How long should I run to increase my cardiovascular endurance?

Larry Husted
Sports Medicine

It depends on how long you need endurance for. The length of running time and/or distance would differ depending on what your training goal is. In most cases, for increasing cardiovascular endurance for the average person, a cardio program, which varies distance, time, type of cardio and heart rate level, will yield the best results. If running is your preferred choice of cardio you could try the obvious (increasing the amount of time or distance you run), or you could run on different surfaces (cement, grass, track, sand, mountain trail, etc.) to increase your overall endurance. Interval training may also be a great option. Use specific timed intervals to run at different speeds or have a fitness professional develop a progressively periodized heart rate training program for you.

The distance an individual runs is not the determining factor for increasing cardiovascular endurance. Recently I've revised my cardiovascular program by performing high intensity, low intensity interval training. I perform 5 sets of a one minute exertion period and a one minute recovery period. Mostly any type of cardio equipment can be used for this style of training. The exertion period is performed at an high intensity or high resistance level while the recovery period is performed at a low intensity or low resistance level. This style of cardio will:

  • Build both strength and capacity in your heart and lungs
  • Dramatically increase your energy levels
  • Burn fat like never before
  • Develop a powerful and disease-resistant immune system
  • Avoid heart attacks and cardiovascular disease

How much you run will depend on your fitness level. If you're new to exercise, strive for 15-20 minutes three days per week, eventually working up to 30 minutes three days per week. If you are moderately fit, you can run for 20-60 minutes per day, 5-7 days per week to increase cardiovascular endurance. If you're an advanced runner, you can run for longer distances and times or multiple times per day. However, it is important to monitor how you feel. If you are experiencing signs of overtraining, it is best to reduce your activity levels or take a complete break from exercise. Your body does need rest to recover from excessive stress being placed on the body from exercise. If cardiovascular exercise is performed at high intensities and proper rest is not integrated, then your body does not have the time to recover which can lead to prolonged fatigue and reduced performance. Eventually this situation can lead to burnout and often times injuries as well.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.