Fitness is defined as the quality or state of being fit. It is attributed to a person who possess significant aerobic or anaerobic ability, e.g. strength or endurance. Physical fitness is generally achieved through proper nutrition, moderate to vigorous physical exercise, and sufficient rest.
For training purposes, exercise must provide a stress or demand on either a function or tissue. To continue improvements, this demand must eventually increase little over an extended period of time. This sort of exercise training has three basic principles: overload, specificity, and progression. These principles are related to health but also enhancement of physical working capacity.
Frequent and regular physical exercise boosts the immune system and helps prevent certain diseases such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. It may also help prevent stress and depression, increase quality of sleep and act as a non-pharmaceutical sleep aid to treat diseases such as insomnia, help promote or maintain positive self-esteem, improve mental health, maintain steady digestion and treat constipation and gas, regulate fertility health, and augment an individual's sex appeal or body image.
Some healthcare-providers call exercise the "miracle" or "wonder" drug—alluding to the wide variety of benefits that it can provide for many individuals. Aside from the health advantages, these benefits may include different social rewards for staying active while enjoying the environment of one's culture. Many individuals choose to exercise publicly outdoors where they can congregate in groups, socialize, and appreciate life.
Proper nutrition is as important to health as exercise. When exercising, it becomes even more important to have a good diet to ensure that the body has the correct ratio of macronutrients while providing ample micronutrients, in order to aid the body with the recovery process following strenuous exercise.
Active recovery is recommended after participating in physical exercise because it removes lactate from the blood more quickly than inactive recovery. Removing lactate from circulation allows for an easy decline in body temperature, which can also benefit the immune system, as an individual may be vulnerable to minor illnesses if the body temperature drops too abruptly after physical exercise.
Aerobic exercise (Cardio)
Anaerobic exercise (Strength training)
Physical exercises are generally grouped into three types, depending on the overall effect they have on the human body:
- Aerobic exercise (also called cardio):
It’s any physical activity that uses large muscle groups and causes the body to use more oxygen than it would while resting. The goal of aerobic exercise is to increase cardiovascular endurance. Examples of aerobic exercise include running, cycling, swimming, brisk walking, skipping rope, rowing, hiking, playing tennis, continuous training, and long slow distance training.
- Anaerobic exercise (also called strength training):
Anaerobic exercise, which includes strength and resistance training, can firm, strengthen, and tone muscles, as well as improve bone strength, balance, and coordination. Examples of strength moves are push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, and bicep curls using dumbbells. Anaerobic exercise also include weight training, functional training, eccentric training, Interval training, sprinting, and high-intensity interval training increase short-term muscle strength.
- Flexibility exercises (also called stretching):
Flexibility exercises stretch and lengthen muscles. Activities such as stretching help to improve joint flexibility and keep muscles limber. The goal is to improve the range of motion which can reduce the chance of injury.
Physical exercise can also include training that focuses on accuracy, agility, power, and speed.
Physical fitness leads to a healthier and more fulfilling life
Physical fitness results in better control of blood pressure
Physical exercise helps with cancer prevention
Physical exercise helps with Inflammatory problems e.g. Arthritis
Physical exercise helps boost the immune system
Physical exercise helps with weight control
Physical fitness helps with the management of menopausal symptoms
People who are physically fit are healthier, able to maintain optimum weight, and are not prone to cardiac and other health problems. Being physically fit brings about a relaxed state of mind and thus strength to face up to the ups and downs of life. It enables for life to be lived to its fullest extent.
Controlling blood pressure
Physical fitness has proven to result in positive effects on the body's blood pressure because staying active and exercising regularly builds up a stronger heart. The heart is the main organ in charge of systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Engaging in a physical activity will create a rise in blood pressure, once the activity is stopped, however, the individual’s blood pressure will return to normal. The more physical activity that one engages in, the easier this process becomes, resulting in a more ‘fit’ individual. Through regular physical fitness, the heart does not have to work as hard to create a rise in blood pressure, which lowers the force on the arteries, and lowers the overall blood pressure.
Centers for disease control and prevention provide lifestyle guidelines of maintaining a balanced diet and engaging in physical activity to reduce the risk of disease. The WCRF/ American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) published a list of recommendations that reflect the evidence they have found through consistency in fitness and dietary factors that directly relate to Cancer prevention.
The WCRF/AICR recommendations include the following:
- Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
- Each week, adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity
- Children should engage in at least one hour of moderate or vigorous physical activity each week
- Be physically active for at least thirty minutes every day
- Avoid sugar, limit the consumption of energy packed foods
- Balance your diet with a variety of vegetables, grains, fruits, legumes, etc.
- Limit sodium intake, the consumption of red meats and the consumption of processed meats
- Limit alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women a day"
These recommendations are also widely supported by the American Cancer Society. The guidelines have been evaluated and individuals that have higher guideline adherence scores substantially reduce cancer risk as well as help towards control with a multitude of chronic health problems. Regular physical activity is a factor that helps reduce an individual’s blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels, two key components that correlate with heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. The American Cancer Society encourages the public to "adopt a physically active lifestyle" by meeting the criteria in a variety of physical activities such as hiking, swimming, circuit training, resistance raining, lifting, etc.
It is understood that cancer is not a disease that can be cured by physical fitness alone, however because it is a multifactorial disease, physical fitness is a controllable prevention. The large associations tied with being physically fit and reduced cancer risk are enough to provide a strategy to reduce cancer risk. The American Cancer Society assorts different levels of activity ranging from moderate to vigorous to clarify the recommended time spent on a physical activity. These classifications of physical activity consider the intentional exercise and basic activities done on a daily basis and give the public a greater understanding by what fitness levels suffice as future disease prevention.
Studies have shown an association between increased physical activity and reduced inflammation. It produces both a short-term inflammatory response and a long-term anti-inflammatory effect. Physical activity reduces inflammation in conjunction with or independent of changes in body weight. However, the mechanisms linking physical activity to inflammation are unknown.
Physical activity boosts the immune system. This is dependent on; the concentration of endogenous factors (such as sex hormones, metabolic hormones and growth hormones), body temperature, blood-flow, hydration status and body position. Physical activity has shown to increase the levels of natural killer (NK) cells, NK T cells, macrophages, neutrophils and eosinophils, complements, cytokines, antibodies and T cytotoxic cells. However, the mechanism linking physical activity to immune system is not fully understood.
Achieving resilience through physical fitness promotes a vast and complex range of health related benefits. Individuals who keep up physical fitness levels generally regulate their distribution of body fat and stay away from obesity. Abdominal fat, specifically visceral fat, is most directly affected by engaging in aerobic exercise. Strength training has been known to increase the amount of muscle in the body, however it can also reduce body fat. Sex steroid hormones, insulin, and an appropriate immune response are factors that mediate metabolism in relation to the abdominal fat. Therefore, physical fitness provides weight control through regulation of these bodily functions.
Menopause and physical fitness
Menopause is the term that is used to refer to the stretch of both before and after a woman's last menstrual cycle. There are an instrumental amount of symptoms connected to menopause, most of which can affect the quality of life of the women involved in this stage of her life. One way to reduce the severity of the symptoms is exercise and keeping a healthy level of fitness. Prior to and during menopause as the female body changes there can be physical, physiological or internal changes to the body. These changes can be prevented or even reduced with the use of regular exercise. These changes include:
- Prevention of weight gain: around menopause women tend to experience a reduction in muscle mass and an increase in fat levels. Slight increases in physical exercise can help to prevent these changes.
- Reduce the risk of breast cancer: due to the weight loss from regular exercise may offer protection from breast cancer.
- Strengthen the bones: Physical activity can slow the bone loss associated with menopause, reducing the chance of bone fractures and osteoporosis.
- Reduce the risk of disease: Excess weight can increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and the regular physical activity can counter these effects.
- Boost the mood: By being involved in regular activities it can improve the psychological health, this can be the case at any age and not only for times during or after menopause.
The Melbourne Women's Midlife Health Project provided evidence that showed over an eight-year time period 438 were followed. Even though the physical activity was not associated with VMS in this cohort at the beginning. Women who reported they were physically active every day at the beginning were 49% less likely to have reported bothersome hot flushes. This is in contrast to women whose level of activity decreased and were more likely to experience bothersome hot flushes.
Excessive exercise can lead to cardiac problems
Excessive exercise can lead to Injury
Excessive exercise can lead to psychological problems
Too much exercise can be harmful. Without proper rest, the chance of stroke or other circulation problems increases, and muscle tissue may develop slowly. Extremely intense, long-term cardiovascular exercise, as can be seen in athletes who train for multiple marathons, has been associated with scarring of the heart and heart rhythm abnormalities. Specifically, high cardiac output has been shown to cause enlargement of the left and right ventricle volumes, increased ventricle wall thickness, and greater cardiac mass. These changes further result in myocardial cell damage in the lining of the heart, leading to scar tissue and thickened walls. During these processes, the protein troponin increases in the bloodstream, indicating cardiac muscle cell death and increased stress on the heart itself.
Inappropriate exercise can do more harm than good, with the definition of “inappropriate” varying according to the individual. For many activities, especially running and cycling, there are significant injuries that occur with poorly regimented exercise schedules. Injuries from accidents also remain a major concern, whereas the effects of increased exposure to air pollution seem only a minor concern.
