How can I Improve my Cardiovascular Fitness?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
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  • Last Modified Date: 02 August 2019
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Cardiovascular fitness is a term that not everyone understands clearly. Essentially, it is a measurement of how the body brings in oxygen and how it uses it. It is also a measurement of how efficiently oxygen is distributed to other parts of the body via the heart, lungs and the whole system of veins and arteries. It should be understood as being different than “looking” fit, which may not say a lot about the fitness of the heart or lungs, and people should also be aware that they can improve their fitness.

Most often, articles that suggest ways to improve cardiovascular fitness focus on aerobic or cardiovascular exercise. This is undoubtedly important, but before getting there, people should take a look at any behaviors that may be reducing heart/lung fitness. In particular, types of diets people have if they contain a lot of saturated fats and trans fats, and smoking are two things that will made the cardiovascular system less efficient. It is important to improve diet by choosing heart healthy foods and to quit smoking. These two steps alone may keep the heart and lungs healthier and be a way to prevent heart and lung disease.


Those people who are already eating a good diet and who don’t smoke are halfway there to improve fitness. The other part is increasing levels of aerobic activity. Aerobic exercises mean getting the heart to a desired target heart rate and then maintaining that rate for 10-15 minutes, gradually extending this time to 20 minutes.

People may want to know how to assess target heart rate, and this can be a very individual process, though there are charts online. People who have not worked out for a while and those that have any medical conditions should speak to a doctor before trying to improve cardiovascular fitness and before assuming they know what their target heart rate should be. There are lots of mitigating factors, which may raise or lower the average target.

Once a person is aware of their target heart rate, they engage in some form of exercise that will elevate the rate to the target and keep it there. People may need to build up to this. It might only be possible to sustain the rate for a few minutes at first. However, this is the good thing about the cardiovascular system. As a person regularly exercises, their heart and lungs are trained to allow them to exercise more, so it does become possible to increase time at the target heart rate and thus improve cardiovascular fitness.

Part of the key to keeping heart and lungs healthy is regularly exercising. Someone who exercises once a week is doing better than the couch potato, but may not dramatically improve cardiovascular fitness. The goal for most people should be to attempt cardiovascular exercise at least three times a week. Regularly working the heart and lungs at greater capacity tends to create a stronger heart and lungs, which will be more efficient at taking in oxygen, using it and distributing it.

There are plenty of exercises that can help improve cardiovascular fitness, and usually people can find one or more of these that seem best suited to them. Consider the following as potential ideas to get started:

  • Aerobic dance or step classes
  • Tae Bo
  • Running
  • Jogging
  • Fast Walking
  • Rowing
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Cross-training machines
  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Bicycling

Bear in mind that some activities may be more efficient than others in raising the heart rate. When a person uses two major muscle groups at once as they might with swimming or in aerobic dancing, they are likely to increase their heart rate faster and be able to maintain it fairly easily. Using only one major muscle group in activities like walking or biking may mean working a little harder to hit and maintain the target heart rate.


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Discuss this Article

Post 4

Care41- It looks like you have a nice set of cardiovascular fitness exercises in your workout.

I feel that the importance of cardiovascular fitness can not be overstated. Consistent cardiovascular activity makes the heart more efficient and improves your overall cardiovascular health.

Post 3

Cupcake15- I agree with you. Rope jumping is an excellent weight loss workout routine for women that also gets your cardiovascular fitness level up.

I jump rope when my kids play in the park and I also do rope jumping intervals with my weight lifting workout.

My trainer told me that I could increase the rate of calories that I burn by doing a couple of hundred sets of rope jumping in between my weight training sets.

For example, when I do my bicep curls, I will do one set of 12 and then jump rope for two sets of one hundred. I do this until I completely finish all of my sets. It really keeps my heart pumping and I sweat like crazy. For me a rope jumping routine is the best cardiovasculer fitness exercise.

Post 2

SurfNturf- I agree with you. What I for like to do for cardiovascular fitness training is rope jumping. My cardiovascular fitness program consists of jogging about three miles, and after each mile I do 500 jumps with my jump rope as fast as I can. Then I go back to my jogging pace and when I reach my next mile, I do another set of 500 jumps. When I finish my workout, I end up jogging for three miles and doing 1,500 jumps.

That really gets my heart rate up. I noticed that my jogging becomes easier because I am challenging my fitness level. This is how to improve cardiovascular fitness.

Post 1

I just want to add that improving one’s cardiovascular fitness happens over time by increasing the intensity of the exercise.

For example, if you walk at a brisk pace of about 4.5 miles per hour for about thirty minutes, you might consider alternating a few minutes of walking with a few minutes of jogging.

The jogging should be at a faster pace of at least 5.5 miles per hour. The jogging interval should be between one to two minutes while the walking portion could be done in intervals of 4 minutes.

You can continue the workout until you have reached your 30 minute workout. You would need to increase the jogging portion by about ten percent a week until you are jogging completely for 30 minutes.

Increasing the intensity is required in order to gain higher levels of fitness and cardiovascular capacity because the body grows accustom to the same workout.

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