Cardiovascular Fitness — What Does It Mean and How Do I Get It?
I want you to stop thinking about cardiovascular fitness as a luxury and start thinking of it as a necessity.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States—it kills over three hundred and seventy-five thousand Americans each year, according to the American Heart Association (you can read more astounding statistics on heart disease here).
The term “heart disease” includes a lot more than clogged arteries. No matter what form of heart disease you might be at risk for, or even actively fighting, achieving cardiovascular fitness has one benefit that outweighs all the others:
A longer, healthier life.
Cardiovascular disease is a killer—it’s the leading cause of death in the United States. One of the best ways to fight cardiovascular disease and achieve cardiovascular fitness is through physical exercise, especially of the (you guessed it) cardio variety. The CDC has had recommendations for physical activity for a long time, but people have a tendency to ignore them. According to this article, “Only about 24 percent of American adults currently meet the physical activity recommendations outlined in the 1996 Surgeon General’s Report”
These are very basic requirements, minimal even. Even these recommendations probably don’t reach the amount of cardiovascular exercise you really need to achieve a high level of cardiovascular fitness, a fitness that benefits your body in more ways than even seems possible.
Study after exhaustive study has shown that exercise is extraordinarily beneficial for your body. If you want to forgo the definitions and get right to the goodies, skip the next section—the third section lists all the amazing benefits your body gets from cardiovascular exercise.
But what is cardiovascular fitness exactly? Let’s see what the experts have to say on the issue.
Cardiovascular Fitness—What It Is And How You Can Measure It
Unfortunately, cardiovascular fitness is not exactly something you can measure precisely with what you’ve got lying around your house, “A maximal treadmill test is considered to be the most valid method of measuring cardiovascular fitness, [but it requires] collecting and analyzing expired air during the test [to] directly measure VO2 max.” Basically, getting a precise measurement probably isn’t going to happen.
However, there are some less-precise tests for cardiovascular fitness that you might actually be able to do on your own (you can find a full list here).
Warning: it’s really best to do these tests under the supervision of a trained medical professional.
This is especially important if you haven’t been exercising regularly or making your cardiovascular fitness a priority — some of these tests are designed to test your maximum abilities, and this just isn’t safe if you’ve not prepared for the test. Speak to your medical care provider if you’re interested in testing your level of cardiovascular fitness.
Now for the good stuff. What do you get for all the hard work of cardiovascular exercise?
What Are the Benefits of Achieving Cardiovascular Fitness?
Did I mention that having a high level of cardiovascular fitness will help you live a longer, healthier life? Because it help you live a longer, healthier life.
Let me be more specific (and cite some amazing statistics).
One study found that weekly exercise (2000 Calories burned a week) increases your average lifespan by 1 to 2 years. For half that amount of exercise, this literature review found that overall mortality (not simply heart disease-related mortality) was reduced by 20% – 30%. The same review found that regular exercise fights everything from diabetes and colon cancer to osteoporosis and breast cancer.
Working towards cardiovascular fitness through an exercise program can even help with other illnesses like stroke and erectile dysfunction.
But the benefits don’t end there. Regular exercise, cardiovascular or otherwise, doesn’t just make you healthier—it can keep you from getting burned out at work. Scientists in Australia recently found that regular exercise can help reduce feelings of stress and emotional exhaustion while increasing feelings of well being.
Are you sold on cardiovascular fitness yet? Here’s the best part—you don’t even need that much exercise to achieve these benefits.
How Much Exercise Should I Be Getting?
Of course, this all depends on your current state of cardiovascular fitness. Always speak with your medical care provider before starting any type of exercise regimen—there may be some very good reasons for you to not exercise in a particular fashion, or at least start slow.
Generally, the CDC recommends about 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise to achieve cardiovascular fitness. However, this all depends on your life, your commitments, and your ability to fit exercise into your weekly schedule.
One way to do this is to toss the gym membership and workout at home. Home workouts are a great solution for a lot of people, and it might be the only way you can fit exercise into your life.
You don’t need much exercise to change your life—even three walks of ten minutes each a day can make a huge impact on your life. Add what you can, and realize that no time spent exercising is wasted.
What if Exercise Isn’t Enough?
If you’re already exercising regularly and you still don’t feel like yourself, you might be suffering from low testosterone. Click here to learn the symptoms of low testosterone for men and women and how testosterone replacement therapy might be the answer.