Cardiovascular endurance is also called aerobic endurance. Aerobic means with oxygen and it refers to how the body performs sustained rhythmic movement. The process may be described as oxygen intake, delivery and utilization. During cardiovascular activity three things happen:
- breathing increases to get oxygen into the lungs
- heart rate increases to deliver oxygen to working muscles
- temperature increases because heat is a by product of oxygen use by the muscles
After a few minutes of aerobic exercise you feel your breath get deeper and faster, your heart beats stronger and faster, and you become warmer and may even break a sweat.
Cardiovascular Fitness Adaptations
Regular aerobic exercise improves the cardiovascular system in general and strengthens the cardiac muscle, or heart, specifically. With improved cardiovascular endurance the heart is strong enough to pump more oxygen-rich blood with each heartbeat so it doesn’t have to beat as often.
The aerobically fit heart is more efficient and runs at a lower rate at rest as well as during exercise. You may have heard that endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, have very low resting heart rates. Now you know it is because of their superior aerobic endurance.
Benefits of Aerobic Fitness
Aerobic fitness allows you to walk briskly or jog without feeling winded. It is associated with improved health as well as a longer life span. Cardiovascular exercise decreases your risk of disease and may be prescribed in the treatment of physical and mental health ailments. Staving off disease provides the obvious benefit of not getting sick. The more time you spend well, the more you can enjoy and active and productive lifestyle.
Low cardiovascular fitness can hinder weight loss because cardiovascular activity contributes to achieving the negative calorie balance required to decrease body fat. The more cardiovascular endurance you have, the more aerobic exercise you can do. Longer workouts at higher intensities burn more calories.
The most elite endurance athletes are thin and lean even though they consume upwards of 5,000 calories a day. That’s more than twice as much as the average adults needs. How can this be? Their training last for hours and they can perform very high levels of exercise. At the end of the day they have burned all the food they have consumed.
Without enough cardiovascular activity the chances that you will burn more calories than you consume are, unfortunately, slim. Burning fat during exercise is a popular marketing mantra as well as a hot topic in exercise science research. But the phrase “fat burning” is misleading. There is no consensus that fat burning guarantees fat loss. The type of calories burned during exercise is not the deciding factor in weight loss.
No matter what you do in the gym, anything eaten beyond what your body needs is stored as fat. One positive trend in fitness today is this admonishment about weight loss: