What is Fitness

Fitness means being able to perform physical activity. It also means having the energy and strength to feel as good as possible. Fitness is a condition that helps us look, feel and do our best. That means being able to rely on your body to perform when you need it to, being able to run fast or lift heavy weights. Maintaining a good level of physical fitness is something that we should all aspire to do. Your present fitness level, age, health, skills, interest and convenience are among the factors you should consider.

Young couple running on the beach

Fitness requires time and effort. That may be why it's so hard for many people to get started. Getting fit doesn't mean spending hours at the gym or running laps until you drop. To be successful, your fitness program must become a part of your daily life, just like working, cooking, bathing and eating.

Physical fitness is safe for most people. If you're ready to add more physical activity to your life, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Make physical activity part of your regular day. Make a regular habit of using stairs, not elevators, and walking to do errands near your home.
  • Start walking. Walking is a great fitness activity that most people can start doing. Make it a habit to take a daily walk with family members, friends, coworkers, or pets.
  • Find an activity partner. This can make exercising more fun.
  • Find an activity that you enjoy, and stay with it. Vary it with other activities so you don't get bored.
  • Use the Interactive Tool: How Many Calories Did You Burn? to find out how many calories you burn during exercise and daily activities.

Important facts on fitness:

  • Maintaining physical fitness can help prevent some diseases.
  • With exercise, body composition can change without changing weight.
  • Athletes' hearts show different changes dependent on their chosen sport.
  • Muscle strength increases by fiber hypertrophy and neural changes.
  • Stretching to increase flexibility can ease a number of medical complaints.

Basic components of fitness

Your exercise program should include something to improve each of these five basic fitness components. Each workout should begin with a warm-up and end with a cool-down. A warm-up generally consists of five to 10 minutes of low intensity movements, such as walking, slow jogging, knee lifts, arm circles or trunk rotations. A warm-up should include a progressive aerobic activity that uses the muscles you will be exercising.

Warm-ups also help to:

  • Improve the elasticity of your muscles
  • Promote circulation
  • Give you better muscle control
  • Reduce muscle fatigue

A cool-down consists of a minimum of five to 10 minutes of slow walking, low-level exercise, combined with stretching. As a general rule, you should try to get moderate intensity exercise, like brisk walking, most days of the week.

An ideal workout for true Fitness:

  • 5 to 10 minutes of warming up - This will involve stretching and a low level aerobic activity - such as cycling or walking.
  • 25 minutes of weight training - Perform 3 sets of 20 to 25 repetitions of each of the following types of exercises: Pushing, Pulling, Leg Pressing. Do three circuits for a total of 9 sets.
  • 10 minutes of core workout - Do any workout that gets your core working and your muscles burning.
  • 20 minutes of aerobic activity - Can include jogging, running, swimming, cycling, etc.
  • 5 to 10 minutes of cooling down - Stretches will help to relieve the tension from your muscles and prevent injuries. Focus especially on the muscles that were worked out during this session.

Young woman exercise aerobic
Young woman help older gentlmen to stretch himself
Young woman running on the beach

Cardiorespiratory - Heart and Lung endurance

Cardio watch for heart measurements, pulse ...

The ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues and to remove wastes throughout sustained periods of time. Typically measured by how long or fast a person can perform an activity and how this impacts measurements such as heart rate and oxygen consumption. Long runs and swims are among the methods employed in measuring this component.

It indicates how well our body can supply fuel during physical activity via the body's circulatory and respiratory systems.

Activities that help improve cardiorespiratory endurance are those that cause an elevated heart rate for a sustained period, and include:

  • swimming
  • brisk walking
  • jogging
  • cycling

It is important to begin these activities slowly and gradually increase the intensity.

Exercising increases cardiorespiratory endurance in a number of ways:

  • heart muscle is strengthened so that it is able to pump more blood per heartbeat.
  • small arteries are grown within muscle tissue so that blood can be delivered to working muscles more effectively
  • oxygen that is taken in by the lungs is used more effectively

Cardiorespiratory fitness has been found to help reduce the risk of conditions including:

  • heart disease
  • lung cancer
  • type 2 diabetes
  • stroke

Having good cardio endurance will give you a lot more energy, and doing cardio will help to burn calories, reduce body fat, and keep your body weight within a healthy range.

