Cardiorespiratory endurance -- also referred to as cardiovascular fitness, cardiorespiratory fitness or aerobic fitness -- is an essential component of both physical fitness and all-around good health. Specifically, cardiorespiratory endurance refers to the ability of the heart, lungs and circulatory system to deliver oxygen to working muscles for sustained periods of time. A cardiorespiratory endurance training program should include activities that elevate the heart rate and involve the body's large muscle groups.
Don't Worry, Be Healthy
Building cardiorespiratory endurance through regular physical activity allows your heart and lungs to work more efficiently, thereby improving your physical capacity to deal with stress and lowering your risk factors for several chronic diseases. Regular physical activity helps control obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol -- with a net result of cutting your heart disease risk almost in half, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. By providing weight control, regular exercise also cuts your risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Additionally, building cardiorespiratory endurance benefits mental health by providing a buffer against anxiety and depression.
This is How We Do It
If performed regularly and for sufficient periods of time, any activity that elevates the heart rate and involves the body's large muscle groups -- such as those in the legs, chest, arms, or back -- helps build cardiorespiratory endurance. Some examples of cardio-building large muscle group activities include: walking at a brisk speed, jogging, bicycling, swimming and dancing. Even doing household chores such as gardening or vacuuming can help build cardiorespiratory endurance. Ideally, your training program should include activities that you enjoy.
Setting Your Limits
To significantly raise your endurance capacity, cardiorespiratory training activities need to be performed at sufficient frequency, intensity and duration. For the most health benefits, you should train: at a frequency of three to five times per week; at an intensity which raises your pulse to your target heart rate zone, or 56 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate; and for a duration of 20 to 60 minutes per session. You may not be able to perform within these parameters when you first begin training, but you can start training at a level that suits your current physical fitness status and slowly work your way toward these goals.
Before You Get Started
Before starting cardiorespiratory endurance training, you must first determine whether you are fit enough to participate in vigorous exercise. If you experience shortness of breath, dizziness or fatigue with mild exertion, or have any chronic health problems, you should consult a doctor before you begin training. Even if you have no serious known health problems, it is still important to determine your level of physical fitness before training so that you can set realistic goals that won't leave you prone to injury or frustration. A qualified fitness coach or personal trainer should be able to help you assess your level of ability and devise an organized, progressive training program with which you can reach your fitness goals.