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What is Aerobic Endurance?

You have probably heard of the term “aerobic” before, and you’ve almost certainly heard of the term “endurance” but do you know what they mean? Or whether they should be used interchangeably? In this article, we will take a look at what is aerobic endurance, and why it is important.

In this article we will cover:

What is Aerobic Endurance?

To understand what aerobic endurance is, we need to define each term separately. Aerobic means “requiring oxygen”. It can be used in several ways. You could describe aerobic bacteria as a bacteria that requires oxygen. Anaerobic, means without oxygen.

There are two forms of energy generation in the body. Aerobic, and anaerobic. In anaerobic exercise, the body breaks down glucose without oxygen to move your body. This process leads to short bursts of power that cannot be sustained for longer than a few seconds. If you sprinted as fast as possible you would be relying on your anaerobic system.

Aerobic exercise is performed at a slower and lower intensity, meaning that you have time to breathe and use that oxygen for energy production. The fitter you are, the longer you can keep training. Or the more intensely you can train for the same length of time. This is known as aerobic endurance.

Aerobic endurance is the ability to exercise for a long period of time without having to stop due to fatigue. It is a measure of your body’s ability to deliver oxygen to your muscles.

Difference Between Aerobic and Muscular Endurance

Often, aerobic endurance and muscular endurance are used interchangeably, but they are actually two different things.

Aerobic endurance is, as we’ve established, the ability to deliver oxygen to your muscles so that you can exercise for a long time without succumbing to fatigue.

Muscular endurance is the ability of your muscles to perform the same movement for as many repetitions before mechanical failure.

Admittedly the difference doesn’t seem too obvious here. Both forms of endurance are about exercising for as long as possible before getting fatigued and stopping. The difference is quite complicated to explain, but in simple terms, with aerobic endurance you will get out of breath and have to stop to “catch it”.

Whereas with muscular endurance, you are unlikely to be out of breath at all, but your muscles will ache and eventually be unable to perform that movement again.

Running for 1500m will tire your muscles, but it will tire your aerobic system first (unless you are super fit). You will feel out of breath and be unable to hold a conversation, but your muscles shouldn’t be screaming and preventing you from running.

Performing 20 bicep curls won’t cause you to lose your breath, but by the time you reach your 19th rep you may find that your biceps are screaming at you, and the movement will be really difficult. That’s muscular endurance.

What are the Benefits to Improving Your Aerobic Endurance?

The most obvious benefit to improving your aerobic endurance is your ability to exercise for longer. If you want to run further and at a faster speed, then improving your aerobic endurance is crucial. If you want to be a better footballer, or tennis player, or if you want to be able to walk to work without feeling out of breath, then an improved aerobic endurance is amazingly useful.

Then there are the health benefits. Improved aerobic endurance means a healthier and better functioning cardiovascular system. That means less chance of having a heart attack or stroke. There is also a reduced risk of dementia, certain cancers, diabetes, and obesity.

Even if you aren’t losing weight, an improved aerobic system can help you to reduce your risk of illness and disease. That being said, if you are exercising frequently enough to improve your aerobic endurance, there is a good chance that you will lose excess body fat.

How to Improve Aerobic Endurance

Find an aerobic exercise:

  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • A Cross-Trainer
  • Playing a sport

Find a way to measure your current aerobic endurance. If you are planning on running a 10km, then see how long you can run continuously for without needing to rest. If you can already run 10km, then measure your time.

Let’s say that you can run 2km without needing a break. That’s your benchmark. Your goal now is to run 3-4 times per week until you can run 2.5km, then 3km. Each week you will start to feel that distance becoming easier.

Constantly pushing to improve will lead to an improvement in your aerobic endurance. Sure, this is an overly simplistic explanation. There are many reasons why people struggle to run 10km, with aerobic endurance being a large factor, but not the only one. Race management, muscular endurance, technique, and even something like footwear could all be affecting your distance/time.

But for most people, it is poor aerobic endurance that affects something like a 10km run. Looking to run further/faster will improve it.

This can be adapted to most sports or exercises. Cycling for longer or for the same time at a faster pace. Playing football for longer without a rest, or at a higher intensity. You get the idea.

Aerobic Endurance Training Methods Simplified 

  • Slow Continuous Training For 20-45 mins 3-5 days a week aiming for a 50-70% heart rate
  • High-Intensity, Continuous Training 20-30 mins 2-3 days a week at 75-85% hear rate
  • Interval Training – short bursts of 85% heart rate followed by light jogging or continued movement for recovery. 1-2 days a week e.g 3 mins on 3 mins off for 10 minutes
  • High Intensity Interval Training – High intensity workout with short recovery times see HIIT Workouts For Fat Burning


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