Fitting fitness in to a healthy life


In our first installment, we talked about an overview of The Wheel of Life. I hope that you marked on your wheel where you think you belong on each spoke. The goal is not to have a nice even circle but to know where you are and evaluate what changes need to be made to give you the life you want.

This week we are going to talk specifically about the Fitness spoke of your life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), define physical fitness 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.” This encompasses everything from getting out of bed in the morning to moving through your day at work or school, extracurricular activities, exercising and even responding in an emergency. Another way to look at Fitness is that it involves physical well-being including muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness and balance. These give you vigor and alertness and help you carry out daily activities with ample energy to accomplish the task at hand. Fitness is also being balanced in mind, body and spirit.

Less than 60% of adults are physically active on a regular basis. Whereas, 25% are not active at all. The less active we are, the higher our risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity which lead to an increased risk of cancer. Our movement and exercise or lack thereof affects our body composition or the amount of muscle and fat that we carry. The more we exercise the more muscle we are going to have and the more energy we are going to have.

That leads me to muscular strength. This relates to the muscles ability to exert force. There are two factors that determine the muscle force: 1-the size of the muscle and 2-the number of muscle fibers that have been recruited. The larger the muscle the greater the force it can produce. To maintain muscular strength, you should strength train at least two days per week and to increase strength you should train at least three days per week. Muscular endurance relates to how long the muscle can exert force. The intensity of training determines whether you primarily increase strength or endurance. Low intensity training will improve muscular endurance whereas, high intensity training will improve muscular strength. So, if your goal is to run a marathon, you do not need to lift heavy weights but rather lower weights with higher repetitions. And vice versa for strength training.

Flexibility is the range of motion of a joint; it allows you to bend, twist and reach without experiencing pain or stiffness. Stretching can alleviate tightness in a joint. Of course, bones cannot be altered but the soft tissue around the joints, the tendons, muscles and connective tissue can lengthen to allow for increased range of motion. Also, performing weight training in the full range of motion can increase flexibility in the joint being exercised. Muscles should also be warmed up with exercise prior to stretching and can be done daily. Being flexible has other benefits beyond just joint mobility; it helps the body move efficiently, maintains good posture and reduces muscle injury. It also helps keep your joints healthy and can prevent low back pain.

Cardiovascular fitness is generally considered the most important aspect of physical fitness. Good cardiovascular health is the circulatory system and the respiratory system, (the heart, lungs and blood vessels) work to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body, healthy arteries are free of obstruction and expand to permit good blood flow. Good cardiovascular health prevents heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes. It is also called cardiovascular endurance, aerobic fitness and cardio-respiratory fitness. Some examples of cardiovascular/aerobic exercise are biking, running, swimming, walking, rowing and dancing. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate cardiovascular exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. They recommend children get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day.

The last part of fitness that we will address in this blog today is balance. Balance is an even distribution of weight enabling someone to remain upright and steady. This is vital to keep us upright and for fall prevention. It usually decreases as people age. However, when we practice balance on a regular basis, balance can improve. Practice walking heel to toe in a straight line or pick up one foot and balance on the other leg. To add more difficulty to this, kick your leg forward. Tia Chi is an outstanding class for maintaining or improving balance.

As you can see, there are many components to fitness. For overall fitness do moderate cardiovascular exercise at least 150 minutes each week. Do strength training 2-3 days each week, stretch after your aerobic exercise and practice your balance on a regular basis. All of this works together to prevent disease and keep you healthy! If you have specific questions about fitness, feel free to contact myself or Britton at Provision Health and Fitness.