Fitness as a vital sign?

exercise app The American Heart Association (AHA) is recommending that providers assess cardiorespiratory, or aerobic, fitness as part of a routine medical exam.

In a new scientific statement, the authors maintain that poor cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) is associated with cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression and certain types of cancer. CRF measures how well your body uses oxygen during “sustained physical activity,” and is a good assessment of overall health.

The AHA supports the mounting scientific evidence in favor of CRF. It says CRF is as strong a predictor of illness and death as traditional risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. While cardiopulmonary exercise testing is considered to be the best way to check CRF, providers should consider the patient’s health when choosing testing methods.

People don’t have to be athletic to reap the health benefits from improving their CRF. In fact, those who have low fitness levels or are sedentary can gain greater health benefits from starting or increasing regular physical activity than those who are already moderately or highly fit.

At your next scheduled checkup, ask your provider about starting an exercise program. He or she can offer a variety of strategies to help you improve your overall health, if needed.