What is it?
Endurance training is any activity that gets your heart rate up above about 60% of your maximum heart rate for 10+ min. It is a major key to heart and lung health. Endurance training makes the heart work harder to push the blood through the body more efficiently for extended periods. As your endurance progresses, the heart gets bigger, stronger, and more efficient at its job over time. As the heart works better, it exchanges blood more efficiently with the lungs, which pulls that much-needed oxygen to the muscles to make energy in your body. This is true for everyone, even if you have breathing issues. Endurance activity also stimulates an elevated metabolism for an extended period after you complete your activity. After all, it takes a while to cool down after you make your body work hard.
How do I know my maximum heart rate? And what is 60%?
The generally accepted estimate for this is to take the theoretical maximum of 220 beats per minute for humans and subtract your age.
For me this is 220 – 46 = 174 beat per minute. And this is pretty close for me.
So, if I take 174 x .60 = 104.4 – we’ll round to 104. All I need to do is get my HR up to about 104 beats per minute, which is a moderate-paced walk for me, and keep it there for at least 10 min – longer as I get better.
Can I do aerobic/endurance exercise?
All people can and should do endurance exercise – it helps with all activity and wellbeing goals. There are always unique considerations based on individual goals. If you want to work longer in the garden, take yourself, the dog or kids for walks, need to be on your feet for work all day, or push yourself to athletic performance, you will need improved endurance. It does not need to be difficult and as you get better at it, it will become easier – like anything you practice. It all starts with movement.
What does it look like?
Walking counts – but not leisure walking like you do at the store. Remember we are trying to get above 60% of our maximum heart rate for at least 10 min. This is purposeful walking where you can hold a conversation, but maybe only 5-6 words at a time. This has been shown to have similar health benefits to other forms of endurance training without the need for extreme exertion or the impact that comes with running.
Running seems to be where people want to start and is what many people tell me they have the hardest time with. It is an activity that should be performed with guidance and can be modified based on fitness. This form of endurance exercise does show the highest calories burned because so much of your body acts and reacts the whole time you’re moving.
Cycling can be expensive, but you can also get a decent starter bike for about $100, and a helmet for about $20. You don’t need special clothes either, but performance clothing does improve sweat wicking in key areas. Cycling is a great way to burn a lot of calories without impact.
Swimming is a fantastic, calorie-burning, zero-impact endurance activity that gives head to toe movement in your body and activates the spine. But you do have to have access to a pool or a lake. You also need to know how to swim, learn how, or know that you can touch the bottom and just stand up if needed.
How much do I need to do?
The Department of Health and Human Services posted its recommendations for Americans in a second volume in 2018 suggesting that we should all aim for about 150 min of moderate intensity exercise a week.
With a beginning exerciser, we start where you are and work toward the 150 min based on time and ability. There are no reps or sets to count in endurance. Remember at 60% of your max heart rate you should be able to speak about 5-6 words while being active.
150 minutes is 3 days a week at 30 min a day. Or 7 days a week at about 22 min per day. But since we often encourage a day or two of rest, especially in the beginning, we normally recommend 5 days at 30 min a day.
Earlier I mentioned “at least 10 minutes”. Studies have been done and repeated over many years and show that 3 sets of 10 min of moderate activity are the same as 30 min continuous in the same day. As a beginning exerciser, we often encourage breaking up sessions to smaller pieces like this. But also know that all movement counts.
As your fitness progresses, you could instead aim for the number 75. If you start pushing yourself to a high intensity, then you are looking for about 75 min a week. Now we’re talking about exercising at about 75% of your max heart rate. At this point you will be able to say 2-3 words at a time while active.
Is it good for me?
The American Heart Association and many others agree that endurance exercise shows benefits to the heart and lungs. Additionally, it helps you sleep better, which helps boost your energy levels, helps control your stress levels and generally makes you feel better about yourself.
It also decreases the chances of dementia by stimulating the brain, decreases your chances of getting diabetes, or helps get it in control it by using up the sugars flowing in your blood. And it can help lower your blood pressure and resting heart rate. All this means potential for a longer, happier, more engaged life.
Wrap it up
Here is the most important point: When you are just starting out, do what works for you and in your schedule. If you make it inconvenient, you won’t do it.Remember, ANYTHING is better than nothing. If that means all you can get is 10 min of exercise a day, then that is where you start. Find your starting point and continue to work and progress at your pace to your goals! This is about you!
References: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/physical-activity/muscular-strength-and-endurance https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-infographic https://www.acsm.org/read-research/trending-topics-resource-pages/physical-activity-guidelines https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/jog-or-run-your-way-to-health.html https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/american-cancer-society-updates-guideline-for-diet-and-physical-activity.html https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/household-chores-that-burn-calories.html https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/ss/slideshow-benefits-strength https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21854344/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20885197/