Cardio. You’ve heard of it. It’s probably part of your training program. It has been the most talked about and investigative aspect of fitness and exercise. Most of you know it as a good way to lose weight. But there’s more to it when it comes to long term health.
There are a lot of protocols that can be used to estimate aerobic fitness. But the best way is a direct measurement by gas analysis while you gradually exercise to your maximum. This will measure the maximum volume of oxygen that your muscles can use or VO2max. VO2max is a very strong long term health predictor.
Below are the 6 elements that need to be optimal in order for you to have good cardio fitness.
1. Full use of healthy lungs.
The first step is that you need to make full use of your lungs. We often see people that get poor results because they are so called shallow breathers. This means that they unknowingly restrict their breathing thus not getting the maximum volume of air in their lungs. What you can do.
Practice diaphramic breathing. Lie on your back and place one hand on your belly and one on your chest. Take a deep breath and make the hand on your belly move while limiting the movement of the one on your chest.
2. Efficient oxygen transfer.
When you get an optimal volume of air in your lungs, it will produce an oxygen pressure that will help oxygen diffuse into your blood. This is limited by the health of your lungs. If you were a smoker or have asthma, this step will be limited for you. What you can do.
If you are a smoker, stop. If you have emphysema or chronic bronchitis, proper breathing is even more important. For asthma, stay away from triggers.
3. Normal hemoglobin levels.
Oxygen transfers from the lungs to the blood. A molecule called hemoglobin will transport it to the tissue. People with very low hemoglobin (anemia) usually have lower exercise capacity. The important factor is iron. It makes hemoglobin perform well. What you can do.
If your hemoglobin is low, you may need to eat more foods rich in iron. This is important for especially for females since iron fluctuate due to the menstrual cycle.
4. Healthy heart.
Your heart is the engine that will get oxygen to the working muscles. This is measured by the cardiac output (ml/min) which is the stroke volume (ml/beat) X heart rate (beats/min). A healthy heart will push enough blood at every beat. What you can do.
Not much. Your maximum HR is pretty much set and not increased by training. With training you may be able to reach a higher percentage of your max. As for stroke volume, it can be slightly improved with training. But this can lower your performance if you have heart problem.
5. Enough blood vessels around the muscles
The system of little blood vessels around your muscles will determine how quickly oxygen will get into the muscles. More vessels will get it in there faster. Also, if some of those tiny blood vessels are blocked or harden, your performance will suffer. What you can do.
Keeping your cholesterol levels in check will help in keeping the pipes open. If you suffer from weakness or dizziness, nausea or sweating it may be an indication that little blood vessels are getting clogged.
6. Plenty of mitochondria in the muscles.
Last but not least, your muscles have to be equipped to use the oxygen. This will be determined by healthy mitochondria. Those are energy manufactures in your muscles. The more of those you have, the more efficient you will be. What you can do.
Challenge your aerobic system. Any activity that increases your heart and respiratory rate can do. It doesn’t have to be long if it is challenging. With lower intensity activities, you will have to compensate by going longer.