Cardiorespiratory fitness best describes the health and function of the heart, lungs and circulatory system. Cardiorespiratory fitness also describes the capacity of the lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the blood, and the transportation of nutrients and waste products to and from the body’s active tissues. Other terms used and applied to the exercise environment are cardiovascular fitness, aerobic endurance and aerobic capacity. These terms are synonymous.
Cardiorespiratory exercise has proved to have many benefits, such as reducing cardiovascular disease by increasing fat utilization and therefore reducing obesity, and the reduction and management of hypertension and cholesterol. Other reported benefits include improved heart function and oxygen consumption, the ability to perform every day tasks more easily, decreased resting heart rate, body fat stores, anxiety and stress and management of diabetes.
A cardiorespiratory program needs to follow general guidelines to ensure maximum safety and effectiveness. These characteristics are essential for measurable improvements. We call this the FITT principle.
Frequency 3-5 times per week
Intensity 60-90% of predicted MHR
Time Duration 15-60 minutes of aerobic exercise
Type Activities; walking, cycling, jogging, swimming, roller blading, cross training, rowing etc.
Exercise FREQUENCY refers to the number of exercise sessions per week that are performed. The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) recommends 3-5 sessions per week to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and to achieve or maintain optimal body fat levels.
Exercise INTENSITY refers to the amount of effort you put into your training session. There are many methods for monitoring exercise intensity, some have been standardized, and are suitable for application to the general population and for those of different fitness levels.
Heart rate (MHR)
Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
The ‘talk test’ method
Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is determined by:
Men 220 – age
Women 226 – age
A 34 year old male, would therefore have a MHR of 186 beats per minute (bpm). Your exercise intensity is then put into the equation to give an exercise intensity that is specific to experience, fitness level, capabilities and relative to your fitness goals. Those just starting an exercise regime, or having a low level of fitness can benefit from intensities as low as 50-60% of MHR. Higher intensities as much as 90% of MHR are better suited to the more physically fit. As a general guideline, 60-80% of MHR is sufficient for the average population with no contra-indications to exercise.
RPE The ‘Rate of Perceived Exertion’ scale considers all factors that influence exercise intensity and how we perceive that exercise including fatigue and environmental conditions. A twenty-point scale has been devised that corresponds with Heart Rate intensities and allows the participant to determine their perceived effort. This method teaches us to listen to our bodies instead of ‘zoning out’ and can be used in conjunction with Heart Rate.
The ‘talk test’: This is an easy method that anyone can use. The talk test is based on the principle that if you cannot hold a regular conversation while exercising, your exercise intensity is too high. The intensity should however, be enough to increase core body temperature and promote perspiration.
Exercise TIME is the duration of the exercise and is dependent on the intensity of the session. The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) suggests a minimum of 15 minutes of continuous exercise to elicit any improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness. More deconditioned individuals may require multiple shorter sessions until they develop a base from which improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness can be made.
Your capabilities, interests, available time, equipment, facilities and personal goals determine exercise TYPE. The options are endless and can include any movement that uses large muscle groups, is continuous in nature (for a minimum of 15 minutes) and utilizes the aerobic energy system.
When beginning an exercise program, it is best to take a conservative approach and start at suggested minimums i.e. 3 times per week for 15-20 minutes at no more than 55-65% of MHR.
This intensity should be gradually increased over the forthcoming weeks and months to elicit changes and improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness and endurance.
The health professionals at Fitcorp Asia can design a program specific to your needs and goals, and help you reach your potential in health, mind and body.