Exercise and Physical Fitness
Physical fitness is to the human body what fine tuning is to an engine. It enables us to perform up to our potential.
Physical fitness involves the performance of the heart and lungs, and the muscles of the body. And, since what we do with our bodies also affects what we can do with our minds, fitness influences to some degree qualities such as mental alertness and emotional stability.
Physical fitness is considered a measure of the body’s ability to function efficiently and effectively in work and leisure activities, to be healthy, to resist hypo kinetic diseases, and to meet emergency situations.
Physical fitness is generally achieved through
- Physical activity and exercise
- Correct nutrition
- Enough rest (good quality sleep)
- Stress management and relaxation
As you undertake your fitness program, it’s important to remember that fitness is an individual quality that varies from person to person. It is influenced by age, sex, heredity, personal habits, exercise and eating practices. You can’t do anything about the first three factors. However, it is within your power to change and improve the others where needed.
Physical fitness is most easily understood by examining its components, or “parts.” These four components are basic:
Cardiorespiratory Endurance – the ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues, and to remove wastes, over sustained periods of time. Long runs and swims are among the methods employed in measuring this component.
Muscular Strength – the ability of a muscle to exert force for a brief period of time. Upper-body strength, for example, can be measured by various weight-lifting exercises.
Muscular Endurance – the ability of a muscle, or a group of muscles, to sustain repeated contractions or to continue applying force against a fixed object. Pushups are often used to test endurance of arm and shoulder muscles.
Flexibility – the ability to move joints and use muscles through their full range of motion. The sit-and- reach test is a good measure of flexibility of the lower back and backs of the upper legs.
Body Composition – is often considered a component of fitness. It refers to the makeup of the body in terms of lean mass (muscle, bone, vital tissue and organs) and fat mass. An optimal ratio of fat to lean mass is an indication of fitness, and the right types of exercises will help you decrease body fat and increase or maintain muscle mass.
How often, how long and how hard you exercise, and what kinds of exercises you do should be determined by what you are trying to accomplish. Your goals, your present fitness level, age, health, skills, interest and convenience are among the factors you should consider.
The keys to selecting the right kinds of exercises for developing and maintaining each of the basic components of fitness are found in these principles:
SPECIFICITY – pick the right kind of activities to affect each component. Strength training results in specific strength changes. Also, train for the specific activity you’re interested in. For example, optimal swimming performance is best achieved when the muscles involved in swimming are trained for the movements required. It does not necessarily follow that a good runner is a good swimmer.
OVERLOAD – work hard enough, at levels that are vigorous and long enough to overload your body above its resting level, to bring about improvement.
REGULARITY – you can’t hoard physical fitness. At least three balanced workouts a week are necessary to maintain a desirable level of fitness.
PROGRESSION – increase the intensity, frequency and/or duration of activity over periods of time in order to improve.
Some activities can be used to fulfill more than one of your basic exercise requirements. For example, in addition to increasing cardiorespiratory endurance, running builds muscular endurance in the legs, and swimming develops the arm, shoulder and chest muscles. If you select the proper activities, it is possible to fit parts of your muscular endurance workout into your cardiorespiratory workout and save time.
MEASURING YOUR HEART RATE
Heart rate is widely accepted as a good method for measuring intensity during running, swimming, cycling, and other aerobic activities. Exercise that doesn’t raise your heart rate to a certain level and keep it there for 20 minutes won’t contribute significantly to cardiovascular fitness.
The heart rate you should maintain is called your target heart rate. There are several ways of arriving at this figure. One of the simplest is: maximum heart rate (220 – age) x 70%. Thus, the target heart rate for a 40 year-old would be 126.
Do You Want To Look and Feel Better?
Start slowly! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you can’t become fit over night. If you do too much too soon and don’t ease into the routine by gradually increasing your intensity, frequency, and duration, you will most likely fail. Also, you will miss the process of becoming fit. Worse yet, an injury may prevent you from continuing to exercise at all. Also, if you used to exercise and just took a break for awhile, do not pick up where you left off! This almost always turns into an injury. Again, start slowly. Make gradual increases and you will see the results over time!
If you are at a point in your life where you want to improve the way you look and feel, but you are not sure of the next step, a Personal Trainer may be exactly what you need to get you started on the road to Success.