Cardiorespiratory Endurance Activities

Strengthen the heart, lungs, and muscles with cardio exercise.

Cardiorespiratory endurance activities including swimming
ferrantraite / E+ / Getty Images

Cardiorespiratory endurance activities test and improve the body's ability to sustain dynamic exercise, using large muscle groups, over time. During this moderate to high intensity level exercise, the body's circulatory and respiratory systems (the heart and lungs) must supply fuel and oxygen to the muscles.

Activities such as running, swimming, and bicycling improve cardiorespiratory endurance. We usually hear the term shortened to just "cardio," or "aerobic." (You might also hear it called cardiorespiratory fitness, aerobic fitness, aerobic endurance, or a cardio workout.

These terms refer to this whole category of exercise, in which the primary goal is to boost the heart rate. In contrast, other forms of exercise like resistance training aim primarily to build muscle and bone strength. Exercises that target flexibility and balance are also important. 

How Much Cardio Exercise Do I Need?

The U.S. Department of Health recommends both aerobic (cardio) and resistance exercise for most Americans, saying that both forms are beneficial. Specifically, the department recommends that children and teens get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, and most of it should be moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise.

For adults, the recommendation states: "Adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous intensity aerobic activity."

But you don't need to—and in fact should not—do all this exercise at once: "Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week," according to the guidelines.

Cardiorespiratory Endurance Activities You Can Do with Your Kids

As noted above, running, swimming, and biking are all activities that can help build cardiorespiratory endurance.

The same goes for brisk walking and climbing stairs. And kids may enjoy many of these. But if you're exercising with young ones, you may want to turn your cardio workout into a game. Activities like these can help you both collect and enjoy your daily physical activity.

  • Sports: Chasing a ball and/or another player is great cardio exercise. Think kickball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, tennis and other racquet sports. Winter sports like ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and even sledding (the walking uphill part) also require cardiorespiratory endurance.
  • Playground games: Lots of classic, kid-favorite backyard games, especially tag (in its many forms!) require plenty of running around, which definitely gets hearts pumping. 
  • Dancing: Remember aerobics classes? Recreate the calorie burn with your own music and moves. Coordination is not required; movement is what really matters.
  • Hopping, skipping, and twirling: Break out the jump ropes and hula hoops for a cardio workout that is kid-friendly and lots of fun, but also challenges the heart and lungs.

    Continue Reading