The next time you see your physician for a checkup you may want to inquire about cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). According to the American Heart Association, CRF should be measured by doctors routinely because it is an independent factor that gives vital information on a patient’s health. CRF is more strongly associated with mortality than traditional risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes.
CRF is a health-related component of physical fitness defined as the ability of the circulatory, respiratory, and muscular system to supply oxygen during sustained physical activity. It is expressed as maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) or metabolic equivalents (METs) measured by low cost exercise tests such as cycle ergometer or treadmill. Both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients can benefit from the test.
There is no specific optimal numerical value for CRF. Low CRF levels are associated with a high risk of cardiovascular disease, mortality related to obesity, and various cancers. High levels of CRF and improvement in CRF are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease with improved outcomes for surgical risk, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and Type 2 diabetes. This “protective” effect of CRF on mortality is independent of age, ethnicity, smoking status, alcohol intake, and health conditions.
So how can you improve your CRF? Talk to your physician as they may be able to personalize a plan for your current health status. However, you can probably expect an increased amount of physical activity and changes to your current diet.
Overall, including CRF in clinical and conventional evaluations such as blood pressure measurement and blood chemistry analyses may contribute to chronic disease prevention and longer life span.