Health, Fitness and Physical Activity
There are a lot of things that you can’t control, but you can improve your health and fitness. One of the most important things that scientists have learned in the last century is that what you eat and what you do can be the foundation for a healthy life.
Study after study has conclusively shown that keeping active—whether through sports, exercise, or everyday chores—will help you to live longer and enjoy each day more. Active people have a reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. They generally have a more positive outlook on life and the energy to get things done and make things happen. Sounds like a pretty good return on an investment of just 30 minutes a day.
What is Fitness?
An active lifestyle improves your health and decreases your risk of premature health problems. Total fitness includes mental, social, and physical components; however, this will focus on physical fitness. Contrary to what many people believe, physical fitness isn’t just about being muscular or maintaining a low body weight. It’s also about aerobic fitness, flexibility, muscular strength and endurance, and proper body composition.
- Aerobic fitness (also called cardiovascular or cardio respiratory fitness) refers to your body’s ability to utilize oxygen efficiently for a variety of tasks.
- Flexibility and muscular strength and endurance are essential to being able to carry out the daily tasks of everyday living, such as carrying in the groceries or reaching for a book.
- Body composition refers to your body’s muscle-to-fat ratio. Your total weight isn’t as important as how much fat you are carrying around.
Set Your Goals and Make Them Happen
For most of us, it takes a specific sequence of events to change eating patterns and develop fitness habits that will last a lifetime.
Here’s how you can make it happen:
1. Decide to improve your health.
2. Find out your physical status; get advice from health and fitness professionals. If you have health concerns, get your doctor’s OK before you increase your activity level.
3. Select a fitness program that’s right for you, taking into account your age, physical condition, and lifestyle.
4. Take a fitness test to find out how fit you are now.
5. Participate in physical activities that you enjoy.
6. Undergo periodic fitness testing to gauge your progress.
7. Modify your activities often so that your workout remains challenging.
Choose the Right Activities
The American College of Sports
Medicine (ACSM) suggests you take the following factors into account to zero in on a fitness plan you’ll stick with:
■ Convenience: Can you do it? Some activities require expensive equipment, are seasonal, or are not readily available in certain locations. Choose an activity that you can afford to do year-round, and that you can do near your home or office.
■ Skill: Is it too hard? Workouts that require a high level of skill may discourage you if they’re too challenging.
Focus on activities that fit with your skill base (for example, inline skating might be difficult for you if you don’t have good balance, but traditional roller skating may work). Allow yourself time to develop the skills you need for an activity to become enjoyable.
■ Social Factors: Are you having fun yet? For many individuals, taking a group fitness class makes exercise sessions more fun and increases the likelihood of continuing a fitness program over the long term. If you prefer social activities, you might choose to walk or run with a friend or neighbor, or take exercise classes at a local gym or fitness center. Some people, however, prefer working out alone, away from phones, beepers, and other people. The key is to find what suits your personality.
If you want to lose weight… Did you know that higher intensity workouts may decrease fat more than lower intensity workouts? At lower intensities, your body burns more fat calories than carbohydrates.
But you may burn more calories overall at higher intensities, provided you work out long enough. Studies also suggest that even if your total caloric expenditure is slightly lower, high intensity workouts can create a modest “after-burn” effect, so you’ll lose more fat.
If you want to build muscle… Do men really build muscle more easily than women? In most cases, yes. Our genetic makeup determines what types of muscle fibers we have, where they are distributed, and how we respond to exercise. When you build muscle, you boost your resting metabolic rate and increase lean body mass. Whether you’re male or female, you can develop strong muscles. In one study, women who lifted weights for 25 minutes just two to three times a week gained an average of two pounds of muscle (and lost about four pounds of fat) over an eight-week period.
If you want to tone up… Strength training is a great way to sculpt muscle, but if you want to be sleek and strong, why not give TRX Suspension Training a try? Suspension training uses an arrangement of ropes and webbing to allow the operator to work against their own body weight. This method allows you to build strength, balance, flexibility, and joint stability quickly and easily. Because of its demands on the core, Suspension Training essentially turns every movement into a total-body one, reducing the chance of injury, and increasing metabolic rates dramatically. Check out your local gym or fitness center to find a TRX Suspension Training Class near you.
Pick a Sport that Meets Your Needs
Find an activity that suits your style. For example, Cycling is a great activity. Biking is a good muscle builder. You can enjoy being outside, or you can see if your local fitness center has an indoor cycling class – or both! Indoor cycling or Spinning, is a form of exercise done on special stationary exercise bikes with a weighted flywheel. Indoor cycling focuses on endurance, strength, intervals, high intensity, and recovery. It’s an aerobic, heart-healthy sport, but the intensity of the workout varies, from easy to vigorous. You don’t need a lot of training to bike, but it generally isn’t conducive to conversation or social interaction.