Cardiovascular Fitness: The Foundation of Healthier Living

How well your body is able to bring oxygen into the blood through the lungs and its ability to use that oxygen as efficiently as possible within the muscles is referred to cardiovascular fitness. Regular exercise is the key to improving this system.

As you might imagine, heart disease is closely related to the how fit your cardiovascular system is. With neglect, blood vessels can develop weak muscular walls; can't stretch and constrict as required; may develop plaque between the layers of muscles that make up the walls; or may develop plaque inside the vessel. These conditions can lead to a ruptured blood vessel or a blocked blood vessel, resulting in a heart attack or a stroke if it happens in the brain.

Poor cardiovascular fitness used to be a problem just for older adults, but has recently become a problem for even younger members of the population. There are many theories for this shift in demographics: less activity in school; more time spent watching TV; playing video games; playing on a computer; and a parental fear of letting there kids out to play.

The good news is that it is not that difficult to improve one's level of fitness. The bad news though is that depending on who you talk to there are different suggestions for improving cardiovascular fitness. But simply put, any time you move your body your fitness improves. And the more movement, the more the improvement.

Tips for Cardivascular Fitness

  • Consider exercising regularly. Most recommend at least 3-5 times per week.
  • Exercise at a comfortable pace but try and get your heart rate up to at least 60%-70% of its maximum.
  • Try and maintain the activity for at least 20 minutes.
  • If you're just starting out, start with just a few minutes at a lower intensity.
  • Do activities you enjoy such as walking, running, swimming, cycling, rowing, stair climbing, and racquette sports.
  • Vary your activities so you don't get bored which will also help prevent injuries related to overuse.
  • Find friends that enjoy similar activities.

Exercise Heart Rate

There are a couple of formulas for calculating your ideal heart rate while exercising. The simplest one is to take (220 - your age) X 65%. The 65% is a somewhat arbitrary number. If you want to work harder then use a higher percentage e.g. 70%. If you are just starting out then go a bit lower e.g. 60%.

This is the target heart rate for an average 35 year old while exercising:

(220 - 35) X 70% = 130 beat per minute

Now, having said all this, you can always just exercise and not worry about your heart rate. As long as you're breathing hard then you're working out. Just don't become so out of breath that you can't talk.

Notes About Exercising

  • If you haven't exercised in a while you should first consult your physician to make sure things are working fine.
  • You should not be in pain when you exercise. If you are, you are pushing yourself beyond your limit and risk injury.
  • Unless you get into marathon running you do not need any special diets such as carbohydrate-loading. Just eat healthy and make sure you get foods from all of the 4 food groups.
  • If you prefer to exercise using intervals then do so. In fact many, studies have shown that this is just as beneficial as continuous exercise.
  • Using weights to improve fitness is very beneficial. Just like interval training, studies have shown that this method can also improve cardiovascular fitness.
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