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How to Build Endurance

written by: Deborah Walstad • edited by: Angela Atkinson • updated: 6/29/2011

No matter what your current fitness level is, you can always push yourself to do more. Find tips for building endurance through increasing activity length and duration, varying your workouts and more to help you get in your best shape.

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    Running is a great endurance activity. Building endurance takes a combination of increasing exercise intensity and duration. It is an effective way to keep workouts challenging and improving health and fitness. Whether you are just starting out or are already exercising regularly, the following guidelines can help you improve your endurance level.

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    Assess Your Current Fitness Level

    If you are just starting out you may want to start with as little as 5 minutes of endurance exercise. If you have been exercising regularly, see how long you can go then build up from there.

    Remember to increase exercise intensity and duration slowly. Doing too much too soon will make you more prone to injury. Listen to your body and slow down or take breaks as needed. You shouldn't be breathing so hard that it would be hard to carry on a conversation. Stretch well before and after exercising, including a light warm up and cool down. Also drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

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    Choose the Right Exercise

    Aerobic activities are best for building endurance. Your goal should be to perform the activity at a moderate level of intensity for a duration of time. Some examples are: Walking, running, biking, swimming laps, hiking, dancing, kick boxing,cross country skiing, etc. In general, try to keep moving for the duration of your workout.

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    Getting Started

    If you are just starting out, try endurance activities for 5 to 10 minutes. Gradually add time until you are exercising at least 30 minutes a day. This can be one 30 minute session, two 15 minute sessions, or three 10 minute sessions. However you do it, try to do more each time-- exercising longer and harder. If you have already been exercising regularly, test and see how long you can go then build up from there.

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    Increasing Activity Duration

    Depending on your current fitness level, it may take several weeks to build up to a 30 minute session. In the meantime you can break it up into two or three shorter sessions. Every time your current exercise duration is becoming too easy, you may increase the length. As a general rule, you may want to add five minutes to your session every week or two.

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    Cross-Training

    Another effective way to build endurance is by cross training or mixing it up. For example, you could swim laps one day, go for a run the next day and do some kick boxing the day after that. In addition to building endurance, you will also develop a greater passion for physical fitness.

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    Get Heart Rate Up

    Every time you exercise, work on getting your heart rate up. If your exercise is too easy, increase the intensity. By raising your heart rate you'll build physical stamina and further your physical fitness.

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    Focus on Healthy Eating

    In order to have the energy for exercising, you need to eat right. If your diet consists mainly of fried foods and soda, you're not going to have the stamina to build endurance. Focus on eating a good variety of whole grains, lean meats, low fat dairy and fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid foods with a lot of salt, sugar, fat or carbonation.

    On the other hand, you don't want to go to the other extreme and not eat enough, either. In fact, with increasing activity you may find you eat more than before, but as long as it's healthy you should still be getting in shape. Don't exercise on an empty stomach as this may cause you to become faint.

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