance, which decreases fatigue when doing normal, daily tasks.10
The effects of exercise can have a big impact on your brain health and mood. Physical activity can support memory and thinking. Plus, routine exercise can give your mood a boost while also releasing serotonin and dopamine to fight off low mood.11
Longevity Support For Older Adults
One large study found that regular cardiovascular exercise was associated with longer life spans. In fact, the more participants worked out, the longer their life expectancy became. Additionally, they found that people over age 70 saw the biggest increase in longevity from cardio fitness.12
How Much Cardiovascular Exercise Do You Need?
The American Heart Association recommends that adults perform 150 minutes per week of light to moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activities. This is best done in intervals throughout the week. For example, you could do five days per week of exercise for about 30 minutes per day.13
Older adults, in particular, may benefit from meeting these basic fitness requirements. Regular physical exercise can strengthen the heart and muscles to support performance with daily tasks. As such, older adults may then be able to enjoy more independence at home.14 Of course, you should always speak to your doctor to determine how much, and what type of exercise is right for you.
Tips To Support Your Cardiovascular Fitness
Tony Horton appreciates that maintaining a regular cardiovascular fitness program can be challenging. So, he’s offering up a few ideas and tips for anyone looking to stay active and engaged with regular cardiovascular exercise.
Note: Always speak to a physician before starting any new cardiovascular exercises.
Increase Your Workout Intensity Gradually
Whether you’re new to fitness or a seasoned pro, it’s a good idea to progress and build your cardiovascular fitness levels slowly. As you build strength and endurance, you can begin to gradually increase distance, difficulty, or time to your workout. Be realistic with your goals, and keep things enjoyable.15
Mix Things Up To Keep Cardiovascular Fitness Interesting
There are lots of ways to get your cardio exercise, and you don’t need to commit to any one practice. In fact, adding some variety to the type and intensity of your daily activities could help you strengthen a broader set of muscles. Plus, it may make you less likely to become bored and give up on your fitness plan.16
Track Your Progress
There are all sorts of nifty gadgets available that can measure your heart rate and other fitness metrics. A heart rate monitor worn on the wrist like a watch lets you track changes to your heart rate. This measurement can give you precise information regarding your exercise capacity and progress.17
Make Cardiovascular Fitness A Part Of An Overall Healthy Lifestyle
You don’t need to clock miles on the race track to improve your cardiovascular health. Any activity that increases your heart rate counts as cardiovascular fitness. Fun activities like dancing or gardening can be considered exercise, so long as you get that heart pumping.
Regular cardiovascular exercise may provide you with many important potential health benefits. Even a few minutes of exercise each day is better than doing nothing at all. So, try to incorporate some new activities into your daily life. The results could mean a healthier, happier, more independent you. But, always consult with a physician before starting any new exercises.