If you want to achieve true fitness in cardio:

  • Between 60 and 70% of your maximum heart rate should be your goal when doing cardio training.
  • Large muscle groups should be used for steady state exercise over long periods of time (running, swimming, cycling)
  • This type of activity should be performed 3 to 5 times per week
  • Between 15 and 60 minutes per day

You'll see great results within the first 6 to 8 weeks.

Muscular strength

Muscular strength

Muscular strength is the ability of a muscle to exert force for a brief period of time. Typically measured by how much weight can be moved in relation to repetitions. Upper-body strength, for example, can be measured by various weight-lifting exercises.

There are a number of ways to measure muscular strength. Lifting or pushing something of a set weight in a prescribed position and comparing the results against any given population is the best way.

There are two types of muscular strength to consider:

  • Dynamic strength - This means the amount of weight your muscles are able to move, during exercises.
  • Static strength - How much weight your muscles can hold without moving, during exercises.

To build muscle, the following criteria must be met:

  • muscles are regularly exercised
  • the individual has taken in enough protein

General principles of muscle building are well known. Training causes the muscle cells to expand and there is an increase in actin and myosin production.

Your goal of true fitness is to be strong enough that you can do all of your daily tasks without worrying about injuring yourself, especially the heavy work that you occasionally find yourself stuck with.

Muscular endurance

Muscular endurance - exercise

The ability of a muscle, or a group of muscles, to sustain repeated contractions or to continue applying force against a fixed object. Typically measured by how many repetitions of an exercise a person can perform. Common tests involve push-ups and sit ups. Push-ups are often used to test endurance of arm and shoulder muscles.

Is the ability of a muscle to continue exerting force without tiring. Endurance training, on the other hand, does not necessarily generate muscles of a larger size. This is because the body focuses more on the cardiovascular system, ensuring that the muscles receive the oxygenated blood they need to keep functioning.

Another important change in muscles that are specifically trained for endurance concerns the different types of muscle tissue - fast twitch and slow twitch fibers:

  • Fast twitch fibers - contract quickly but get tired quickly. They use a lot of energy and are useful for sprints. They are whitish in color as they do not require blood to function.
  • Slow twitch fibers - best for endurance work, they can carry out tasks without getting tired. They are found in core muscles. These fibers appear red as they rely on a good supply of oxygenated blood and contain stores of myoglobin.

Different exercises will promote fast twitch fibers, slow twitch fibers, or both. A sprinter will have comparatively more fast twitch fibers, whereas a long distance runner will have more slow twitch fibers.

To achieve proper muscular endurance:

  • Use about 40 to 60% of your total weight capacity, doing sets of 20 to 25 repetitions.
  • Do three circuits of three exercises of the following types: Pushing, Pulling, Leg Squatting or Pressing.

Body composition

Young woman measuring the waist size

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. A particular ratio of fat to lean mass is an indication of fitness, and the right types of exercise will help you decrease body fat and increase or maintain muscle mass.

Body composition measures the relative amounts of muscle, bone, water, and fat. An individual can potentially maintain the same weight but radically change the ratio of each of the components that make up the body.

Flexibility

Flexibility exercise by young woman

The ability to move joints and use muscles through their full range of motion. Typically measured by how far a muscle group can be stretched or joint can be moved. The sit-and-reach test is a good measure of flexibility of the lower back and backs of the upper legs.

Flexibility is important because it improves the ability to link movements together smoothly and can help prevent injuries. Flexibility is increased by various activities, all designed to stretch joints, ligaments, and tendons.

There are three types of exercise that are generally utilized to increase flexibility:

  • Dynamic stretching - the ability to complete a full range of motion of a particular joint. This type of flexibility is used in standard "warming up" exercises as it helps ready the body for physical activity.
  • Static-active stretching - holding the body or part of the body in a stretched position and maintaining that position for a period of time. One example of static-active stretching is the splits.
  • Ballistic stretching - only to be used when the body is already warmed up and limber from exercise, it involves stretching in various positions and bouncing.

