Much of the popularity of exercise revolves around weight loss and muscle-building, but it has so many other benefits for your body. When you exercise, your muscles work against resistance. Your heart pumps fresh blood to all your muscles, and your lungs expand and contract becoming stronger.
Not only does this process enable you to go faster and longer, it also promotes healthy lung and heart function and wards off disease. Any type of cardiovascular exercise done for a sustained amount of time is effective. Ultimately it depends on what you enjoy doing and doing it regularly.
Walking is an excellent starting point to build heart and lung endurance for people new to exercise. It's easy on the joints, readily accessible and most people enjoy it. The key to getting heart and lung benefits is to walk at a pace that challenges you. You should feel slightly out of breath, your heart rate should rise and you should break a light sweat.
As you build endurance, walk faster and for longer periods. Adding hills to your walking route or increasing the incline on the treadmill will provide that next level of challenge.
Jogging and Running
Once you've built up decent stamina and speed with walking, push your heart and lung endurance to the next level with jogging. Jogging is slower than running -- typically a pace between 4 and 5 miles per hour. The increased speed and impact taxes your heart and lungs, causing them to grow stronger.
A running pace is usually over 5 miles per hour. Your legs are moving faster, you're working against more wind resistance, your arms pump faster. Combined, this deepens the demands on your heart and lungs, causing them to become stronger and more efficient.
Consider training for a 5K or 10K, following a training program that gradually increases your distance week-on-week. After you've completed shorter distances, attempt a longer race such as a half or full marathon.
Read more: Running 101: A 5K Training Plan For Beginner
Swimming is reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the fourth most popular form of aerobic in the United States. People of all fitness levels can build heart and lung health from swimming. Basic strokes like breaststroke and backstroke are a great way for new swimmers to build endurance, while freestyle and butterfly strokes are more challenging to learn and execute.
An advantage of swimming over land-based exercise is the absence of gravity-induced stress on joints and muscles in the relative weightlessness of buoyancy. This allows you to exercise longer to develop endurance and stamina.
Bicycle riding is a low-impact activity that you can do for long periods of time and distance -- as much as a 100 miles in one day. But not at first. In the beginning, you want to build a base by pedaling at a steady pace for increasing periods of time. This causes physiological changes in your heart and lungs that allow you to go farther.
During base training, keep your intensity around 65 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. Once you've built your base, you can go faster over shorter distances and work in interval training, both of which will help you ride longer.
Most people can't sprint for a sustained period of time, but short sprints are manageable. Sprint intervals alternate periods of intense effort with periods of recovery, usually in a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio. This type of training is excellent for building endurance, even more so than steady-state training according to a study published in PloS One in 2013.
Intervals can be performed in almost any type of activity -- swimming, cycling, running and rowing. However, they're not suitable for people who have previously been sedentary. Those new to endurance exercises should build a base of fitness by exercising at a moderate pace. Once that's achieved, interval-training sessions can be added to the program. Start with one session a week and work up to two or three at the most.
Read more: Interval Training on a Stationary Bike