Health benefits of cardiorespiratory fitness

The health benefits of cardiorespiratory fitness include increased strength, endurance and weight loss. It also decreases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes and a host of other conditions. Cardiorespiratory fitness can be measured and improved through various exercises and activities, including swimming, biking, walking, aerobics, running and circuit training. Exercise programs that focus on increasing cardiovascular and muscular endurance are the most effective in improving your fitness level.

Health professionals commonly measure your cardiorespiratory fitness, or CRF, during a symptom-limited graded exercise test (CPX). This test measures how well your lungs, heart and circulatory system supply oxygen to your skeletal muscles during sustained physical activity. The test typically involves a warm up, followed by exercising at an intensity that is progressively increased until you reach your maximum level of exertion. Your doctor will then record your heart rate and the time it takes for you to cool down before you stop exercise and give a standardized quantification of your CRF.

Another way to measure your CRF is with an incremental treadmill test, which measures the distance you cover during a walk or jog at a steady pace. This test can be done in a clinic or at home and is much less expensive than a CPX. However, the symptom-limited, maximal graded exercise test is considered the most reliable and valid test for measuring your cardiorespiratory fitness.

Performing regular cardiovascular and/or muscular endurance exercise will increase your fitness levels, which is the ability of your body to perform physical activity at medium to high intensities for extended periods without becoming tired. The more fit you are, the easier it will be to engage in daily physical activities such as walking or jogging.

When used in conjunction with other exercise methods, such as strength training and bodyweight movements, cardiorespiratory fitness can reduce your risk of chronic disease and improve your quality of life. For example, a study published in 2019 found that combining resistance training and high-intensity interval training led to greater improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness than either of these exercises alone.

In addition to the physiological benefits, regular physical activity and especially cardiovascular exercise will boost your mood and help you feel better. Research shows that people with higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness have a lower risk of depression and other psychological disorders. Regular exercise also can help you maintain a healthy weight, improve your mental health and increase your energy levels. If you are looking to start a fitness program, it is important to find something you enjoy and stick with it to maximize your health benefits. Ideally, you should aim for at least 30 minutes of cardiorespiratory activity two or three times a week. A trainer can guide you to the best type of cardiorespiratory exercise for your fitness level and goals. For clients who are new to exercising, a trainer can design a safe and appropriate program that gradually increases the length of time and intensity of workouts over time.

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