“How can I improve my endurance?”
—Amber L., Concordia College, New York
Endurance, or the body’s ability to withstand physical stress over a long period of time, is a key component of overall health and wellness. If you find yourself getting tired after regular daily activities (e.g., walking to class or going up and down stairs), focusing on your endurance may be a good idea.
The key to building endurance? Consistency. To help prevent injury, increase the duration and intensity of your exercise gradually over time. The goal is to remain injury-free so you can be consistent with your physical activity.
These three approaches can help you improve your endurance:
1. Build muscle
A common misconception is that building endurance requires only aerobic activity. Stronger muscles will pump a larger amount of blood back to the heart with each contraction. This increases the amount of blood that’s available to be pumped back out to the body by the beating heart. Blood carries oxygen to working muscles, so the more blood being pumped through the body, the better.
2. Cross train
Sustained periods of aerobic activity are essential to building endurance. There are a lot of ways to get the heart pumping and achieve the positive effects of aerobic activity, so don’t focus on just one. Running, swimming, walking, and using an elliptical machine or a stationary or regular bike are all good forms of exercise. If you find that the intensity level becomes unsustainable (you’re breathing too hard), slow it down a little so you can continue the activity for a longer period of time.
3. Combine strength and cardiovascular workouts
An efficient way to build endurance is to combine strength training and aerobic activity (circuit training) with little rest in between. For example, perform a strength exercise (say, a squat). Then, without rest, go right into an activity, like biking hard for a minute. You can also add a set of core work into the circuit, like holding a plank for 30 seconds. Circuits like this not only make your muscles stronger but also keep your heart rate up and keep you breathing hard, increasing your overall endurance.