Physical fitness should be considered a vital sign, says wellness professor
The medical community should review a patient’s aerobic fitness — just as they do other vital signs — to help people manage their health, urges Lenny Kaminsky, a nationally renown health and wellness researcher for the College of Health at Ball State University
Kaminsky, director of the university’s Fisher Institute of Health and Well-Being, is part of an expert panel that made a recommendation recently issued by the American Heart Association.
The statement says there is unequivocal evidence to confirm that cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), a reflection of overall cardiovascular health, should be measured in clinical practice to provide additional information for patient management.
“Reasonable estimations of CRF can be immediately available to patient and physician using existing information in the electronic medical record,” said Kaminsky. “Discussion of the patient’s CRF should become as routine as is talking about blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight in evaluating risk of health concerns. This information provides clinicians with unique opportunities to improve patient management and encourage lifestyle-based strategies designed to prevent development of chronic diseases.”
Decades of research have shown that CRF is a stronger predictor of mortality than established risk factors such as cigarette smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, andtype 2 diabetes, and that low levels of CRF are associated with a high risk of cardiovascular disease, and mortality
rates attributable to various cancers.
In addition to improved cardiovascular outcomes, higher levels of CRF are associated with improved outcomes for certain form of cancer, surgical risk, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and Type 2 diabetes.
“The evidence reviewed by our writing group clearly demonstrates that more than half the reduction in cardiovascular disease mortality occurs in response to a very modest increase in CRF,” Kaminsky said. “The good news is this is achievable for most people by heeding the current recommendations to regularly perform even moderate levels of physical activity. This simple lifestyle habit, if adopted by those that are habitually sedentary, can increase CRF and produce substantial improvements in one’s health and well-being.”