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What is endurance fitness?

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Why endurance fitness should feature in your movement workouts

Endurance is one of the four pillars of fitness and relates to your physical ability to sustain a movement workout for a prolonged period. The biggest threat to good endurance is fatigue, but by keeping at it and continuing to exercise, you will find things are getting more bearable – probably a lot quicker than you were expecting.

Endurance is comprised of two main components: cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance:

Cardiovascular endurance

Cardiovascular endurance refers to the ability of our heart, lungs and circulatory system to fuel our body with enough oxygen to allow us to keep moving during exercise. Endurance training helps us improve the efficiency of all three parts of the cardiovascular system, which needs to be functioning well to achieve a good level of cardiovascular fitness:

  • The heart needs to be able to pump large amounts of blood to the working muscles
  • The lungs must inhale large volumes of air and absorb oxygen efficiently
  • The circulatory system is responsible for transporting oxygenated blood to the working muscles

Muscular endurance

Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle to exert a force over a prolonged period without fatiguing – the higher your level of muscular endurance is, the greater the force your muscles will be able to exert.

Your muscular endurance can be improved through specific training that improves the fatigue resistance of twitch muscle fibres in different ways:

  • Adaptations to the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems
  • Improvements in the delivery of oxygen to your working muscles (greater cardiovascular fitness)
  • Increased recruitment of muscle fibre to reduce the force placed on individual muscle fibres

Why is endurance fitness important?      

Both cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance are key components of overall endurance, which is one of the four pillars of physical fitness. Research has highlighted many health benefits of physical exercise specific to endurance fitness:

Improved cardiovascular health

Endurance exercise has been shown in studies to strengthen your heart, which enables blood to be pumped more effectively around your body.1

Lower blood pressure

Endurance exercise has also been shown to help lower blood pressure, which helps to keep your arteries clear of ‘bad’ cholesterol by raising  ‘good’ cholesterol.

Blood sugar regulation

Research has revealed that endurance movement workouts helps regulate insulin levels and lower blood sugar,2 which also helps with weight management.

Promotes better sleep

Endurance, or aerobic exercise, has been shown to improve the quality of sleep on those suffering from insomnia.3 Exercise should not be done too close to your bedtime though as this can then have the reverse effect and make it more difficult to sleep.

Aids the immune system

Endurance exercise may increase immunoglobins, which are antibodies in the blood that help strengthens the immune system.4

Different types of endurance fitness

Endurance fitness can also be thought of as aerobic, or cardio fitness. It’s the type of workout that will quickly raise your heart rate and require you to keep it there for an extended period of time. Performing these types of exercise on a regular basis will strengthen your heart and lungs and improves your circulation, which leads to greater endurance and stamina. They might include:

  • Running/hiking/brisk walking
  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis/squash
  • Football
  • Hockey

While it would be nice to feel yourself getting fitter quickly, it’s generally accepted that it will take around 2-3 months of consistent exercising to see a significant improvement in your endurance. While it may seem that things are taking time though, this is also your body’s way of protecting you from doing too much too soon and risking an injury. Start slow, find an activity you enjoy and before you know it, you will start feeling fitter, actually be enjoying your movement workouts and will be reaping the many health benefits of physical exercise.

  1. https://search.informit.org/doi/abs/10.3316/INFORMIT.954052061700850 []
  2. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00123.2005?view=long&pmid=16036907 []
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1389945710002868 []
  4. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.567.3215&rep=rep1&type=pdf []