Endurance 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. American Heart Association provides easy-to-follow guidelines for endurance and strength-training in its Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults.
All of the types of exercise don’t 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. Many 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, biking and jumping rope.
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 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 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 health and abilities.
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.
- Doing 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
- Climbing stairs
What if I’m recovering from a cardiac event or stroke?
Some people are afraid to exercise after a heart attack. However, regular physical activity can help reduce your chances of having another heart attack.
The 2021 guidelines for the prevention of stroke in patients from the AHA and the American Stroke Association recommend physical activity in a supervised and safe manner. 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 health care team before starting any exercise to be sure you’re following a safe, effective physical activity program.