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Running for Cardiovascular Fitness

Running provides a good return in fitness with a low investment of time.
Running provides a good return in fitness with a low investment of time.
Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Ask a dozen exercise physiologists which exercise is best and you’ll likely get a dozen different answers. But according to Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, whose books on aerobics are as responsible as anything for putting America on the road to better cardiovascular fitness, believes that it is hard to beat the fitness results that running gives for the limited investment of time it requires (Henderson, 2000).

You need not be a running fanatic to benefit fitness-wise from running. Dr. Cooper says those who run more than 15 miles a week do it for something other than aerobic fitness because once you pass 15 miles per week you do not see much further improvement.

Cooper believes that running two to three miles, three to five days a week is enough to achieve and maintain good cardiovascular fitness and he has mountains of scientific research evidence on which to base that claim (Henderson, 2000). He follows his own prescription, jogging or speed-walking two miles in less than 30 minutes, four or five times a week (Reinhold, 1987).

Adding aerobic exercise to your routine is an excellent way to build your cardiovascular fitness and running is an inexpensive, easy to do anywhere, year-round aerobic activity. Running helps promote weight loss, improves sleep, elevates the mood and boosts energy levels. It can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and can decrease the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease (, 2014).

To start a fitness running program, beginners or returning runners can ease into running by alternating 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of running while aiming to complete 10 minutes of exercise, three to five days per week. As fitness increases simply do more jogging and less running until you are able to jog continuously for the 10 minutes.

Once you are able to run 10 minutes without stopping, run for 10 minutes every other day (three times per week) and cap it off with a 15-minute run as the last run of the week. Every fourth week, add 5 minutes to the three shorter runs and 5 minutes to the one longer run. In three months you should be running for 30 minutes every other day finishing the week with one 35 minute run. Maintaining that schedule will provide you with a good cardiovascular fitness base.

The point of achieving and maintaining cardiovascular fitness is to enjoy a better quality of life. There is a distinction between being fit and being healthy. Being healthy is simply the absence of disease. You can be healthy and still not be fit and unable to enjoy life to the fullest. On the other hand, exercise like running can deliver fitness but it is simply one part of the overall health equation. Fitness running should always be supplemented with a healthy diet, adequate sleep and achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight.


Henderson, Joe. Running 101: Essentials for Success. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2000. Print.

Robert Reinhold. "An Interview with Kenneth Cooper." The New York Times, 29 Mar. 1987. Web. 07 Jan. 2014.

"6 Benefits of Running." N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Jan. 2014.


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