Physical fitness is to humans what is tuning to the engine of a vehicle. It enables you to perform to your optimum potential and is the basis of good mental and physical health. It all depends upon what you want to achieve. Do you want to be fit or healthy? These two terms are often used together and are very confusing. Both fitness and health are different in physiological and psychological terms.
Fitness is your physical work capacity; how much work your body can do. Your fitness can be determined in a laboratory by looking at how much energy you can produce on a cycle ergo-meter when cycling at a specific heart rate, or on an athletic track by looking at how far you can run in a set time. Fitness can also be understood in relation to a number of components such as endurance, flexibility, strength and power. You need to be fit to climb a hill, participate in a marathon or play many popular sports such as football, hockey, cricket, badminton or tennis.
Health is a broader concept, which entails being free from disease, your mental and spiritual well-being and the quality of your social relationships. It is said that health and fitness go hand in hand. But this may not be true because you may be very fit, playing football but at the same time you may be suffering from a major health problem for instance alcoholism. There is a thin line between fitness and health and it is necessary to understand this difference because the level of exercise you need to do to remain healthy is less than that which is needed to keep you fit.
There are several benefits that exercises can offer. So get started before it’s too late. But before you start on any fitness programme get to know what is available and use the information with care. There are exercises for everyone whether you are young or old healthy or suffering from chronic diseases. Choose the exercise that is right for you.
There are aerobic exercises, weight-bearing exercises, core muscle strengthening exercises, weight-training procedures, Yoga, Tai Chi and so on. For remaining physically active, you do not require high intensity training. Moderate activities, which include walking, cycling, climbing stairs etc., can be included into your daily routine. Competing with others or merely wearing a designer tracksuit is not going to help.
The Science behind Your Exercise plan
Exercise science includes several scientific fitness principles; rules that must be followed to achieve the total benefit from whichever exercise programme you opt for. Certain factors need to be kept in mind before you indulge in daily exercises.
• Each person is unique— If you observe minutely, each person responds in a slightly different way to an exercise program. This is very much like ‘one size cannot fit all’. Therefore individual differences and responses should be taken into consideration. The varied responses to an exercise occur because of the individual body shape, size, age, sex, genetics, past medical history, chronic health conditions, injuries and present ailments or illnesses if there are any. Women generally need more recovery time than men.
• Going slow on the exercise programme – For the body to adapt to any exercise, you have to go slow. In order to improve your fitness, strength and endurance, you have to increase your workload gradually. To increase the muscle strength for any muscle of the body, including the heart, the exercise stress should be minimal. The fitness and endurance comes with muscles working for longer periods of time than they are generally used at a higher intensity. The key to achieve the maximum benefits of optimal level of exercising is slow progression; a systematic gradual increase of exercise workload over a period of time. This would reduce the chances of injury or muscle damage. It is generally the ‘weekend warrior’ who exercises only during the weekends, violates the principle of progression and does not reap any gains out the exercise regime.
Rest and recovery are two important aspects of any exercise programme. Continual exercise stress on the body may cause exhaustion and even injury. Overtraining can also reduce your fitness levels.
• Adapting to an exercise programme – It is important to adjust to your body’s increased or decreased physical demands. Coordinating muscle movements or developing specific sports skills can be achieved by repeatedly practicing, which makes it easier to perform. Initially, any exercise you do can be daunting and can cause sore muscles resulting in aches and pains. But after doing the exercise for weeks or months, the soreness vanishes. The initial aches and pains is the main cause why people give up on exercising. A set workout routine therefore helps you in adapting to whichever exercise plan you follow. Remember either you ‘use it or lose it’. Your muscles can hypertrophy (increase in muscle mass) with use and atrophy (decrease in muscle mass) with disuse. This is why you tend to ‘decondition’ or lose fitness once you stop exercising.
• The principle of specificity – To develop a certain body part or a specific component, you must perform a specific exercise or skill. For instance a runner should train by running or a swimmer by swimming.
So when you plan your next exercise routine, try to ensure you balance your fitness and health goals. Let us know what you think about this article in the comments section below.