Physical fitness means different things to different people, but most of us would agree that being fit allows us to pursue our daily tasks and leisure activities with plenty of energy and alertness.
Fitness encompasses several elements: aerobic, strength, balance and flexibility.
Aerobic fitness or cardiovascular endurance is the most basic element of physical fitness. The heart, lungs and circulatory system must be able to carry oxygen to every cell in the body. When you exert yourself for more than a minute or two, your heart must pump more blood to deliver the increased supply of oxygen that your muscles require.
With regular aerobic exercise your heart becomes stronger and more efficient at pumping more blood and delivering more oxygen. Your muscles also become better at using this oxygen.
The most effective way to achieve aerobic fitness is to engage in high-intensity exercise HIIT. Nearly everyone can benefit from it, and there are many ways to do it. You can use a variety of fitness equipment, such as a stationary bike or an elliptical machine. You can walk quickly uphill, sprint on a track or work out in a pool.
Strength training is another important component of fitness. Strengthening exercises can help prevent injuries and chronic lower back pain. The simplest and safest way to improve your strength is with body weight exercises. These include pushups, pullups, burpees and squats. All of these exercises can be performed without the need of any equipment. It is important to have good form to prevent injury, and ideally you will have access to a fitness trainer, particularly if you choose weight lifting. If you don’t have access to a trainer there are numerous excellent videos on YouTube to give you an idea of the proper form. Before beginning any strength training, especially weight lifting, consult your physician if you have any cardiovascular conditions.
Balance is very important and often overlooked. There are many ways to maintain and improve your balance. If you engage in activities such as yoga and tai chi, you will be focusing on your balance. Another simple way to improve your balance is to stand on one foot while you brush your teeth and on the other foot while you floss.
Flexibility training is another important component. To be fit your joints need to be able to move freely in all directions without any limitations to their range of motion. Good flexibility protects your muscles from pulls and tears. If you do not yet have a stretching routine, you can look on YouTube and find many good examples. Tai Chi and yoga also improve flexibility.
In our Fitness pages we describe various approaches to exercise and note the time and equipment commitments involved for each of them.
We examine HIIT (High–Intensity Interval training a technique that can be effective not just for athletes, but also for beginners, cardiac patients, and men & women with obesity, high cholesterol, or diabetes.
Tai Chi can improve balance