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10 Tips To Boost Your Cardio Endurance, According to Trainers

Get the most out of your cardio exercise with these expert insights.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

It's no secret that regular cardio exercise is fantastic for your health. It can help improve cardiovascular health, elevate mood, and boost energy levels. However, an often overlooked aspect of your overall well-being is cardiovascular endurance, the ability of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels to deliver oxygen to your muscles during prolonged exercise. Regardless of where you're at on your fitness journey, this key marker of cardiovascular health is an essential component of overall fitness and stamina. That's why we've rounded up 10 tips to boost your cardio endurance, according to trainers.

These valuable insights and strategies aim to enhance your endurance, performance, and fitness while improving your cardiovascular health. Whether you're a fitness newbie or have been training for years, these expert tips can help you take your endurance to the next level. Read on to learn more, and when you're done, be sure to check out these 5 Floor Workouts To Regain Muscle Mass as You Age.

Don't neglect your warm-ups.

woman stretching outdoors

Instead of diving straight into your workout, start with a dynamic warm-up to increase blood flow and loosen up your muscles. Research shows this can enhance exercise performance and lower your injury risk.

"Warming up prepares the cardiovascular system by gradually increasing the heart and respiratory rate rather than jumping right into a workout and causing the body to be overstimulated too quickly, making you feel more out of breath," says TJ Mentus, CPT, a certified personal trainer at Garage Gym Reviews. "A good warm-up should include about five minutes of mobility movements to warm up the joints, then another five minutes of performing the cardio modality you will use for the workout, starting at an easy pace and gradually increasing each minute. Then, rest for five minutes to let your body return to homeostasis before starting your workout."

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Include cross-training in your routine.

woman training with dumbbells, demonstrating how to get your best body ever

Incorporate various cardio activities into your routine, such as swimming, cycling, or rowing, to prevent boredom and work different muscle groups. A 2022 review found that adding cardio-specific strength training to your routine can boost cardiovascular endurance and performance.

"By engaging in cross-training activities, you will work different muscle groups, reduce the risk of overuse injuries, and allow yourself to stay engaged by having more fun with exercise," explains Kyrie Furr, CPT, a certified personal trainer and performance coach with Barbend. "These activities include strength training, yoga, pilates, or sports that can complement your cardio workouts."

Use heart rate zone training.

heart rate zone

According to a 2019 study, monitoring your heart rate during cardio exercise can help ensure you're training in the proper heart rate zone and with enough intensity. Doing so can also help boost endurance, burn more calories, and prevent overtraining.

Here's a breakdown of the heart rate zones, courtesy of Mentus: "There are five heart rate zones that can be used to improve training and performance. Zone 1 is between 55 and 65% of your max heart rate, and zone 2 is between 65 and 75%. In these two zones, your body burns mostly fat as an energy source, has a lower and more sustainable intensity, and builds aerobic capacity. Zone 3 is between 80 to 85% and is where your body starts to switch over to use more carbohydrates for energy."

Mentus adds, "Zone 4 is 85 to 88%, and Zone 5 is 90% and higher, where your body operates at a maximum effort that's only sustainable for short durations. Aim to spend roughly 60 to 70% of your cardio training in Zones 1 and 2, 20 to 30% in Zone 3, and only about 10% in Zone 4. Zone 5 should be done less often because it's so taxing on your body."

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Make it fun.

fitness woman jogging at the beach, demonstrates benefits of jogging 10 minutes a day

If you want to boost your cardio endurance in the long term, you have to exercise that you enjoy. Choose activities you find fun to make cardio feel less like a chore.

"Staying motivated while training can be hard for the average person," says Furr. "Create a fun and motivating music playlist, or listen to your favorite podcast as you train. This will allow you to stay engaged with the training but also distract you from fatigue."

Enjoy the great outdoors.

fit couple jogging on trail on a sunny day to slim down and get toned

Besides allowing you to get some fresh air and enjoy the scenery, outdoor exercise, particularly in green spaces, has been found to boost mood, improve mental well-being, and even improve exercise performance.

"Whether it's running, biking, or some other form of cardio, exercising outdoors can help you get more out of your workouts," says Mentus. "Being indoors on a machine can become monotonous and boring, as opposed to when you're outdoors where you're traveling actual distances so you can see how far you've gone."

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Incorporate both steady-state and interval-style training.

woman sprinting outdoors, concept of best exercises to lose weight

Keep your cardio endurance on its toes by switching up your routine between steady-state workouts (e.g., walking, jogging, cycling) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). A 2015 study in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine concluded that both training modalities are beneficial for increasing aerobic capacity and enhancing cardiovascular endurance.

Furr says, "It's important to balance steady-state cardio with interval-style training. Steady-state cardio sessions are meant to be done at a consistent intensity or pace, while interval training alternates between high-intensity bursts with recovery periods. Both methods will allow for overall fitness and endurance benefits."

Exercise with a partner or in a group.

two mature female friends walking to burn body fat everywhere

Working out with a friend or in a fitness class is a fantastic way to stay motivated and accountable. Plus, group exercise may help increase the likelihood of sticking with your workout routine, along with building stronger social relationships.

"Having a training partner or group can help hold you accountable to complete workouts and push yourself harder than you would on your own," states Mentus.

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Wear a heart rate monitor.

close-up tracking heart rate

Wearing a heart rate monitor during cardio exercise can help optimize your training by boosting your endurance and performance.

"You can use a heart rate monitor to evaluate your heart rate during workouts to gauge intensity and ensure you're training within your target heart rate zone," Furr explains. "Various heart rate monitors, including chest straps, wrist-worn devices, and fitness watches, are available."

Incorporate active recovery days.

woman walking on sidewalk for exercise, concept of benefits for walking after meal

Studies show that scheduling "active recovery" days in your weekly routine can help you recover faster, allowing you to train harder and longer, improving your cardio endurance over time.

"Active recovery encourages blood flow through the muscles and joints, which will help your body repair faster," explains Mentus. "Allow for one or two days a week for active recovery. This could include going for a long walk or an easy swim. Ideally, any activity where the heart rate gets no higher than Zone 1."

Gradually increase the length or distance of your workouts.

woman at gym raising treadmill incline

Avoid pushing yourself too hard, too soon, as it can lead to injury and setbacks in your training—or worse yet, overtraining syndrome.

"Over time, you'll want to gradually increase the duration of your training sessions," says Furr. "Start with shorter sessions and extend them as your endurance improves. Aim for at least 30 minutes of continuous aerobic activity most days of the week."

Adam Meyer
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. Read more about Adam
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