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Cardiovascular & Muscular Endurance

author image Shannon George
Shannon George, former editor-in-chief of the trade magazine "Prime," holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from San Diego State University. Her health interests include vegetarian nutrition, weight training, yoga and training for foot races.
Cardiovascular & Muscular Endurance
A woman running across a bridge in a city. Photo Credit: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

Cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance are two of the basic components of physical fitness, which also include flexibility, muscular strength and body composition. Improving your cardiovascular and muscular endurance provides numerous health benefits, including better heart health, protection from injury, weight control and more. Practicing endurance activities can also help you get in shape to play your favorite sport.

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Endurance Defined

Cardiovascular endurance, also called cardiorespiratory endurance or aerobic fitness, is the ability of the heart and lungs to deliver oxygen to the body's tissues during sustained physical activity. If you have good cardiovascular endurance, you will be able to do an aerobic activity that elevates the heart rate, such as jogging or swimming, for at least 20 minutes at a time without stopping. Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle, or group of muscles, to perform continuously without fatigue. For example, as you build muscular endurance in your arm and chest muscles, you will be able to perform an increasing number of pushups without tiring.

Benefits of Endurance

Having cardiovascular endurance is integral for heart health. Aerobic activities that build cardiovascular endurance help control several heart disease risk factors, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity. Activities that build muscular endurance, such as calisthenics, weight training and certain cardio activities, help control weight by improving your muscle-to-fat ratio, which improves your body composition and your body's ability to burn calories. Weight training activities also support bone health, helping to prevent the loss of bone mass and resulting bone fractures that can occur with aging. In addition to offering numerous health benefits, building cardiovascular and muscular endurance can also help condition your body to participate in sports that require sustained performance, such as rowing, swimming or running a marathon.

Cardio Endurance-Building Basics

Building cardiovascular endurance requires regular performance of activities that elevate the heart rate, such as walking, jogging or dancing. You should start off slow, working out at a comfortable pace based on your current level of ability, and eventually work your way up to exercising for longer periods of time, or at a greater intensity. To build and maintain cardiovascular endurance, aim to do some kind of cardio activity at least three times per week, in sessions lasting at least 20 minutes. Don't forget to stretch and warm up before exercising and to cool down after exercising to prevent injury.

How to Build Muscular Endurance

The best way to build muscular endurance is through weight-training exercises or calisthenic exercises such as pushups and situps. Aerobic exercises involving major muscle groups, such as jogging, can also help build muscular endurance. A good program for building muscular endurance is to do at least three 30-minute sessions of calisthenics or weight training exercises each week that work out all the major muscle groups. As when building cardio endurance, it's best to start off slow when building muscular endurance, using a lighter weight and doing just a few repetitions until you are able to use a heavier weight and perform more reps. Stretching, warming up and cooling down are also important for preventing injury with muscular endurance training, as is learning proper technique for lifting weights.

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