Improving cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. CRF has been long known as a predictor of cardiovascular health, hence, cardiorespiratory fitness assessment should be made part of a regular physical examination in order to have a better understanding of the patient’s cardiovascular health.
Dr. Robert Ross explained, “Routine estimation of CRF in clinical practice is no more difficult than measuring blood pressure. The addition of CRF for risk classification presents health professionals with unique opportunities to improve patient management and encourage lifestyle-based strategies designed to reduce cardiovascular risk.”
“The evidence reviewed by our writing group clearly demonstrates that more than half the reduction in cardiovascular disease mortality occurs in response to a very modest increase in CRF. This is good news, as for many people, moderate levels of physical activity consistent with current recommendations may be all that is needed to derive a clinically significant benefit for habitually sedentary individuals,” Dr. Ross concluded.
How to measure and improve your cardiorespiratory fitness
Cardiorespiratory fitness is the body’s ability for the circulatory and respiratory systems to provide the body with oxygen and fuel during physical exertion. Cardiorespiratory fitness is a good indicator of how much physical activity a person performs. It can be objectively measured in metabolic equivalents (METs) or maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) using treadmill or cycle ergometer tests. It can also be estimated with simpler tests.
The best indicator of cardiorespiratory fitness is VO2 max, but it can be difficult to measure. Maximal oxygen intake is assessed through a treadmill test. The patient wears a breathing apparatus and is hooked up to an ECG machine.
A popular measurement of cardiorespiratory fitness is what is known as a one-mile walk. In this test, a patient walks for one mile along a track and measures their heart rate. Many people who do not favor running will often opt for the one-mile walk.
Another test is known as the 12-minute run test. A patient warms up and then runs as far as they can for 12 minutes. Although distance has to be accurately measured, heart rate measurement is not required.
Although cardiorespiratory fitness naturally decreases with age, you can still improve your levels by increasing your mileage covered either on foot, by bike, or even in a pool. There are two ways to improve your cardiorespiratory fitness: Increase intensity of your workouts/activities or increase the distance and/or duration of your workouts. Gradually increasing either factor can greatly improve your cardiorespiratory fitness levels and this way improve your overall health.