An individual can be physically fit, exercise regularly and maintain a generally healthy lifestyle, and still be lacking in the stamina department. Physical stamina comprises cardiovascular and muscular endurance, and takes time and steady effort — but it is a key component in achieving improved fitness.
In addition to improving endurance during exercise, increased physical stamina contributes to a wealth of health benefits, including decreased heart disease risk. With increased activity, the heart and lungs increase their capacity to supply the body — this, in turn, decreases the resting heart rate and lowers blood pressure. What’s more, not only are stress levels decreased but metabolism is increased, which helps to reduce excess body fat and body weight. Also, because of increased energy levels, everyday tasks can be performed with little to no fatigue.
Developing stamina and endurance requires good physical and mental health, physiological training, and proper amounts of rest. Respiratory problems including asthma, heart disease, weak muscles, brittle bones, and even certain medications can affect stamina. Environmental factors, such as elevation, humidity, and temperature can play a role as well. Before starting a program to improve your stamina, visit your doctor to identify any medical issues, conditions, or medications that need to be considered, as well as your overall physical condition.
Training to improve stamina involves both cardio and strength activities. It’s best to work with a qualified trainer at your local gym to help you plan a safe and effective workout routine. They can help you determine the best cardio activities for your needs, such as running, biking, or swimming, and set goals for duration, frequency, and level of intensity (measured by heart rate) as your stamina improves. It’s also good to vary activities so that different sets of muscles are exercised and your workouts are enjoyable. Strength or weight training should be done at least two days per week with weights or body weight, and the weights should be heavy enough that muscle fatigue is experienced within eight to fifteen repetitions. And interval training, which involves short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by longer, lower intensity exercise, can really improve stamina once a certain level of physical fitness is achieved. Perhaps the most important part of increasing stamina is remembering to give the body adequate rest, including a full night’s sleep each night, and eating properly so your body has the fuel it needs to power through regular workouts.
Remember, it’s important to talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise or training program. A Primary Care Physician (PCP) is ideal for this. Learn more about the primary care services at El Camino Hospital, or find a doctor near you.
This article first appeared in the January 2017 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.