Endurance Exercise (Aerobic)

Updated:May 21,2014

Close up of sneakers running on treadmillEndurance exercise is one of the four types of exercise along with strength, balance and flexibility. Ideally, all four types of exercise would be included in a healthy workout routine and AHA provides easy-to-follow guidelines for endurance and strength-training in its Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults.

They don’t all need to be done every day, but variety helps keep the body fit and healthy, and makes exercise interesting. You can do a variety of exercises to keep the body fit and healthy and to keep your physical activity routine exciting. Many different types of exercises can improve strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance. For example, practicing yoga can improve your balance, strength, and flexibility.  A lot of lower-body strength-training exercises also will improve your balance.

Also called aerobic exercise, endurance exercise includes activities that increase your breathing and heart rate such as walking, jogging, swimming, and biking.

Endurance activity keeps your heart, lungs and circulatory system healthy and improves your overall fitness. As a result, people who get the recommended regular physical activity can reduce the risk of many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

How much do I need?
Building your endurance makes it easier to carry out many of your everyday activities. If you’re just starting out on an exercise routine after being sedentary, don’t rush it. If you haven't been active for a long time, it's important to work your way up over time.

Start out with 10-15 minutes at a time and then gradually build up. The AHA recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of moderate to vigorous activity per week. Thirty minutes a day five days a week is an easy goal to remember. Some people will be able to do more. It's important to set realistic goals based on your own health and abilities.

Making Progress
When you're ready to do more, you can build on your routine by adding new physical activities; increasing the distance, time, or difficulty or your favorite activity; or do your activities more often. You could first build up the amount of time you spend doing endurance activities, then build up the difficulty of your activities. For example, gradually increase your time to 30 minutes over several days to weeks by walking longer distances. Then walk more briskly or up hills.

Examples of endurance exercise:
  • Walking briskly
  • Running / jogging
  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Climbing stairs at work
  • Playing sports such as tennis, basketball, soccer or racquetball
What if I’m recovering from a cardiac event or stroke?
Some people are afraid to exercise after a heart attack. But regular physical activity can help reduce your chances of having another heart attack. The AHA recently published a statement that doctors should prescribe exercise to stroke patients since there is strong evidence that physical activity and exercise after stroke can improve cardiovascular fitness, walking ability and upper arm strength.

If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, talk with your doctor before starting any excise to be sure you’re following a safe, effective physical activity program.

Learn more:

Physical Activity

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