5 Big Reasons to Improve Your Cardio Fitness Score

Healthy man with a high cardio fitness score

Cardio fitness has been getting a lot of attention from major health organizations like the American Heart Association. And for good reason. As Fitbit previously reported, people with low cardiorespiratory fitness have a 56 percent higher risk of death from heart disease than those who are the most fit. “Cardiorespiratory fitness is one of the most powerful predictive risk factors for premature cardiovascular disease there is,” says study co-author Timothy S. Church, MD, PhD, MPH, professor of preventative medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. “It’s right up there with smoking, diabetes, and family history.”

But as you’ll see below, preventing heart disease isn’t the only reason you should care about your Cardio Fitness Score. In fact, it’s something everyone should be monitoring, says Church.

“I think the continued evolution of physical activity tracking and measuring devices is creating a huge potential opportunity for the widespread use of fitness as an important health marker.”

Need more convincing? Read on for five more compelling ways improving your Cardio Fitness Score can positively affect your health.

5 Reasons to Improve Your Cardio Fitness Score

Reduce belly fat. Having a healthy body mass index (BMI)—a measure of body fat based on height and weight—doesn’t mean you can avoid exercise. Researchers have found that healthy middle-aged men with high cardiorespiratory fitness scores tend to have lower amounts of visceral fat—a type of fat found deep within the abdomen that’s associated with health conditions like heart disease and type-2 diabetes—regardless of their BMI. Even at the same BMI, men with high cardiorespiratory fitness have, on average, 23 percent less visceral fat than those who are the least fit.

Sleep better. A recent review of sleep research concludes that regular exercise can help adults fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and wake up less. One of the studies looked specifically at the relationship between sleep quality and cardiorespiratory fitness, and found that the better middle-aged adults  did on a treadmill test, the less likely they were to have sleep complaints. Other studies found decreased physical activity leads to an increased risk for insomnia.

Prevent diabetes. When researchers evaluated the health of a group of people who had risk factors for type-2 diabetes (family history, hypertension, etc.) but hadn’t developed the disease yet, one metric stood out: VO2 max—the gold standard for measuring cardiorespiratory fitness. Individuals at risk for type-2 diabetes had a VO2 max 15 percent lower than a control group. The study authors wrote, “This raises the possibility that decreased VO2 max is among the earliest indicators of insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes.”

Combat anxiety. Numerous studies show the positive effect regular exercise has on anxiety. In a 2016 study, researchers found that women with panic disorder who performed aerobic exercise three times a week for 12 weeks experienced a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms as well as a significant improvement in their cardiorespiratory fitness.

Dodge the blues. A 2016 meta-analysis in Preventive Medicine found that people with low cardiorespiratory fitness have a 75 percent increased risk of depression; people with medium cardio fitness levels have an increased risk of about 23 percent.

11 Comments   Join the Conversation

11 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I’ll be 70 in August, in February I had a medium stroke and spent 5 days in a hospital and came home depressed the second day. I quickly shook the depressed and started walking and work up to 10,000+. I was very active before the stroke, but actually I think I was over doing it, running way past my heart rate and probably did contribute to the stroke (just my opinion). Some days I hit 17,000 steps. The first 3 miles I walk about 15 minute a mile. The last mile I do intervals as I monitor my heart rate, when It’s safe I run for 30 seconds. So this is July 2017 and question as if all this walk is good/bad. One doctor said to walk/run in 130 heart rate and touch 150 heart rate and slow down. I do this five times a week and lift light week three times a week after my cardio. Most Important is I use a Fitbit.

  • Preventive Magazine assumes that depression is caused by lower cardiovascular fitness. I would suggest it’s as likley that the reverse is true

  • Hello
    I have just started using a simply fit board which I am enjoying as a workout but Im wondering why am I always in peak zone according to my fitbit surge 96% peak only 6 mins cardio and 3 mins fat burn I workout for 30 mins at a time and still be in peak at the end what am I doing wrong ? I am usually exercising on a bicycle but just want to boost my steps with something new instead of walking or cycling Please help

  • I am and almost 40 year old woman and not overweight and walk lots. My fitbit confirms this. I have a diagnosis of fibromyalgia but do not let it stop me exercising. In fact it makes me more determined to do what I can. I also recently discovered I have a 70% proximal LAD stenosis and having my fitbit makes sure I am still keeping active. Some days are not as easy as others. My fitbit shows my heart rate and as I have possible angina is helpful to know when my heart is going too fast despite not exercising. Although I already know myself, it is helpful to have a record. I have a really healthy diet and genetics have been the cause of my heart problems, stress does not help though. I will continue to use my fitbit, eat healthily and build up my exercise. It is going to be even more important to me in the coming months to build my health back up and keeping a check and having the steps and heart rate is going to be a great help. It is the best present I have received in a long time and with calorie counter and sleep tracker is invaluable to me. If you want to keep a track of how healthy you are and how to improve it, this is the way forward. Whether you are healthy and want to get healthy or want to become even healthier. No matter the age, no matter your health, anyone can improve on what they do. Even if it’s 100 more steps than the day before or sleeping a bit better. Good luck to everyone how us trying or even just trying their best. We all have to start somewhere.

  • Hi ! I’m 75. Have Rheumatoid, Hyperthyroidism, Fibromyalgia, which are are Autoimmune diseases. From these I get bonuses ! Like heart & lung problems – mild so far. I find Fitbit is a great incentive to move often & set goals ! The only annoying thing is the hints don’t even seem aware people might be sick & not slacking !

  • I’m a 63 year old female. My BMI is very high. I need to learn what to eat and when. I drink water all day. I know my eating habits are not so good. Could you please help me with my three meals aday. I am very flexible when it comes to food. I can eat the same things 7 days a week. I do know that I need to walk more and exercise. Could you please help me with a diet. Thank you very much.

  • Not sure why I’m even bothering to ask this because none of the questions seem to get answered but here goes anyway. Is there a way to track you cardio progress on the fitbit?

    • I just went into my fit bit app and went to heart beat resting, a resting graph comes up, you swipe that and you’ll see your cardio fitness, they rate you compared to others your age.

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