walking up steps

The New Vital Sign? Your Level of Aerobic Fitness

walking up stepsYou know the usual list of cardiovascular risk factors – smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic stress, gum disease, and the like.

Now the American Heart Association (AHA) is charting a new course in the prevention of heart disease. In a new scientific statement, the AHA says that aerobic fitness should be considered a vital sign, taken as part of a routine exam, similar to blood pressure, pulse and breath rate.

Thirty years of scientific evidence has shown that low aerobic fitness is associated with a high risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality, including various cancers, especially of the breast and colon/digestive tract.

If aerobic fitness is found to be lacking, suggests the AHA, patients should be advised and directed to exercise in a manner that’s appropriate for their current state of health.

Of course you don’t have to wait for your doctor to determine your aerobic fitness. Fitness testing is easy to do yourself. The Mayo Clinic, for instance, offers a simple four-part test on their website.

It can also be worthwhile to discover how your fitness matches up to age-related averages. Does your fitness level make you younger or older than your chronological age? If you don’t get the result you were looking for, take your results to your doctor to talk about what you can do to improve them.

Aerobic fitness is vital to health. An essential body function, aerobic capacity measures how efficiently your body can deliver oxygen to tissues. This oxygenation reflects your overall physiological health and function, especially as it pertains to your cardiovascular system.

Still, as recently as 2013, there was no mention of aerobic fitness in the AHA and American College of Cardiology set of new risk assessment guidelines. Maybe the science wasn’t all in. Maybe it was deemed too hard to test fitness in a doctor’s office. But now, as insurance companies have shifted to a long-term view of prevention to save costs, we are seeing more recommendations based on prevention.

The time is ripe for moving beyond symptoms and costly treatment for chronic diseases, and onto addressing the root issues that contribute to disease. And the science overwhelmingly supports it.

Bottom line? If you want to maintain a healthy body, you’ve got to get up and move. And while there are many ways to get started, here’s one 7-week progressive program that’s scientifically designed to get you on the road to a fitter you.

Image by Fit Approach, via Flickr