Fitness is not all about being thin or having bulging muscles. It is more about the ability of the body to have energy to perform with vitality and alertness, whilst helping to prevent some long term diseases. There are various aspects to physical fitness including muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardio respiratory endurance and flexibility, which along with mental fitness can make a huge difference to your quality of life now and in the future.
Being fit means that you are able to push the limits of your body and not face any serious consequences as a result. This means that you can run long distances, lift heavy weights, go for brisk walks and do all the other things that place your body under stress. This is achieved by subjecting your body to that stress repeatedly until that becomes an almost ‘normal’ state for it and you have to place it under more stress in order to get the same challenge – this might be achieved through running increasingly long distances, lifting heavier weights or a range of other activities. This requires strong muscle fibres which can help deal with heavy loads, as well as a good circulatory system and cardiovascular/aerobic fitness in order to pump energy and nutrients around your body.
There are numerous benefits of being fit and here are some of the main ones:
You can run for a bus or a train, or walk up a long flight of stairs and not run out of breath.
Everyday tasks and your favourite hobbies and sports become easier, less tiring and more enjoyable when you are fitter: You can improve your performance if playing sports and feel great when you win! If you want to try a new activity, you will feel more inclined to give new things a go if you more confident about your level of fitness.
Your have faster reactions and increased hand eye coordination: By training the fast twitch muscle fibres used for running and weight lifting you train the ability to move and react quickly, and repeated movement improves your ability to know where you are in space and that means fewer accidents and being better at catching things.
Being fit doesn’t just mean being strong and agile, it also keeps you flexible: Doing movements that loosen up your joints and strengthen the muscles that support those joints can help to keep them mobile, prevent injury and result in your being more flexible and pain free. This can be a great help with every day life and activities such as golf or indeed yoga or Pilates.
Being fit makes you younger! People who keep themselves fit often look younger than their years as the effects of ageing are slowed: Exercise results in the production of growth hormone which has been shown to reverse many of the effects of ageing by helping to heal individual cells. This then means that the visible signs of ageing are reversed as your body heals skin cells, wounds heal more quickly and your organs are rejuvenated. If you stay fit as you age, you can also potentially help prevent a decline in cognitive abilities.
It improves your IQ: It is thought this is to do with the cardiovascular fitness causing increased oxygen getting to your brain, as well as using more of your brain for your movement and coordination (use it or lose it). Fitness also results in the increase of certain hormones released in your brain including dopamine and other neurotransmitters which improve concentration and memory.
It improves your mood: Increased dopamine levels and endorphins improve your mood and some exercisers get “hooked’ on the feel-good effects they get after a workout. Feeling this effect regularly can have a long term affect your overall mood for the better and potentially help reduce depression.
It protects you from cardiovascular disease: Fitness can reduce your risk of suffering heart disease, a heart attack, high blood pressure or a stroke. It can also mean you have more balanced cholesterol – HDL (good) versus LDL (bad) levels
It reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes: Exercising to get fit increases your body’s sensitivity to insulin, and therefore has a balancing effect on blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of developing diabetes
It reduces your cancer risk: Studies show that fit people potentially have a lower risk of developing certain cancers. These include colon cancer in both men and women and breast cancer in women, and research indicates that endometrial cancer in women and lung cancer in both sexes may possibly also be positively influenced by staying fit.
Improves bone strength: Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become more fragile and likely to fracture. This is associated with ageing, but staying fit helps lower the risk of this happening. Weight-bearing exercises force the muscle to pull on the bone, thereby influencing the bones to become stronger to handle the stress. Keeping bones strong also helps reduce the risk of fractures.
Promotes longevity: Keeping fit is one of the most important things you can do to increase your longevity. It seems that people who are active for about 7 hours a week have about 40 percent less chance of dying early than those who are more sedentary. In addition, fit older people are generally less likely to suffer falls or have issues affecting everyday movement and activities than those who are less fit.