How Does Age Affect Your Cardio Stamina, Ability to Bounce Back? 

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Multi-ethnic group of three middle aged and senior women (50s, 60s) doing water aerobics exercises with dumbbells in a swimming pool. Two of the women have serious expressions on their faces and the third is smiling.
We all have little variations in our stamina and endurance when it comes to our workout routine. Some days we’re pumped up and ready to hit the gym, while other days we’re looking for any excuse to back out of that heart-thumping exercise class we signed up for. Mood swings aimed at exercise are normal. But what if you notice what seems to be a steady drop in your energy level at the gym? Or maybe after an especially intense workout, your muscles seem to need more than one recovery day? Let’s look at how your age might be affecting your cardio stamina and your ability to bounce back after a workout.
Blowing out another candle on your birthday cake doesn’t automatically mean you’ll notice a difference in your stamina when it comes to swimming laps or logging miles on the treadmill. But depending on what decade you are working your way up, age can have an impact, research says.
Heart function and age. When it comes to high-impact workouts – or any exercise – the heart is the engine behind all our movements. As people get older, their hearts change. They don’t beat as fast during exercise, and blood vessel conditions can change as well, according to the National Institute on Aging. And while for some people this could lead to a slow-down in stamina level or a need for more recovery time, it does not necessarily have to.
Regular exercise helps the heart. Studies have shown that regular exercise can actually reverse the signs of aging normally seen in some people’s hearts. A 2018 study published by the American Heart Association tracked healthy, middle-aged adults for two years. It showed that regular exercise prevented the type of cardiac stiffness normally attributed to age. Participants in the study saw their aerobic fitness level increase by 18%, and their heart’s elasticity increase by 25% – a big step toward increasing aerobic stamina, one of the study’s authors told The Washington Post
Healthy heart is key to better endurance. Just like regular exercise helps keep the heart in good shape, a healthy heart is the key to maintaining your workout stamina, studies show. Endurance exercises that really get the heart pumping are seen as the best way to increase the heart’s function, according to an article on exercise and aging in Harvard Health. It can even reverse signs of cardiac aging that tend to show up in mid-life. One study checked the cardiac health of men in their 20s, then again when they were in their 50s and showed signs of aging hearts. The men were put on an endurance exercise regimen for six months. Results showed their heart’s blood-pumping abilities had improved to match the baseline level taken when they were in their 20s.
Health experts say it’s not just natural aging that causes our bodies to decline, resulting in feelings of reduced stamina, but it’s the fact we’re not getting enough exercise on a regular basis. Endurance exercise also has other big health benefits. It can lower blood sugar and bad cholesterol levels. It can also improve your sleep and help curb memory loss as you age.
Some examples of good endurance exercises include:
  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging
  • Biking
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Racquet sports
  • Golf (if played without a cart)
Photo credit: Getty Images

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