Cardiovascular Endurance Definition | Fitness, Exercise & Health Glossary

[ 3 ] December 30, 2008 |

What’s the Definition of Cardiovascular Endurance?



Definition of Cardiovascular Endurance

Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of the heart, lungs and blood vessels to deliver oxygen to working muscles and tissues, as well as the ability of those muscles and tissues to utilize that oxygen.

Cardiovascular endurance is also frequently called cardio-respiratory endurance, cardiovascular fitness, aerobic capacity, aerobic fitness or is sometimes more broadly termed “endurance” — although endurance may also refer to the ability of the muscle to do repeated work without fatigue. It is also one of the five components of physical fitness.




While all physical activities involve some level of cardiovascular support, cardiovascular endurance typically refers to the ability of a person to perform activities that raise the heart to a training level and maintain that level for a sustained period of time, typically 10-15 minutes.  A “training level” is typically expressed as percentage of a person’s maximum heart rate (RMR), usually between 60-80 percent of an individual’s RMR.

Methods for Measuring Cardiovascular Endurance

Cardiovascular endurance can be measured using a number of formal clinical methods including:

  • Vo2Max Test
  • Ventilatory Threshold or Lactate Threshold Test
  • Graded Exercise Tests
  • Exercise Electrocardiography

Non-clinical tests for cardiovascular endurance:

  • Resting Heart Rate (RHR)
  • Cooper Test
  • Estimated Vo2Max
  • Rate at which heart returns to RHR post-cardiovascular exercise

Benefits of Cardiovascular Endurance

As a person improves their cardiovascular endurance, a number of beneficial adaptations take place in the body, including:

  • Increased Heart Size (volume and weight): Improves the strength and pumping capacity of the heart
  • Increased Blood Plasma Volume: Enhances oxygen transport and temperature regulation during exercise.
  • Decrease in Heart Rate: Lowers both resting and exercise heart rate, reducing stress on the heart
  • Increases Heart Stroke Volume: Allows the heart to expel more oxygen-rich blood during each “pump”
  • Increased Cardiac Output: Improves the ability of the heart to pump blood througout the body. This represents the most significant overall adaptation in cardiovascular function due to improvements in cardio-respirator endurance.
  • Improved Oxygen Extraction: Increases the amount of oxygen tissues are able to extract from circuluting blood.
  • Better Blood Flow & Distribution: Muscles and tissue require less blood because of improved delivery, extraction and utilization of oxygen. Less blood is needed by the muscles because their ability to deliver, extract, and use oxygen increases.
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • More Efficient Pulmonary Function: Because the body can better utilize available oxygen, a person with better cardio-respiratory endurance doesn’t need to take as many breaths during exercise. This keeps you from getting “winded” — whether that’s climbing stairs or running sprints.

How To Improve Cardiovascular Endurance

Improving cardiovascular endurance is typically just a matter of practice.

Like training your muscles, continuously challenging your cardiovascular system with increased levels of aerobic activity will generally result in gains in cardiovascular endurance and fitness. This can be duration running, biking, swimming, skating, cardio at the gym, or even higher-intensity activities like sprinting or interval training, which have been shown to increase VO2Max.

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Category: Fitness, Health & Exercise Glossary

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Comments (3)

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  1. bobby (2 comments) says:

    Bobby no comprendo big words :)

  2. Gregorio Katimbang (1 comments) says:

    This is really helpful. I am currently enrolled in the gym right now to lose weight (which is my main goal) I never thought that running on the thread mill will help me improve my cardiovascular endurance. All I know is that I lose weight when I sweat. Thanks a lot!

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