“If we had a pill that contained all of the benefits of exercise, it would be the most widely prescribed drug in the world,” Ronald M. Davis, M.D., American Medical Association Past President.
You won’t find many people willing to argue that physical activity is bad for you. That said, a healthy, sustainable approach means getting the dosage right. Results matter. In terms of understanding whether your activity and lifestyle profile translates into real health benefits, VO2max – the defining metric of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) – is the perfect resource.
How important is your fitness level? It’s so important that in 2016 the American Heart Association published an official scientific statement recommending that clinicians routinely measure VO2max and consider it as a vital sign, along with traditional measures like body temperature, blood pressure, and heart and respiration rates.
The value of VO2max as a reflection of total body health extends from the integrated functioning of multiple physiological systems. It reveals the heart, lungs, blood vessels, muscles, and nervous system all working together.
With that in mind, here are 5 benefits of boosting your VO2max.
1. Feel better and less stressed – Exercise is a well-known method of unwinding from a stressful day, but a higher fitness level can even prevent physiological stress from accumulating in the first place. Data contained in Firstbeat Lifestyle Assessment research database reveals that people who are more physically active experience less physiological stress and are more resilient to the impacts of stress when it does arise. The same data also shows a clear link between regular physical activity and feelings of personal well-being.
2. Breeze through daily challenges – When you improve your fitness level, daily life gets easier. And you feel more energetic as a result. It doesn’t matter whether you are out for a jog, shopping for groceries, or cleaning out the garage. Physical activity of any kind requires energy.The specific energy cost of activities can be expressed in terms of oxygen is needed to produce it, and by extension as a percentage of your VO2max. This percentage of your maximum capacity plays a big role in how easy or hard activities feel and how effortlessly you can perform them.
3. Faster, higher, stronger – As the defining metric of aerobic performance capacity, it should come as no surprise to learn that your VO2max plays a role in how well you perform in a variety of sports. While especially important for endurance activities like running and cycling, aerobic fitness also plays a role in sports like soccer, basketball, and any other sport that will leave you panting for air. Work with recreational runners shows that a 5% increase in VO2max fitness translates to a roughly 5-minute decrease in 10k running times.
4. Level up your health – Your fitness level has a significant impact on your susceptibility to non-communicable diseases and overall health. People with higher fitness levels experience lower rates of cardiovascular and coronary artery disease, colon cancer and type-2 diabetes. Those findings from the American College of Sports medicine are supported by additional research which revealed that a 10% increase in VO2max could decrease all-cause mortality risk by 15%.
5. Turn back the clock – Getting older is a fact of life, but regular exercise and an active lifestyle can immunize you from many of the effects of aging. It’s no accident that they same types of activities that boost your fitness level also minimize muscle loss, keep your bones strong, and even keep your brain healthy. Multiple studies have also linked higher VO2max scores with reduced risk of developing both dementia and Alzheimer disease. Research also shows that it’s never too late to benefit from regular exercise, even for those who haven’t been active in the past.
These are just a few of the many benefits of improving your VO2max score. Thanks to Firstbeat’s innovative analytic capabilities, a growing number of popular wearable and hearable devices are able to reveal your current level of cardiorespiratory fitness. This vital information can reveal whether you are fit enough to achieve health benefits, or if there is room to improve. Regular access to this information also provides powerful motivation to create lasting change, with long-term health benefits.
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