Fitness

Fitness is an obvious key to overall wellness.   Though it may be surprising to some, fitness is easier than many think.  Fitness levels aren’t necessarily readily apparent by looking at someone either.  I’ve attended and participated in many races, walks and rides and it’s not always the most fit looking individuals that are having a strong finish.  So, although you may not feel that you have the typically “fit” body type it doesn’t mean you aren’t, can’t or won’t be fit.  Cardio fitness is the key!  Having a strong, healthy heart is the most important thing on which to focus.  If you make having a strong heart your goal, other things like weight loss, stronger muscles, stronger bones and increased lung capacity will naturally follow.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE “FIT”?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 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.’  A lot of people today huff and puff after walking from the car into their workplace, or walking around the grocery store.  Our lives are no longer designed to maintain physical fitness.  In years past just living promoted fitness, working to grow or gather our own food, hunting, building our dwellings, carrying water, were all physical tasks.  Humans didn’t have time to sit around and become unfit.  If they did, it was because they were dying!  In their book, Younger Next Year, Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge, MD, cover this evolutionary phenomenon in detail.

WHY IS FITNESS IMPORTANT?

With most Americans today leading sedentary lifestyles the importance of getting regular exercise to stay fit has become even more important than in the recent past.   Exercising regularly and increasing your cardio fitness works to decrease your risk of many diseases.  This includes heart disease which is the leading cause of death in the United States.  Other diseases that are reduced include diabetes, stroke, and colon cancer.  Exercise also helps to increase lung capacity, getting more oxygen to your brain more easily. It also helps to improve joint health and flexibility as well.  One of the other main reasons people begin to exercise is to control their weight.  All these effects combine to help to reduce the effects of aging on our bodies, and add years to your life.

In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, there are many mental benefits as well.  Exercise is shown to release endorphins into the blood stream which help reduce stress and elevate moods.  Studies show that it can even have a positive impact on mild depression.  People who exercise on a regular basis have generally better self esteem and attitude toward life.  They sleep better at nights and have more energy throughout the day.  Studies also show that they have better memories.

Another, rather unexpected, benefit of exercise is that, because many people workout in groups, it satisfies another basic need…human connection.  Even if exercise only takes place once in a while with other people, this very necessary social interaction has mental health benefits.  A great example of this is Mom & Baby exercise classes.  New mothers often feel isolated and overwhelmed.  Many yearn for an adult to talk to throughout the day.  Mom & Baby classes provide an important outlet for new moms to get exercise, adult conversation, and connection.  It’s a great place to get babies socialized as well!

 

HOW MUCH EXERCISE IS NECESSARY TO GET FIT?

The amount of exercise needed has been a point of great debate for a number of years.  Some sources say that at least a half an hour a day, five times a week is the minimum requirement.  Others state that one can start with as little as 5-10 minutes a day or even just a couple of times a week and gain some benefit.  However, getting some sort of exercise every day will help reap the benefits more quickly.  Of course, the more you exercise, the more stamina you will build and the more you will be able to exercise.  Once you begin to feel the benefits it is easier to stay motivated and WANT to exercise more.

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS TOO MUCH EXERCISE?

Yes there is.  It is well known that some individuals can become obsessed or addicted to exercise.  This is particularly well documented in cases of anorexia nervosa, where exercise is overly used in combination with other things, to lose weight.  This use of exercise is classified as a mental illness and is not something the majority of people are prone to.  Recently however, studies have been indicating that years of endurance training can actually be damaging to the heart.  This has been shown in individuals who train for and participate in a number of marathons, ultra-marathons, and Ironman triathlons.  Again, it is not something the general exerciser has to worry about.  If you are looking to become more fit or maintain fitness, the current guideline is 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise is plenty.

LOW IMPACT VS HIGH IMPACT, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Low and High impact exercise are terms that are sometimes used to describe the cardio intensity of the workout.  But there is much more to it than that.  The impact level also indicates whether your feet are leaving the ground and how much.  Hiking and elliptical machine workouts are considered low impact because one of your feet is always on the ground, there is little to no jarring effect on your bone structure.  High impact exercise such as running where both feet are off the ground for a split second cause more of a pounding effect on your skeleton.  Low impact exercise includes cycling and swimming as well as other water exercises like aqua jogging are water aerobics.  These type of activities are great for individuals with any type of joint issue or beginners at exercise.  Your heart rate doesn’t doesn’t increase as much as with high impact workouts such as running or jump roping.  High impact exercise has the benefit of a greater cardio workout and has been shown to build bone density.  High impact exercise should be reserved for those without bone or joint issues and with a moderate to high level of fitness.