In extreme instances, over-exercising induces serious performance loss. Unaccustomed overexertion of muscles leads to rhabdomyolysis (damage to muscle) most often seen in new army recruits. Another danger is overtraining, in which the intensity or volume of training exceeds the body's capacity to recover between bouts. One sign of Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) is suppressed immune function, with an increased incidence of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). An increased incidence of URTIs is also associated with high volume/intensity training, as well as with excessive exercise (EE), such as in a marathon. Marathon training requires the runner to build their intensity week to week which makes them more susceptible to injury the more they increase their mileage. A study shows that in the last 10–15 years up to 90% of marathon runners have suffered a physical injury from their training.
Stopping excessive exercise suddenly may create a change in mood. Exercise should be controlled by each body's inherent limitations. While one set of joints and muscles may have the tolerance to withstand multiple marathons, another body may be damaged by 20 minutes of light jogging. This must be determined for each individual.
Too much exercise may cause a woman to miss her periods, a symptom known as amenorrhea. This is a very serious condition which indicates a woman is pushing her body beyond its natural boundaries.
Not only can excessive exercise cause physical damage, it can also cause psychological damage. Every athlete strives for perfection in their sport. This is what may begin their excessive exercising regime. If an athlete fails in this quest for perfection, this could result in anxiety, depression and low-self-esteem. A study of 179 athletes, all of whom were Olympians or potential Olympians, was carried out in 2002 to find a relationship between perfectionism and sport-related competitive anxiety. It was found that athletes with lower self—esteem had higher personal standards and in comparison, those with high self-esteem had little concern in making mistakes or doubting themselves.
Aerobics exercise also called cardio is one of the main general recommendations
Anaerobic exercise also called Strength training is another of the main general recommendation
Moderate Aerobic Activity
Volley ball is an example of moderate aerobic activity
Hiking is another example of moderate aerobic activity
Vigorous Aerobic Activity
Running is an example of vigorous aerobic activity
Swimming is another example of vigorous aerobic activity
Weight lifting is one example of strength training
Yoga is another example of strength training though it relies more on body weight and also in-cooperates stretching at the same time.
Strength training also includes other forms of exercise that rely on body weight e.g. Push Ups, Sit Ups, etc.
In order to stay healthy or improve health, adults need to do two types of physical activity each week: aerobic and strength exercises. How much physical activity you need to do each week depends on your age. The recommendations below are for adults between the ages of 19-64.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans was created by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. This publication suggests that all adults should avoid inactivity to promote good health mentally and physically.
For substantial health benefits, adults should participate in ‘at least’ 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate to intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous to intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous to intensity aerobic activity.
Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week. For additional and more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate to intensity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous to intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous to intensity activity.
Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.
The physical activity guidelines for UK adults aged between 19-64 years recommend trying to be active daily and also doing:
- At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week, and
- Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).
- 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running or a game of singles tennis every week, and
- Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).
- A mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week. For example, two 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, and
- Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)
A good rule is that one minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as two minutes of moderate activity.
One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes on five days every week.
What counts as moderate aerobic activity?
Examples of activities that require moderate effort for most people include:
- brisk walking
- water aerobics
- riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
- doubles tennis
- pushing a lawn mower
Moderate activity will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate level is if you can still talk, but you can't sing the words to a song.
What counts as vigorous activity?
There is good evidence that vigorous activity can bring health benefits over and above that of moderate activity.
Examples of activities that require vigorous effort for most people include:
- jogging or running
- swimming fast
- riding a bike fast or on hills
- singles tennis
- skipping rope
- martial arts
Vigorous activity makes you breathe hard and fast. If you're working at this level, you won't be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.
In general, 75 minutes of vigorous activity can give similar health benefits to 150 minutes of moderate activity.
What activities strengthen muscles?
Muscle strength is necessary for:
- all daily movement
- to build and maintain strong bones
- to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure
- to help maintain a healthy weight
Muscle-strengthening exercises are counted in repetitions and sets. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like a bicep curl or a sit-up. A set is a group of repetitions.
For each strength exercise, try to do:
- at least one set
- 8 to 12 repetitions in each set
To get health benefits from strength exercises, you should do them to the point where you struggle to complete another repetition.
There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it's at home or in the gym. Examples of muscle-strengthening activities for most people include:
- lifting weights
- working with resistance bands
- doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups
- heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling
You can do activities that strengthen your muscles on the same day or on different days as your aerobic activity – whatever's best for you.
Muscle-strengthening exercises are not an aerobic activity, so you'll need to do them in addition to your 150 minutes of aerobic activity.
Some vigorous activities count as both an aerobic activity and a muscle-strengthening activity. Examples include:
- circuit training