Physical fitness is defined as ‘the ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies.’ Based on this definition, fitness involves everything from getting out of bed to hiking to performing CPR.
In order to complete all of these tasks, one must consistently address their fitness levels. This requires proper conditioning through both structured exercise and leisurely activities.
Fitness is a very personal term! Fitness is is having a healthy mind, body, and spirit to allow you to maximize your potential and help others maximize their potential. Your definition of fitness will be influenced by your interests, physical abilities, and goals.
Being physically fit and healthy involves having a fit:
Fitness includes five essential components, flexibility, cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular endurance, muscular strength, and body composition. Fitness is vitally important to health and wellness as well as to the ability to engage in normal activities of daily living (ADLs) without excessive fatigue. Physical activity and exercise training programs should be designed with the intent of improving each of the key components of health-related physical fitness in addition to preventing chronic disease (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis etc.)
Components of Fitness
Depending on the source, the components of fitness vary considerably. Below are common components:
Cardiorespiratory endurance – 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.
Muscular endurance – typically measured by how many repetitions of an exercise a person can perform. Common tests involve push-ups and sit ups.
Muscular strength – typically measured by how much weight can be moved in relation to repetitions. Exercises involving multiple joints and muscle groups such as squats or bench press are often used.
Muscular power – typically measured by how much force can be generated during a given activity. Advanced equipment used by biomechanists are often needed to measure muscular power.
Flexibility – typically measured by how far a muscle group can be stretched or joint can be moved. The most common tests involve the hamstrings and shoulders.
Balance – typically measured by how long a particular position can be held with or without some type of activity being performed. Simple tests such as standing on one leg can be used to assess balance. More advanced tests may involve standing on an unsteady object while trying to catch a ball.
Speed – typically measured by how quickly an individual can move from one point to another. The 40-yard dash is often used to assess speed.
Body composition – this is the amount of fat on the body versus other tissues such as muscle, bones and skin. Measured using a variety of tests and devices. Simple tests using mathematical equations or calipers are common and inexpensive. More advanced tests such as underwater weighing are far less common and much more expensive.
In many cases, endurance and strength are the components used to assess fitness. But utilizing the other components offer a more complete picture of overall fitness, along with health and athleticism.
When engaging in regular physical activity or planning your physical activity routine, it is important for you to know the types of physical activity that you should engage in and the benefits they provide:
Aerobic activity makes you breathe harder and your heart beat faster, as a result, increases heart and lung fitness. Examples include brisk walking, dancing, cycling, jogging, swimming and playing basketball
Muscle-strengthening activity increase bone strength and muscular fitness. Such activities should work all the major muscle groups of your body, that is, the legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms. Examples include doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance (e.g. push ups, pull ups, sit ups and squats), working with resistance band and weight training.
How much physical activity should I do?
Health benefits are gained by doing the following each week:
2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity
1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
A combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days
You can gain even more benefits by boosting activity to 5 hours of moderate intensity or 2 hours and 30 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week.
Aerobic activity involves moving the large muscles in your arms, legs, and hips over and over again. During aerobic activity, you breathe faster and more deeply, and your heart beats faster. If your breathing and heart rate increase to a moderate degree, your activity is considered moderate intensity. An example would be walking on a level surface at a brisk pace (about 3 to 4 miles per hour). If your breathing increases so much that it is difficult to carry on a conversation, your activity is considered vigorous intensity. An example would be jogging.
Do at least 10 minutes of aerobic activity at a time. It is best to spread it throughout the week. This physical activity should be in addition to your routine activities of daily living, such as cooking or walking a short distance such as from the parking lot to your office.
If you have not been physically active for a long time, you need to start slowly and then work your way up as you become more fit. For example, if you do not feel up to walking for 30 minutes, try walking for 10 minutes. Then increase your walking time by 5 minutes each week until you reach 30 minutes.
Another type of physical activity that you should do on a regular basis is strength training. Muscle-strengthening activities increase the strength and endurance of your muscles. Examples of these activities include working out with weight machines and free weights.
You do not need to invest in a gym membership or buy expensive home gym equipment to do muscle-strengthening activities. Hand, wrist, and ankle weights are less costly options. Also, homemade weights, such as plastic soft drink bottles filled with sand or water, may work just as well. You can also use your own body weight, doing activities such as push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups. You could also buy a resistance band at a sporting-goods store. It looks like a giant rubber band, and stretching it helps build muscle.
You should try to do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days each week. Allow one day in between sessions to avoid excess strain on your muscles and joints. During each session, repeat each activity 8-12 times.