Cardio fitness or cardiovascular fitness refers to the ability of the body’s cardiovascular system which consists of the lungs, heart, and blood vessels to supply oxygenated blood to working muscles with efficiency.
This also means that the muscles are able to maximize the use of this oxygen delivered by the blood to power your movements. In short, your cardiovascular system is considered fit if circulation and oxygen use are efficiently done.
When you have cardiovascular fitness, you are able to withstand aerobically challenging activities regardless of the duration. Improved cardio fitness also reduces your risk of acquiring and developing various diseases related to the heart and lungs since the better your circulation, the less pressure is put on these organs.
The Importance of Cardiovascular Fitness
There are many reasons why cardio fitness is important and why cardio exercises are still required even for strength building. Here are some of these reasons:
It improves heart health and helps prevent a number of life-threatening diseases.
A healthy heart and circulatory system really goes a long way. Your heart is probably the most overworked muscle of your body, pumping blood 24/7, nonstop. So just like any other muscle, it has to be worked in order to be strong. Otherwise, it will weaken overtime with a lot of negative effects on your overall health.
By regularly raising your heart rate, you can keep your heart in tiptop shape. This way you won’t get tired or winded after simple tasks like walking up the stairs or going around the block.
Cardiovascular fitness also helps prevent or reduce your risk of acquiring diseases like congestive heart failure, stroke, arterial blockage, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart attacks, angina, ischemia, cardiac arrhythmia, and coronary disease.
It boosts your metabolism.
Aside from your heart rate and circulation, cardio exercises also improve the rate of other bodily processes, like your metabolism. In general, the higher the intensity of your cardio session, the more noticeable is the increase in your metabolic rate.
This corresponds to a better and faster food digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste removal. A boosted metabolism will also make it much easier to lose weight or maintain a proper weight.
It helps improve your hormone levels.
Cardiovascular health and doing cardio exercises regularly results to a better hormonal profile in the body. These help trigger the release of feel good or happy hormones that reduce the symptoms of fatigue and depression. These hormones also suppress the appetite.
This is why people who do cardio usually have more positive outlooks on life, are less stressed, and generally have better mental health.
It shortens your muscle recovery period.
Lower intensity, moderately paced cardio exercises also help reduce your recovery time after an intense session in the gym. This is because a light jog, a short run, or a few minutes on the treadmill will help improve the removal of by-product created by the body during a lifting session.
This also reduces the delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) and allow oxygen-rich blood to work its magic in the muscle rebuilding and repairing process. This means you can get back to working your muscles again after a shorter rest period.
Since building muscle mass requires consistency and rest, cardio is very helpful in achieving optimal results. However, too much or too intense cardio workouts can add unnecessary strain on the muscles that can actually hinder rather than aid your recovery.
It helps manage your blood sugar level.
Finally, cardio fitness is important in controlling your blood glucose levels, allowing you to avoid, prevent, or manage diseases like diabetes or insulin resistance syndrome.
This is because regular cardio exercises allow your muscles to utilize glucose from your blood more efficiently, which is why people who exercise have more controlled and stable blood sugar levels.
Tips to Achieve Cardiovascular Fitness
Here are some important reminders and tips to help keep your cardiovascular system healthy and fit:
Do not smoke or quit smoking. Smoking contributes to heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases.
Exercise regularly. Doing any type of light repetitive activity that helps you reach 60 to 70% of your heart rate for 30 to 60 minutes 3 to 4 times per week is recommended. This can help boost the strength, endurance, and efficiency of the cardiovascular system. These include cycling, brisk walking, jogging, jumping rope, and such.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight by as small as 30% significantly increases your risk of heart disease. So, consult your doctor or nutritionist for a healthy way to lower your weight and keep it there.
Get enough sleep. Numerous studies and articles have shown that there is a strong link between heart disease and lack of sleep. In fact, a study in the University of Chicago revealed that an hour less sleep every night increases coronary plaque by up to 16%.
Relax and manage stress. Stress contributes to a number of problems in the body. If you are always stressed, you need to counteract this with breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation to reduce the levels of stress hormones in your body.
Eat healthy. For a healthy heart, you want a diet that is low in sugar, processed food, simple carbs, and saturated fats. It should be mainly composed of whole grains, fruit, lean meat, and vegetables. Limit your sodium intake as well.
Now that you have a better view as to why cardio fitness is important, you may want to take steps towards a better, healthier lifestyle. While genetics is a major factor, there are many things you can do to maintain a fit and healthy cardiovascular system.