Exercises to Improve Endurance

According to the National Institute on Aging, endurance exercises are activities that elevate your heart rate and breathing for a prolonged period of time. Endurance exercises help you walk farther, faster or up steep terrain. They also make your activities of daily living easier to perform. Endurance exercises should be challenging, yet fun and sustainable. Consider performing the following activities to boost your cardiovascular endurance: raking, gardening and dance.


U.S. Rowing, the governing body for the sport of rowing in the United States, states that rowing is a full body workout that improves your muscle strength and aerobic endurance. While rowing incorporates a significant amount of upper body activity, it also requires you to use your lower extremity muscles. Rowing is a low-impact activity on your joints and recruits all of your body’s large muscle groups. U.S. Rowing touts rowing as among the most physically demanding activities, and they suggest that it helps you develop mental toughness, core strength and cardiovascular endurance. If you don’t have access to a local rowing club, consider joining your local gym or health club. Many gyms have rowing machines that are easy to use and provide you with an excellent aerobic workout. Rowing is a helpful cross-training activity too, as it allows you to exercise your muscles in a new way and avoid the repetitive strain activities associated with daily participation in other aerobic activities, such as running or bicycling.


According to a 1995 JAMA article co-authored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine, every American adult should tally 30 or more minutes of moderately vigorous physical activity on most–but preferably all–days of the week. The article notes that intermittent activity also confers significant health benefits such as improved cardiovascular endurance, and suggests that your 30 minutes of daily physical activity can be accumulated in several short bouts. Gardening is an activity that fulfills this criteria, although your gardening activities must be performed at an intensity that’s similar to brisk walking. The AARP touts gardening as a moderate aerobic workout that has the capacity to relax your mind and reduce your stress. Some of the best gardening activities to exercise your muscles, improve your flexibility and elevate your heart rate include hauling and spreading mulch and soil, moving plants and shrubs, weeding, planting and digging.


Dancing is another aerobic activity that can increase your endurance. According to the AARP, dancing is an effective way for people of all ages and physical abilities–including those with physical limitations–to achieve and maintain a high level of fitness. The AARP states that a 150-pound adult can burn approximately 150 calories during 30 minutes of moderately vigorous dancing. Like raking, gardening and other moderate, low-impact, weight bearing activities, dancing can help you strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your joint flexibility, tone your body, improve your posture and balance, reduce your tension and stress, build your confidence and improve your cardiovascular endurance. Dancing on a regular basis, especially if you’re dancing for 30 minutes at a time, can also help you fend off chronic health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and depression.

Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing is an exceptionally demanding endurance activity. By requiring you to use both your legs and your arms to move, cross-country skiing challenges your cardiovascular system in a way that’s unique. Unless you’re a well-trained cross-country skier who is accustomed to using all four limbs for locomotion, your body–especially your cardiovascular system–is challenged by the additional physiological demands placed on it by quadrupedal movement. The demands of the activity induce rapid training effects and adaptations in your body, including a reduced resting heart rate, increased cardiovascular endurance and improved maximum oxygen uptake, or VO2 max. Participating in cross-country skiing is a low-impact way to improve your endurance, and it can be performed by almost anyone. If you live in a warmer climate, consider participating in roller-skiing, the dryland equivalent of cross-country skiing, which is performed on pavement using miniature skis bearing wheels, ski poles with special tips and regular ski boots and bindings.


The National Institute on Aging touts raking as a viable activity to boost your cardiovascular endurance, and the American Association of Retired Persons states that raking leaves is a great opportunity for you to get outside, get some fresh air and improve your cardiovascular endurance. According to Barbara Ainsworth, an exercise epidemiologist at San Diego State University, raking leaves is a moderately vigorous physical activity that’s about as physiologically demanding as a brisk walk. Unlike walking, though, raking helps you build upper body and core strength. The raking motion recruits your core muscles–the muscles in your back and abdomen–to help stabilize your body while your arms are in motion. The AARP states that a 135-pound person could burn approximately 240 calories per hour when raking, or more if you’re raking wet leaves or using a heavier rake.

About this Author

Martin Hughes is a chiropractic physician and freelance writer based out of Durham, N.C. He writes about health, fitness, diet, lifestyle, travel and outdoor pursuits. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore.