How to Improve Your Cardiorespiratory Endurance

cardiorespiratory endurance
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Cardiorespiratory endurance is a measurement of how well your heart, lungs, and muscles work together to keep your body active over an extended period of time. Exercisers can improve cardiorespiratory endurance by participating in a program of regular aerobic exercise. Improved cardiorespiratory fitness provides numerous health benefits.

How to Measure Endurance

When experts test cardiorespiratory endurance in a lab, they measure how well your heart and lungs deliver oxygen to your working muscles so that they can work hard during exercise. When your muscles don't get the nutrients they need, waste products build up and cause fatigue.

So how do scientists measure cardiorespiratory endurance? Sometimes they test the air that you breathe out during vigorous exercise. By analyzing your exhaled air, they can estimate how efficiently your muscles are using oxygen.

But this procedure, called a VO2 max test, requires that you work at an extremely vigorous intensity. So the test isn't safe for everyone. Generally, a VO2 max test is performed in a laboratory setting, often in a hospital or medical clinic.

In gyms and health clubs, submaximal cardiorespiratory tests are more common. These tests are safer for exercisers who are out of shape or who might have heart problems.

These tests might include:

During each of these tests, your personal trainer will evaluate how your heart rate changes during exercise. Based on the results, he or she can provide a rating of your cardiorespiratory fitness.

Why It's Important

In a fitness setting, cardiorespiratory endurance or cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) is a measurement that indicates your level of aerobic health. It helps you and the trainer know how well you can perform the cardiovascular exercise for a period of time.

Exercisers with lower CRF will begin with shorter, less intense workout sessions. Athletes with higher CRF can safely participate in more intense workouts.

If you are trying to lose weight, cardiorespiratory fitness is important. Aerobic activity is essential to burn calories and lose weight.

Physical activity is also critical if you want to maintain strong heart health and keep the weight off for the long term. If your cardiorespiratory endurance is good, that means you are healthy enough to participate in the activities that will help you lose weight and keep it off.

Ways to Improve

If you're not sure how you would fare in a test to measure your cardiovascular fitness, don't worry. You can probably estimate the result by evaluating your daily activity level. If you are physically active on a daily basis, you will do better than someone who is sedentary. If you've been sedentary for a long time or if you have a heart or lung problem, you should see your doctor before you try to improve your cardiorespiratory endurance.

Once you know that you are healthy enough for exercise, then it's time to boost your heart and lung health. You can do simple beginner workouts at home, walk or jog outside with friends, or join a gym to swim or take an aerobics class.

Try to choose activities that you enjoy. You can also ask a friend or family member to join you in your sessions. Social support will help you stay on track and makes each work out more enjoyable.

When you first start exercising, begin slowly with just a few minutes of easy or moderate activity two or three times per week. You'll improve your cardiorespiratory endurance each time you do aerobic activities that increase your heart rate and cause you to breathe deeply.

Try to be consistent with your program as possible and gradually add time to your sessions. Eventually, try to increase your activity level so that you are doing some form of cardiorespiratory exercise each day of the week. You'll find that exercise becomes easier as you participate more often.

If you want to see how your cardiorespiratory endurance is improving over time, talk to your doctor about getting it tested in a clinic. Or talk to your personal trainer to see what options are available at your local gym. For many exercisers, tracking progress provides an important incentive to keep moving.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.