Definition of Cardiovascular Fitness

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Are you looking for a definition of cardiovascular fitness? This article will define it and provide some tips for achieving optimal cardiovascular fitness.

The Definition of Cardiovascular Fitness

The definition of cardiovascular fitness is the capacity of the cardiovascular system (heart, lungs and vessels) to efficiently supply oxygenated blood to working muscles, as well as the muscles to use the oxygen delivered by the blood supply as a source of energy for movement. In other words, the definition of cardiovascular fitness is how well and efficiently your blood circulates through your body.

The Importance of Cardiovascular Fitness

Why is cardiovascular fitness important? A healthy circulatory system goes a long way to preventing a number of life threatening diseases. Maintaining cardiovascular fitness can help to prevent:

  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Blood clots
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Arterial blockage
  • Ischemia
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Insulin resistance syndrome
  • Angina
  • Cardiac Arrhythmia

The Keys to Cardiovascular Fitness

Cardiovascular fitness doesn't just happen. There are a number of things that you can do to make sure that your cardiovascular system is fit and healthy.

Don't Smoke

Smoking is one of the leading contributors to heart disease and a number of other cardiovascular ailments. If you are a smoker, it's not too late for you. Quitting smoking can lower the risk of heart disease. Consider a smoking cessation program.

Get Regular Exercise

Regular exercise conditions your heart and allows it to pump the blood throughout your body more efficiently. While any and all exercise can help to strengthen your heart, aerobic activity in particular improves cardiovascular efficiency, endurance and strength. Recommendations for aerobic activity that contributes to optimal health of your cardiovascular system includes doing some type of repetitive activity that keeps your heart rate at 60-70% of its maximum for 30-60 minutes three or four times a week. To discover your target heart rate, consult a heart rate chart.

Some examples of aerobic activities for cardiovascular fitness include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging
  • Bicycling
  • Hiking
  • Stair climber
  • Elliptical trainer
  • Exercise bike
  • Aerobics classes
  • Spin class
  • Certain types of yoga
  • Interval circuit training
  • Jumping rope
  • Rowing

Watch Your Weight

Being overweight by as little as 30% can significantly raise your risk of heart disease. If you are overweight, work with a nutritionist, health care provider and/or trainer to help develop a strategy to safely lower your weight. If you are unsure as to whether or not you are overweight, calculate your body fat and consult a body fat percentage chart.


Stress is a large contributor to heart disease. Too much stress results in elevated levels of both cortisol and adrenaline in the body. Chronically high levels of these two hormones have been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and more. Chronic high levels of cortisol are also linked to obesity, which is a factor in heart disease.

Most Americans run on a diet of stress. Their daily lives are stressful, which causes the levels of stress hormones to be chronically high. If you are chronically stressed, try and find something that helps to relax you and counteract your stress response. Activities like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, regular exercise or just vegging out can all help to alleviate stress levels.

Get Enough Sleep

A recent Time Magazine article discussed the link between lack of sleep and heart disease. In the article, they discussed a University of Chicago study that showed that even one hour less of sleep per night increased coronary plaque by 16%.

The ideal amount of sleep for a healthy heart is about seven hours per night.

Eat a Healthy Diet

A heart healthy diet effectively controls weight and keeps blood lipids in their ideal ranges. A heart healthy diet is low in saturated fats, simple carbohydrates, processed foods and sugars. It has adequate amounts of lean protein, fruits and vegetables and whole grains. A diet high in sodium is also a contributor to heart disease, so excess sodium intake should be avoided, as well.


While there are a number of genetic factors that contribute to your cardiovascular health, your risks can be managed. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle as outlined above, you can lower your risk of heart disease and maintain optimal cardiovascular fitness.

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Definition of Cardiovascular Fitness