Cardiovascular Fitness - Learn What Cardiorespiratory Fitness Means

Cardiovascular Fitness
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Cardiovascular fitness refers to how well your body can perform rhythmic, dynamic activity at a moderate to high intensity for extended periods of time.  In other words:  How long you can endure a cardio workout.

It also has to do with how well your heart, lungs and organs to consume, transport and use oxygen. Basically, it all comes down to the relationship between your cardio system, respiratory system and your skeletal system.

  When they can all work together efficiently, without you blowing a lung, that means all of these systems are working together the right way.

How Do You Know if You're Fit?

There are lab tests you can take, of course, that cost money and could give you a very accurate calculation of things like your VO2 Max (the maximum volume of oxygen your body can consume and use) and your Maximum Heart Rate, tests like the Graded Exercise Test, which involves a long series of intervals on the treadmill.  Or, there's the Bruce Protocol Test, which also involves working on a treadmill to maximal effort, but how can you tell in real life?

Testing Your Cardio Fitness

Most of us don't have the money or the desire to go into a lab and work ourselves to death to find out how fit we are.  However, there are some ways you can test your cardio fitness at home in a much simpler way.

The Three Minute Step Test

One option is to use an 18-inch step.

  You use a metronome (you can always download an app since - How many of us have one of those lying around?) and you step up and down for 3 minutes., stepping about 24 steps per minute (96 beats per minute).

At the end of the 3 minutes, rest for one minute and then take your pulse for 30 seconds.

The Rockport Walk Test

This is an even simpler test.

  For this, you walk a mile as fast as you can, either on the treadmill or outside.  You record your heart rate and workout time and then compare them to standard averages to see how fit you are.

Improving Your Cardio Fitness

So, how do you get better at cardio?  I'm sure the answer won't be terribly surprising:  You just have to keep doing it.  Consistency is the only way to build endurance and cardio fitness, but there are lots of ways to do that.

  • Steady State Training:  This is probably what you're used to doing - Going out for a run or getting on a treadmill or elliptical and pedaling to nowhere for 30-60 minutes.  Yes, that's a good option, but not your only one.
  • Interval Training:  Now, this involves going fast/hard and then backing off to recover for the duration of the workout.  This can actually help you build endurance more quickly than steady state training, especially if you work way out of your comfort zone (which is about a Level 9 on this Perceived Exertion Scale).
  • Mix and Match:  My favorite idea is mixing these two together.  You don't want to have too many interval training workouts because that can lead to injury, overtraining and burnout.  If you're a beginner, I would start with maybe 3 or 4 workouts a week and focus on maybe 2 steady state workouts - Like this Basic Endurance Workout and one interval routine, like this Beginner Interval Workout that stays in your aerobic zone. 

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