How to Improve Your Cardiac Endurance

by Dr. John Kuruc

There are numerous benefits to cardio workouts. Most of which you are probably aware of. Decrease risks of heart attacks, lower cholesterol, more energy, higher metabolism, weight loss, and better moods due to a release in oxytocin, just to name a few. There are several ways to improve cardiac health and there isn’t a one size fits all model for this which is great. The most common ways are running, biking, and rowing. However, swimming, hiking, high intensity workouts, playing various sports, and dancing are other ways to help increase cardiac endurance.  So how can you improve your cardiac endurance?

The first and most important way to improve endurance is to be consistent. We know from research that after 48 hours of not exercising our cardiac endurance starts to decline. It’s important for athletes who are injured and need to have a high cardiac endurance to have their training modified to maintain that endurance so when they recover from an injury, they can pick up right where they left off. Consistency translates to roughly 150 minutes a week to improve your heart and lungs and over 300 minutes a week can lead to additional health benefits.

Next, it’s important to find several exercises that you ENJOY! It’s more of a psychological benefit that you find exercises that you enjoy doing because you’re more likely to continue those exercises. For me it’s running, stationary biking, rowing, and high intensity interval training. These exercises help my body adapt to the various demands that each exercise has on my body. It’s called the SAID principal, Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. Basically, our bodies will adapt to the types of the regular exercises you perform!

For serious athletes, many find their ideal heart rate for the various types of exercise. For moderate intensity exercises 50-70% of your max heart rate is a great and for vigorous exercises 70-85% of your max heart rate is where you want to be. To find what your max heart rate is, just simply take 220 – (age) = max heart rate. For myself it’s 185 beats per minute. Staying within these percentages for certain types of exercise will help increase cardiac endurance and strength.

Changing the intensity, known as the overload principle, is another way to improve endurance. This principle involves making gradual increases in either volume or intensity to continue improving your fitness. If you’re biking 10 miles and want to improve your time, increasing the distance, time, or intensity you bike will help improve your time.

Staying hydrated, sleeping well, and breathing properly will all help you increase your cardiac endurance. I’ve mentioned this before and its very important so I’ll mention it again, for every pound you lose during your workout you need to supplement 20oz of water afterwards. This will help your body and muscles recover faster and prevent dehydration. Having a set sleep schedule has been shown to improve muscle recovery. Breathing properly may sound strange to you but our diaphragm is connected to so many tissues and organs and if it’s not functioning properly it can lead to a decrease in lung capacity which will hinder cardiac endurance.

Finally, having proper body mechanics will help your body move efficiently through various exercise programs. Efficiency equals free power is a saying that I tell my patients all the time. The more efficient you move your body the greater results you’ll get. This is where my functional movement screen comes in to play to address poor body mobility. So if you’re still stuck and not seeing any improvements with your cardiac endurance give my office a call so we can find the root cause of what is holding you back!

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