Cardiovascular Exercise - The Benefits - Best Training Methods

Discover the many health and fitness benefits of cardiovascular training including best training methods and session plans.

three woman running along a coastal path

Cardiovascular – or aerobic – fitness pertains to the efficiency at which the heart and vascular system can deliver oxygenated blood to the working muscles. In any aerobic discipline – cycling, running, swimming – an athlete who can sustain a high output is said to have a ‘good engine’. That is: their heart is strong and it can pump a high volume of blood around the body. As McArdle (2001) says, ‘a large maximum cardiac output (stroke volume) distinguishes champion endurance athletes from well-trained athletes.’

An individual with above average cardiovascular fitness will almost certainly have a larger than average sized heart, greater stroke volume (the quantity of blood that is pumped out of the left ventricle with each beat), low resting heart rate and above average muscular density in the muscles of the cardio-respiratory system: cardiac muscle, the diaphragm and the smooth muscles that line veins to assist blood flow.

Other general physiological characteristics commonly associated with the participation in regular cardiovascular exercise include:

Lean athletic physique
Low subcutaneous body fat
Low visceral body fat
Defined musculature
Greater VO2 max
Improved cardio-respiratory efficiency
Greater bone density

Cardio Quick FAQ

How can cardio be measured?

Below I have outlined a range of tests that can measure cardiovascular fitness and be used as a method of tracking performance improvements.


a woman on an indoor rowing machine