The Toe Touch Test is a good way to determine how flexible you are. Keep your legs perfectly straight as you bend forward to touch your toes. If you can touch them, you're flexible enough. If not, you've got something to work towards.

Flexibility will reduce the risk of injury, and it will help to keep your joints and muscles mobile as you age. The most important areas to work on are your lower back and your posterior (rear) thighs - also known as your hamstrings. These are the most injury-prone areas.

  • Stretching is all about pulling gently on the muscles, but without any pain. If you feel discomfort, ease up, breathe, and stretch again.
  • Do simple stretches, but make sure to loosen up all of the joints and muscles in your body.
  • Do this every day before and after your workouts. It will prevent injuries and sore muscles.
  • Stretch for no more than 10 to 15 minutes per day, unless you are trying to increase your flexibility.

Types of Fitness

Balance Exercise

Exercises that improve balance are important to prevent falls , a common problem in older adults and stroke patients. They can also benefit those who are obese since weight is not always carried or distributed evenly throughout the body. Often we are not fully aware that we may have weak balance until we try balance exercises. Balance exercises are easy to incorporate into your routine and can be performed anywhere or anytime.

Balance exercise is one of the four types of exercise along with strength, endurance and flexibility. They don´t all need to be done every day, but variety helps keep the body fit and healthy, and makes exercise interesting.

Examples of balance exercises:

Yoga pose

Yoga

Tai Chi pose

Tai Chi

Pilates pose

Pilates

Balance exercises can be done every day or as many days as you like and as often as you like. Preferably, older adults at risk of falls should do balance training 3 or more days a week and do standardized exercises from a program demonstrated to reduce falls.

Some people are afraid to exercise after a heart attack, but regular physical activity can help reduce your chances of having another heart attack. If you´ve had a heart attack or stroke, talk with your doctor before starting any exercise to be sure you´re following a safe, effective physical activity program.

Try these balance exercises:

  • See how long you can stand on one foot, or try holding for 10 seconds on each side.
  • Walk heel to toe for 20 steps. Steady yourself with a wall if you need a little extra support.
  • Walk normally in as straight a line as you can.

If you find standing on one foot very challenging at first, try this progression to improve your balance:

  • Hold on to a wall or sturdy chair with both hands to support yourself.
  • Next, hold on with only one hand.
  • Then support yourself with only one finger.
  • When you are steady on your feet, try balancing with no support at all.

Flexibility Exercise (Stretching)

Young woman stretch herself

Flexibility exercises stretch your muscles and help your body stay flexible. These exercises may not improve your endurance or strength, but being flexible gives you more freedom of movement for other exercise as well as for your everyday activities.

The best time to do flexibility exercises is when your muscles are already warm so they can stretch farther without tightness or pain. If you're doing only stretching exercises, warm up with a few minutes of easy walking first to warm up your muscles. If you're doing endurance or strength exercises, stretch after, not before. It's good to do each stretching exercise 3 to 5 times during each session.

Tips for safe stretching:

  • Relax and breathe normally while stretching. Then stretch while pushing the breath slowly out your mouth. Count to 10 slowly.
  • A stretch should always be smooth and slow, never bouncy. This can cause muscles to tighten and may result in injuries.
  • Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds and repeat each stretch 3-5 times. Remember to breathe normally during each stretch.
  • A mild pulling feeling during a stretch is normal. Sharp or stabbing pain or joint pain means you should stop, you're stretching too far.
  • Always keep your joints slightly bent, never "locked" in a straight position. This can cause injury.

Examples of flexibility exercises:

  • Stretches for sports
  • Forward bend - reach your chest toward your toes while standing or seated
  • Yoga
  • Pilates

Some people are afraid to exercise after a heart attack. But regular physical activity can help reduce your chances of having another heart attack. If you've had a heart attack or stroke, talk with your doctor before starting any exercise to be sure you're following a safe, effective physical activity program.

