Endurance exercises improve your ability to maintain physical activity over a relatively long period of time. Marathon runners are one example of endurance athletes; they develop their skills for optimal performance over long time periods. Because endurance exercises typically accelerate the heart rate and breathing, the term is also used interchangeably with cardiovascular exercise.
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Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise
Endurance exercises require your body to work aerobically, using oxygen to produce the energy you need for movement. During aerobic activity, the intensity of the movement is limited by the rate at which the body can take in and use oxygen. As a result, aerobic activity is less vigorous than anaerobic activity, which derives energy from glucose without any oxygen. Aerobic activity is ideal for improving endurance because you can sustain it for relatively long periods. By comparison, anaerobic exercise is only possible for relatively short bursts because the anaerobic method of energy production rapidly floods the muscles with lactic acid, making it impossible to continue the intense effort for a longer period.
Effects on the Cardiovascular System
When you participate in endurance exercise, your cardiovascular system must work harder to deliver oxygen, nutrients and hormones at an accelerated rate. Your heart beats faster and pumps a larger volume of blood with each beat. With the heart working harder, your body can get blood to the lungs more quickly, oxygenating it, and then deliver it to your muscles more quickly. In addition, metabolic processes accelerate, requiring a more rapid transport of nutrients.
Regular endurance exercise improves the functional capacity of your cardiovascular system, resulting in a lower resting heart rate and a quicker return to your normal pulse following exercise. Through regular endurance exercise, your muscles strengthen as you burn fat, leading to an improved muscle-to-fat ratio. The lower percentage of body fat helps your metabolism work more efficiently, accelerating the weight-loss effects of future exercise. In addition, the improved condition of your cardiovascular system puts you at a lower risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses.
If you are a beginner, you should ease into endurance exercise gradually, starting with relatively low-intensity workouts. To reap the full benefits, make sure that each session lasts at least 10 minutes. Aim to exercise for at least 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity or for 75 minutes per week at a more vigorous intensity. If you aren't accustomed to regular exercise, consult with your doctor before beginning a new routine. If you have joint problems, opt for low-impact forms of endurance exercise such as walking, cycling or swimming.