I recently took the Adult Fitness Test outlined in the President's Fitness Challenge. The test is broken down into 3 sections: Aerobic Fitness, Muscular Strength and Flexibility, and you are scored as a percentile of normative data.

I found my results to be somewhat surprising: I was in the top 10% for muscular strength(!! /flex) but the bottom 5% for aerobic fitness. My flexibility score was about average.

I was specifically concerned that my aerobic score was SO low. I knew my cardio health needs improvement, but wow! I was coming down with a cold at the time that I took the test, but I don't think that would have affected my score that much.

The aerobic test is walk 1 mile at a brisk pace, or run 1.5 miles, and then measure your heart rate. My legs are a bit short, so my 1 mile walk was 19 minutes, and my heart rate was at 120.

I've been taking martial arts for nearly two years now, and about half the classes I take get my heart rate up and keep it up. I have noticed a marked improvement in my endurance, particularly in fighting; I'm able to sustain a fight for far longer than I did at the outset.

I am usually in class 5 days a week, so I don't have much time to add more to my exercise regimen. What can I do to most effectively increase my cardio health?

  • 1
    I'm not sure if that estimate is really great, some people's heart rate goes through the roof and others won't go up, so don't let the score get you down! Either way, would you have time to do some running/cycling before or after your classes?
    – Ivo Flipse
    May 11, 2011 at 22:11
  • @Ivo I could maybe squeeze in 15-20 mins of running before some of the classes, but how much help would that really be?
    – morganpdx
    May 11, 2011 at 22:56
  • Hehe, well how much you could get done depends on how much time you had. 15-20 mins is a rather short workout for cardio-exercise
    – Ivo Flipse
    May 11, 2011 at 23:08
  • According to many HIT gurus, 15-20 minutes is plenty if you're going to maximal effort. In fact, it'd be pretty tough to keep that intensity up anywhere near 15-20 minutes...
    – G__
    May 11, 2011 at 23:29
  • @Greg That depends on whether you're referring to HIT weight lifting or HIT running (anaerobic cardio). If you're talking about the ladder, 15-20 mins every 3 days is more than enough. To deal with the intensity be sure to have drops in intensity (think a light jog) to give your body time to process the excess lactate between sprints. It'll increase your strength, metabolism, anaerobic threshold, and V02 MAX and is beneficial for just about everything except distance running and long range aerobic sports. Don't forget rest days. They're important to an effective recovery. May 13, 2011 at 23:29

1 Answer 1


If you want to get good at cardio, you're going to have to do more cardio!

Improving your cardiovascular fitness needs continuous activity for a window between 20 and 60 minutes (more advanced = more minutes). Some really simple guidelines from National Academy of Sports Medicine

If you're new to exercise, strive for 15-20 minutes three days per week, eventually working up to 30 minutes three days per week. If you are moderately fit, you can run for 20-60 minutes per day, 5-7 days per week to increase cardiovascular endurance.

If you want more info, check out The Principles of FITT.

Here are some suggestions to squeeze in more cardio. Note: monitor the workouts of your classes, since it's hard for us outsiders to gauge how intense (heart rate) they are.

  • Do cardio AFTER your martial arts classes.
  • Do cardio BEFORE your classes. Not going to suggest this to start off with because you may become too tired for your classes! Drink lots of water and grab a snack if you do :)
  • Take one less class and spend that time doing cardio. (this doesn't mean forever)
  • Do more in your martial arts class. Got downtime? Do pushups or some jumping jacks to keep your heart rate up. Maybe even do an extra 'set' of the exercise you're practicing in class. Talk with your instructor for ideas!
  • MAKE time for cardio. Watch any TV? Play any video games? Perhaps cut the one-hour lunch to 30 minutes?

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