Being active and fit is so essential to overall wellness I’m going to borrow from Nike and say JUST DO IT!!!  The benefits can be noticed very quickly after beginning, especially the mental health benefits!  Be patient with yourself and realize that every little bit helps on your journey to wellness.

 

14 thoughts on “Fitness

  1. I go cycling whenever I can to keep fit and it has really helped me get over my depression which I have suffered with for a while, it’s surprising how just going for a gentle ride on a bike can make you feel so much better

    1. That’s awesome Matthew! It’s amazing what raising your heart rate a little bit, some fresh air and sunshine can do for our mental health. Glad you found something that works for you.

  2. Janet, thank you for this article. I for one need to work on this in my life. I started walking about thirty minutes a day, five days a week. It’s a beginning. At work I spend a lot of time sitting. In addition to walking, whenever I have the chance at work I get up and move around. I’ll go outside and walk, even if it’s for a few minutes. I have also changed my diet – what I eat and am feeling better. Your article gives me encouragement to continue what I’m doing.

    All the best to you,
    Don

  3. I can not agree more with you post. Exercise is so important for us. I love the definition of “Fit” from the CDC. I am a pretty fit person, but when I don’t exercise, I notice a decrease in my energy level, and I get irritable! It’s kind of funny, that when I feel sluggish, I actually need to go to the gym, because afterwards I am full of energy. Even a little bit of exercise can go along way to improving your mood, and energy level. Thanks for the great information!

  4. Hi Janet.
    Wow! What a comprehensive post! You hit the nail on the head in this article and shone a spotlight on the importance of fitness. It’s so great to read an article by someone who’s clearly so passionate about their cause. Thanks for such insightful and authentic advice! Peter.

    1. Thanks Peter, I hope to help people find a way to overall wellness that works for them! We live in such a sickly world in so many ways, just a few minutes a day can help people heal themselves and make a better place for all.

  5. This is a great post. I didn’t consider myself fit not after I started running. I only do weightlifting and it still feels different when I started running. I agree about your desciption of being fit as before I started running a couple months a go my heart and lungs can’t bear a few minutes of running, and it really is hard to breath that’s why I didn’t consider myself fit before even though I do weight lifting. But now I can run for about 2.5miles and hoping to keep my progress. Thanks for reminding that being fit is what we all need.

    1. I’m so glad you are noticing improvement! That in itself is so motivating to keep going! Your body thanks you, your brain thanks you and the people around you Thank You! It’s an important step toward wellness!

  6. Excellent article! It’s a shame to think that people have become so sedentary over the years. People now spend most of their time in a office typing away on a computer or hammering away on the phones and by the time the day ends they are so burnt out from doing nothing really..

    It truly astounds me.

    I firmly believe that most people who choose not to workout see being active as a chore and not a healthy lifestyle to live. I feel that when you mention the word “diet” to people they automatically think “great, there goes all the good tasting food”

    I think people need to be less reliant on food chains and take control of their kitchens and meal times.

    I take great pride in eating a diet that consist of tasteful meals that i craft entirely on my own. My meals come from ingredients not a to go bag or mass produced cardboard box.

    I am very fortunate to say that my job is also my hobby and one that i am very passionate about. I, like you, run my own blog that focuses on the outdoors and i have/get to be very active each and every week.

    I do not see training as a chore but rather a lifestyle.

    My advice for everyone is to think back to when you were a kid and what you did for fun. For most of us this fun did not include sitting in front of the escape box (TV) but instead it was all about being outdoors and exploring, playing basketball, playing tag, riding our bikes…

    And if your hobby demands some time in the gym think of it like this “I am getting in even better shape so that i can better enjoy my hobby”

    Some simple changes in the words you use can also go a long way. Change the word “have to” to “I get to” watch how many doors open for you.

    There are plenty of ways to be active and get fit. I think that more people should be aware of the adverse effects of not exercising. Your health really relies on how you treat your body.

    Thanks for the excellent read

    1. I couldn’t agree more Justin! I enjoy living a lifestyle that requires me to be active. Although it’s not possible for everyone, there is a way to incorporate some physical activity into each day, as long as you have the desire to do so.

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