Physical Activity and Cardiorespiratory Fitness

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Exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle, and it has been shown to have many positive effects on your physical health. Exercise can increase your cardiorespiratory fitness, which is your body’s ability to take in and use oxygen during sustained activity. To measure this, cardiorespiratory fitness is typically assessed with VO2max tests, which show the maximum amount of oxygen you can consume while exercising.

A Canadian study of over 20 000 adults found that those who had attained high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were less likely to die from any cause than those who had not attained high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness.

Why do males tend to have better cardiorespiratory fitness than females?

It is thought that males tend to have better cardiorespiratory fitness than females because of the presence of larger skeletal muscle mass and higher muscle oxidative capacity.

Why is cardiorespiratory fitness an important part of your physical health? 

Cardiorespiratory fitness is an important part of physical health because it shows how well your body uses oxygen, which affects many physiological functions and contributes to heart disease and diabetes risk. Studies have found that higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with lower mortality rates from all-causes, coronary heart disease, and diabetes mellitus. In the past 20 years, cardiorespiratory fitness has been linked to improved work productivity, reduced absenteeism and lower health care costs.

Physical Activity and Cardiorespiratory Fitness :

1. What is cardiorespiratory fitness?

Cardiorespiratory fitness is a measure of your body’s ability to take in and use oxygen during sustained physical activity. The fitter you are, the more oxygen your body can consume during exercise. Cardiorespiratory fitness has been linked to lower mortality rates from all-causes, coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus.

2. Is cardiorespiratory fitness associated with higher mortality rates?

In a study of over 20 000 Canadian adults, higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with lower mortality rates. This association was observed among males and females.

3. Is cardiorespiratory fitness measured correctly?

Testing your cardiorespiratory fitness is not always accurate, as different tests have varying results. Standard testing includes the number of laps completed in a round of running (VO2max) and the distance covered in a 2km run (timed up and down the track). But using these objective methods may give misleading results, especially for those with less than 10yrs of training. 

Most research has focused on personal bests for competitive athletes, but survey studies suggest that about 80% of us could improve our performance by at least 10–30%. This is because a personal best is based not only on your underlying cardiorespiratory fitness, but also how well you performed on the day. You might surprise yourself!

4. What factors contribute to cardiorespiratory fitness?

Various factors can affect your level of cardiorespiratory fitness, including genetics, physical activity levels and diet. Genetics plays a significant role in determining cardiorespiratory fitness levels. It has been estimated that about 25–40% of the variability in our VO2max scores are due to genetics.

After accounting for genetic factors, social and economic determinants (e.g., education, income) play a major role in influencing cardiorespiratory fitness levels. Other factors include physical activity levels, age, diet and sex.

5. What are the benefits of cardiorespiratory fitness?

Cardiorespiratory fitness is a key component of physical health and has been shown to have many positive effects on human health. For example, higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with lower mortality rates from all-causes, coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus. 

It has also been found that higher cardiorespiratory fitness levels are linked to reduced risk factors for all-causes of death (e.g., reduced blood pressure and body fat). Furthermore, populations who have higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness tend to report better health.

6. Are there any drawbacks associated with high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness?

High cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with a number of potential health risks, including injury and stress on your heart. For example, those with high aerobic capacity may be more likely to suffer an acute heart-related illness (e.g., heart attack) at the start of an endurance event such as a marathon. 

Furthermore, exercising in hot weather can increase the risk of heatstroke and dehydration, especially if you are already leading a sedentary lifestyle. Therefore, individuals who are not at risk for these conditions should avoid prolonged exercise in hot weather when possible. In addition, individuals who have impaired lung function (e.g. asthma, emphysema) may be at risk of developing exercise-related asthma symptoms.

7. How is cardiorespiratory fitness affected by age?

Previous studies have shown that cardiorespiratory fitness tends to decline with age. This suggests that fitness levels can be used as a measure of age-related decline in physiological function, especially in the elderly.

 However, these findings have not been consistent across different studies, perhaps due to the amount of time required for testing and interpretation of results. Age-related declines in cardiorespiratory fitness seem to be generally less pronounced among those who exercise regularly and who maintain a high level of physical activity throughout adulthood.

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