Walking

A couple walking on the beach

Walking is one of the simplest forms of exercise you can do to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle. Take steps towards healthier living by incorporating walking into your daily routine. Research has shown that walking can have a significant impact on your health by lowering your chances of heart disease.

Regular walking program can also:

  • Improve your cholesterol profile
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase your energy and stamina
  • Boost bone strength
  • Prevent weight gain

All you need to get started are comfortable clothes and supportive shoes. Important issue is your technique:

  • Begin with short distances and gradually increase your time or distance each week by 10-20 percent.
  • Focus on posture. Keep your head lifted, tummy pulled in and shoulders relaxed. Swing your arms naturally.
  • Breathe deeply. If you can't talk or catch your breath while walking, slow down.

To warm up, walk at an easy tempo for the first several minutes. Then gradually adopt a more purposeful pace. A good way to add variety is to incorporate some brisk intervals. For example, walk one block fast, two blocks slow and repeat several times. Gradually add more fast intervals with shorter recovery periods. Concentrate on increasing your speed while maintaining good posture.

The end of your walk is an ideal time to stretch since your body is warmed up. Stretch your hamstrings and calves as well as your chest, shoulders and back. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

If you experience foot, knee, hip or back pain when walking, STOP and check with your doctor to find out the cause.

Endurance Exercise (Aerobic)

Young woman practice aerobic exercise on the beach

Aerobic - endurance exercise includes activities that increase your breathing and heart rate such as walking, jogging, swimming, and biking. A good run, swim or bike ride can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. Incorporate endurance exercises into your routine with these fitness tips.

Building your endurance makes it easier to carry out many of your everyday activities. If you're just starting out on an exercise routine after being sedentary, don´t rush it. If you haven't been active for a long time, it's important to work your way up over time. Start out with 10-15 minutes at a time and then gradually build up. Thirty minutes a day five days a week is an easy goal to remember. Some people will be able to do more. It's important to set realistic goals based on your own health and abilities.

When you're ready to do more, you can build on your routine by adding new physical activities; increasing the distance, time, or difficulty or your favorite activity; or do your activities more often.

Examples of endurance exercise:

  • Walking briskly
  • Running / jogging
  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Climbing stairs at work
  • Playing sports such as tennis, basketball, soccer or racquetball

Some people are afraid to exercise after a heart attack, but regular physical activity can help reduce your chances of having another heart attack. If you´ve had a heart attack or stroke, talk with your doctor before starting any exercise to be sure you're following a safe, effective physical activity program. If you experience foot, knee, hip or back pain when walking, STOP and check with your doctor to find out the cause.

Strength Training Exercise

Woman perform strength exercise

Strengthening your muscles gives you the ability to perform everyday activities and helps protect your body from injury. Stronger muscles also lead to a boost in your metabolic rate, which means you´ll burn more calories even when your body is at rest.

Increase your body´s strength and improve your quality of life by including a well-rounded strength-training program into your regular fitness routine.

You may wish to consult with a certified fitness professional to learn safe technique before beginning a strength-training program. One set of eight to 12 repetitions, working the muscles to the point of fatigue, is usually sufficient for each muscle group.

Aim to exercise each muscle group at least two times per week, with a minimum of two days of rest between workouts.

Yoga

Traditional yoga is done by slowly stretching the body into a variety of poses while focusing on breathing and meditation. More than just a great way to relax, yoga can help tone your body, improve your balance and even lower your blood pressure. There seems to be a type of yoga practice for everyone. Some are based on toning, stretching and strength, while others are devoted to relaxation and meditation.

Practicing yoga - as part of an overall healthy lifestyle - can:

  • help lower blood pressure
  • increase lung capacity
  • improve respiratory function
  • improve balance
  • boost circulation and
  • tone muscles
Yoga pose

It also can give you a sense of well-being while building strength. In addition, yoga poses require stretching, increasing flexibility. If you have a chronic condition, check with a doctor first to see which types and amounts of yoga practice is safe for you.