The Critical Vital Sign You're Probably Missing

Cardiorespiratory fitness

You probably know your height and weight. You might know your blood pressure, cholesterol, temperature, or blood sugar. But do you know your VO2 max?

VO2 max is your body’s maximum rate of oxygen consumption, and it’s used to measure your cardiorespiratory fitness. Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) is so important that the American Heart Association calls it a clinical vital sign. The AHA says that CRF is a potentially stronger predictor of death than smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes, so it’s important to monitor and improve.

How to Assess Cardiorespiratory Fitness

The traditional measure of CRF is VO2 max, and doctors have been assessing this for years. You may have seen videos of professional athletes riding a stationary bike or running on a treadmill while wearing an oxygen mask; those are VO2 max tests. They’re extremely accurate, but they require specialized equipment, and they can be difficult and costly to perform.

Is There an Easier Way to Assess CRF?

The most precise way to measure CRF is still with the VO2 max test, but that may not be practical or available for everyone. PAI Health has designed a Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI) metric that uses data from your fitness wearable to assess your cardiorespiratory fitness. Using your Fitbit or other fitness wearable, PAI Health can use a unique algorithm to determine whether your CRF is good or needs a little work.

PAI Health also offers a free Fitness Age Calculator that you can do online in a matter of minutes. This uses a simple, non-exercise model to measure CRF that can accurately predict your long-term mortality.

Why is CRF Important?

Cardiorespiratory fitness can predict your long-term health, and it’s a factor that can usually be controlled and managed. Better CRF is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and death from all causes.

Good CRF can help you live longer, but it can also help you live better. There is evidence that good CRF may help with surgical recovery and cancer recovery, and it may help prevent certain types of cancers. It even helps to protect against cognitive decline as you age.

How can I Improve my Cardiorespiratory Fitness?

It’s very hard to improve what you can’t measure, and traditional fitness advice often gives very little in the way of scientifically-backed metrics. Should you walk 10,000 steps a day or do aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day, three times a week? And what about working in the garden or lifting weights? Does that help with CRF?

If you were an elite athlete, you could measure your cardiorespiratory fitness with regular VO2 max tests from your doctor, but most of us don’t have the time or the budget for that sort of check-up on a regular basis. And while physical activity is good, it can be hard to know whether the activity you’re doing is actually improving your heart and lungs.

Your heart and lungs get stronger when you exercise them, which means that the best exercise for CRF is anything that raises the heart rate and gets you breathing heavily. A retail worker might do 20,000 steps a day and never raise their heart rate, but an hour in the garden might raise your heart rate. Without knowing what your heart rate’s doing, you can’t really tell whether your exercise is raising your cardiorespiratory fitness.

PAI can Measure your Fitness

PAI is an easy way to measure your cardiorespiratory fitness without needing to get a full VO2 max test. If you can measure it, you can improve it.

PAI is based on 25 years of data from more than 45,000 people. The scientifically-backed algorithm factors in your age, weight, heart rate, gender, and much more to give you a personalized prescription for cardiorespiratory fitness. Using data from your fitness wearable, PAI will tell you whether your exercise is actually improving your heart and lungs.

PAI can Improve your Fitness

When you get your heart rate up, you earn PAI. The higher your heart rate and the longer your heart rate is elevated, the more PAI you earn. Your PAI score accumulates PAI over a rolling 7-day period, and if you can keep your score at or above 100, you can dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease and death.

If you keep your score at or above 100, your cardiorespiratory fitness improves. PAI makes it simple to improve your fitness by measuring how your body responds to physical activity. You don’t have to work out every single day, but by getting more cardiorespiratory exercise on an ongoing basis, you improve your cardiorespiratory fitness and your health.

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