Cardiovascular Fitness…What is it? Why Is It Important?

In my last post (January 2010) I talked about the many components of fitness. In the following posts in the days/weeks to come I’ll address each component at length and attempt to describe the value and benefits of improving your fitness in each of these areas. The first and probably most important fitness component for a healthy adult body is cardiovascular (aerobic) fitness. Aerobic fitness determines how well our body processes and utilizes oxygen (to our cells and working muscle tissues) during physical activity. Adults with low aerobic fitness levels are less likely to endure activities that require energy and endurance.  Inactive older adults cannot expect to improve sagging energy and endurance levels without training their cardiovasular systems on a daily basis. While the aging process does have some negative effect on the efficiency of our aerobic capacity, a sedentary lifestyle is more directly responsible for the largest reductions of cardiovascular fitness.

However, much research has been done in this area (with older adults) showing that regular bouts of moderate exercise (30-60 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week) can improve and maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. During aerobic activity, you repeatedly move large muscles in your arms, legs and hips. The body responds quickly to this activity by breathing faster and deeper which increases the amount of oxygen in your blood. Likewise the heart beasts faster which increases blood flow to your muscles and back to your lungs. Your entire vascular system will be required to dialate to deliver the increased oxygen to your working muscles and to also carry away the waste products such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Your body will even release endorphins, natural painkillers that promote an increased sense of well-being. And this is just the beginning of all the benefits that you will reap when you engage in regular bouts of aerobic exercise. Here’s a list that should help motivate you to get out there and move it. Here’s what you gain when you exercise:

  1. Improve your mood
  2. Boost your energy levels
  3. Help manage your weight
  4. Improve your immune system
  5. Prevent and/or combat chronic disease
  6. Lower blood pressure
  7. Lower bad (LDL) cholesterol
  8. Increase good (HDL) cholesterol
  9. Improve your sex life
  10. Increase insulin sensitivity
  11. Promote better sleep
  12. You choose what’s fun for you

So don’t wait any longer! If you’ve been on the couch for awhile, then start slow when you get out there! Now stay with it and you’ll begin feeling better before too long…I can almost guarantee it!

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