What is cardiovascular fitness?

Have you ever wondered why you get short of breath when you exercise? Wondered why with enough practice you can eventually walk further or faster without getting short of breath?

Cardiovascular fitness refers to the ability for the body to circulate blood around the body using your cardiovascular system.  The cardiovascular system includes the heart, lungs and blood vessels.  Its primary purpose is to pump oxygen rich blood to muscles around the body. With practice and exercise, the cardiovascular system can adapt and improve to work more efficiently.

Any activity that increases your heart rate can be classified as cardiovascular exercise.  The amount or type of activity that increases your heart rate is going to vary from person to person.  This is dependent on a range of factors including current fitness levels, previous exercise and age-related changes.  Examples of cardiovascular exercise can include activities like walking, running, cycling, swimming or aerobics.  However, day to day tasks that increase cardiovascular fitness can also be considered as incidental exercise that may influence your cardiovascular system.

Cardiovascular fitness is crucial for everyday life. Consider the ability to walk around the shopping centre without getting breathless or becoming tired?  Hanging out the washing without getting short of breath?  All of these activities rely on cardiovascular fitness.  Importantly, cardiovascular fitness is also critical in the prevention of cardiovascular related disease such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and stroke.

Cardiovascular exercise should be included in all exercise programs.  Current guidelines recommend regular and moderate physical exercise for your heart health.

Learn more about cardiovascular fitness and developing an exercise program in Episode 8 of The Better Ageing Podcast:

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