Cardiovascular Fitness – All you need to know and how to achieve it

Being fit is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself. And it is also one of the most admirable goals to pursue in life. But what does it mean to be cardio-fit? And what are the benefits that you can expect when striving for this goal?

I answer this and all the other questions that you probably have about cardiovascular fitness in this article. We will also have a look at the best and different ways of making sure that you get that cardio exercise in that you want to.

Let’s start by looking at what cardio fitness is:

What Is Cardiovascular Fitness?

Let’s look at the definition of cardiovascular fitness: The ability of a person to extract oxygen from the air, into the bloodstream and the ability to then pump this oxygen via the heart to the muscles to be used to oxidize carbs and fat.

In short, this means your ability to use oxygen from the air you breathe to burn body fat and carbs. Cardiovascular fitness is not just about vanity and getting rid of body fat, but it’s to keep one healthy and fit.

What Are The Benefits Of Cardiovascular Fitness?

Having a fit cardiovascular system holds in numerous health benefits. Let’s look at some of them:

  • Living longer – If your heart functions at its peak and the blood circulation is more effective, then the chances of you living a longer and healthier life increases.
  • A better looking and feeling body – As cardiovascular fitness improves the body’s ability to oxidize fat, you will have a leaner and stronger body and being fit will also give you a feeling of wellbeing.
  • Better body image and more confidence – By taking care of your body and by increasing your fitness levels, you will have a new sense of confidence and you will also start to think differently about your body.
  • Improved heart rate – The higher your cardiovascular fitness, the lower your heart rate as your heart performs more effectively.
  • Increased cardiovascular fitness endurance – As you get more fit, you also have the ability to do cardio with less effort than before, even taking the stairs won’t leave you puffing anymore.

How Does A Cardiovascular Fitness Test Work?

With a cardiovascular fitness test, your maximum capacity to take in, transport and utilize oxygen ate tested in the form of the maximum oxygen intake (VO2max). The test is done with:

  • An exercise machine (usually a treadmill)
  • A metabolic measurement equipment that measures oxygen
  • A computer to do the calculations.

There are various tests available that you can do yourself (like the field walking/running test). But these types of tests usually involve complex calculations. I would therefore recommend you to check with your nearest health centre (your doctor might also be able to assist) if they have a cardiovascular fitness test available that you can take.

How Can I Improve My Cardiovascular Fitness Levels?

One of the best ways to improve one’s cardiovascular fitness levels is by doing interval training. This is because interval training takes your heart rate up to a peak (your aerobics threshold) where the oxidation of fat and carbs are at its most effective levels. And with interval training you don’t take the intensity up to high for too long, this gives you chance to improve your overall fitness level over time and allows for significant improvement in your levels of cardiovascular fitness.

How Do I Do Interval Training?

  • Warm up lightly for 5 minutes (brisk walking).
  • You then take the intensity up every minute as the time progress, until you break out into a run/intense exertion.
  • At that point you then gradually take the intensity down minute for minute.
  • Repeat the sequence for about 20 to 30 minutes.

What Cardiovascular Fitness Equipment Is There To Do The Task?

There are various cardiovascular fitness equipment pieces available to assist you in reaching your fitness goals. Let’s look at some of them:

Cardiovascular fitness machines

These machines have built in heart rate monitors and viewing screens to monitor your progress and to also select the resistance levels and programs. Some of them include:

  • Elliptical cross trainers – These machines are great because they not only improve your fitness level, but they also gives a full body workout
  • Treadmills – Treadmills are one of the most versatile cardio machines there are, as you can walk, jog and run on it. You can also adjust the incline so that you get a more effective workout for your lower body.
  • Steppers – a stepping machine doesn’t give as an effective workout as the other cardio machines, but it is great for toning your lower body while improving your fitness levels. The Malibu Pilates chair on the other hand, gives an effective cardio workout while also toning and lengthening the muscles.

Cardiovascular fitness equipment

You don’t need a machine or even a gym membership to achieve cardiovascular fitness. There are plenty other non-expensive cardio equipment that also offers a great cardio workout. Here are a few of them:

  • A jumping rope – A jumping rope offers a great cardio workout while improving your overall fitness levels.
  • Cardio training shoes – If you have some good training shoes then you are set to go. Take the road or run up and down steps.
  • Cardio workout DVDs – These are one of the most fun ways of getting a cardio workout in the comfort of your own home.

Here are 3 of the best cardio workout DVD’s:

So You Think You Can Dance Get Fit: Cardio Funk (2009)

This is a dance inspired cardio workout DVD that has 3 dance styles to which you can shake the pounds off to – Disco, Hip Hop and Contemporary. It also includes a warm up, a cool down and a bonus workout – Cardio Funk.

Click here for more information about the Cardio Funk exercise DVD

Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout for your Wii

This is an interactive new type of workout – on your Wii console. You use your Wii remote to do cardio, boxing and other exercise moves. It also keeps track of your calories burnt and your progress in fitness.

Click here for more information about the cardio training game

Firm Cardio: Maximum Cardio

If you are looking for a challenge, this workout DVD is for you. It combines cardio with weight training and also include some dance moves. You will need a step, an exercise ball and some weights for it.

Click here for more information about the cardio training workout DVD

What Are The Best Cardiovascular Fitness Sports (If I Don’t Like To Gym)?

Lot of people doesn’t like to gym, and the good new is you don’t necessary have to. You can get just a good cardio workout in without stepping a foot in gym. Here are some good examples of sports you can do today:

  • Competitive swimming or swimming laps in your own pool
  • Cycling marathons or running marathons
  • Football or netball
  • Mountain biking
  • Hiking in nature

As long as you make a point to get in some regular cardio and you take the intensity up quite a few times, you will get a good cardio workout in.

Here Are Some Effortless Cardiovascular Fitness Activities!

To make it even easier, here are 5 ways of getting in more cardio without even trying so hard. Doing such “free” cardio, you will be improving your cardiovascular fitness levels in no time. Here are 5 things you can do today:

  • Taking stairs instead of the lift
  • Go jogging with your dog
  • Chase your children around the block
  • Go on long nature hikes
  • Parking further away from the shops

Conclusion

With so many ways of getting in a cardio workout and so many benefits of cardiovascular fitness, the only thing that will stand in your way of achieving your fitness levels could be you. Yes, you have to power to make a change.

Set goals for yourself and also keep a fitness log to see how your fitness levels are improving. Having your cardiovascular fitness checked every month will also help keep you motivated and on track. Just remember to choose activities that you would enjoy and that you would like to do on a regular basis.

About Suzie Parker