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Get Fit for Life: The Ultimate Guide to Physical Fitness

Get Fit for Life: The Ultimate Guide to Physical Fitness

Man doing sit-up exercises outdoors

Hey there, fitness enthusiast! I’m here to tell you that getting in shape doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, with the right mindset and a dash of dedication, you can totally rock this physical fitness journey. 

The energy, the confidence, the sheer awesomeness of feeling strong and capable – that’s what we’re aiming for here. So, let’s ditch the excuses, lace up those sneakers, and get ready to crush some fitness goals together. 

And May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month — so there’s no better time to start than the present. Even better — it’s now spring, so you can get exercise outdoors and capture some vitamin D with your physical activity. 

Table Of Contents:

What Is Physical Fitness?

Physical fitness is made up of 11 different components – 6 that are health-related and 5 that are skill-related. The health-related fitness components include body composition, cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility, muscular endurance, power, and strength.

These are the parts that help reduce your risk of chronic disease and promote overall health and wellness.

Health-Related Physical Fitness

Let’s dive a little deeper into those health-related components. Body composition is the ratio of fat to fat-free mass in your body. Cardiorespiratory endurance is how well your heart, lungs, and blood vessels supply oxygen to your muscles during exercise. 

Flexibility is the ability to move your joints through a full range of motion. Muscular endurance and strength relate to how much force your muscles can produce and how long they can keep going. And power is how quickly you can use that strength.

Skill-Related Physical Fitness

On the skill-related side, we have agility, balance, coordination, power, reaction time, and speed. These components are more about performance – like how well you can dodge an opponent on the basketball court or how quickly you can react to a serve in tennis.

While not as directly tied to health outcomes, these skills can make physical activity a lot more fun and functional.

Benefits of Being Physically Fit

We all know physical activity is good for us, but sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation to get moving. It’s not just about looking good in a swimsuit (although that’s a nice perk) – regular physical activity can improve nearly every aspect of your health and well-being.  

Exercise Boosts Your Mood

Ever heard of a “runner’s high”? It’s not just a myth – exercise really can make you feel good. Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, those feel-good chemicals in your brain that elevate your mood and reduce stress and anxiety. 

Someone I know was just out of her sport for nearly 6 months following knee surgery. The day she returned to her sport, she was on an endorphin high for 24 hours!

Research shows that regular exercise can be as effective as medication for treating mild to moderate depression. So next time you’re feeling down, try going for a walk or a swim – it might be just the pick-me-up you need. 

Exercise Promotes Long-Term Health

Beyond the immediate mood benefits, consistent exercise is one of the best things you can do for your long-term health.

Physical activity helps control weight, strengthens bones, increases muscle strength, improves cardiovascular health, and reduces the risk of developing chronic health conditions. The key is finding something you love enough to stay consistent with it for the long haul. 

Fitness, exercise and stretching with a senior man getting ready for a workout or training outdoor at the park. Health, wellness and performance with elderly male at the start of his routine

Getting Started Toward Greater Fitness If You’re Out of Shape

If it’s been a while since you’ve laced up your sneakers, the thought of starting an exercise routine can feel overwhelming. But the good news is, you don’t have to go from couch potato to CrossFit champion overnight. 

Start slow. Even if it’s just circling your dining room table twice. Add a little more every day. Pretty soon you’ll be walking around the block, then around the subdivision, and then more. 

Recommendations for Adults

The CDC recommends that adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (like brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (like jogging) per week, plus two to three days of muscle-strengthening exercises.

If that seems like a lot, remember that you can break it up into smaller chunks throughout the day – even 10-minute bouts of activity count towards your weekly goal. And in many ways, it’s even better for you than sitting for 8 hours and then working out for 30 minutes. Ideally you’ll be moving about every hour for at least 10 minutes. 

For kids and teens, the recommendations are higher – at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, mostly aerobic with some muscle and bone-strengthening activities mixed in. 

A Little Means a Lot

If you’re starting from zero, even small increases in physical activity can offer big health benefits.

One study found that just 15 minutes of moderate exercise per day reduced the risk of early death by 14% and increased life expectancy by three years. So don’t feel like you have to go all-in right away – start with what feels manageable and gradually build up over time. 

But make no mistake, the benefits do add up with additional time added to exercise — or just plain movement. So let’s get started, and add as much as you can. With the longer spring and summer days, it’s easy to get walks in after dinner to add to the rest of your movement. 

Aerobics to Improve Fitness

Moderate-intensity aerobic activities are ones that get your heart pumping and make you breathe a bit harder, but still allow you to carry on a conversation. Some examples include: – Brisk walking (at least 2.5-3.0 miles per hour) – Water aerobics – Dancing (ballroom or social) – Gardening – Tennis (doubles) – Biking (slower than 10 miles per hour) 

These activities range from 3-6 METs, which is a way of measuring the energy expended during exercise.

Working out with a jump rope

Examples of Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Activities

Vigorous-intensity activities are ones that really get your heart rate up and make it difficult to talk without pausing for breath. These include: – Jogging or running – Swimming laps – Tennis (singles) – Aerobic dancing – Bicycling (10 miles per hour or faster) – Jumping rope – Heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing) – Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack. 

Vigorous activities are those that burn more than 6 METs. The higher the MET level, the more calories you burn and the greater the cardiorespiratory challenge.

Strength Training

Strength training boosts metabolism, cuts body fat, amps up bone density, sharpens mental health, and helps regulate blood sugar. Lifting weights regularly cranks up heart health and builds muscle for a stronger you. It’s a total game-changer!

This power-up routine hikes your muscular endurance and mass—key for daily tasks and athletic performance alike. But strength training is also awesome for your brain and your mood.

Aim to hit the weights 2-4 times weekly to max out those gains without overdoing it.

Flexibility

As you age, falls and fractures become a big risk factor. To lower your risk of becoming a statistic, you’ll want to consciously work on flexibility. How long can you balance on one leg like a flamingo? 

It’s a good test of how well you’ll age. Once you meet the following goals with your eyes open, try it with them closed. You’ll be amazed at how challenging that is! 

Remove your shoes, put your hands on your waist, and stand on one leg. How long can you last? Dr. Michael Mosely of BBC Science Focus suggests the following benchmarks: 

Ages 70-79: 22 seconds open, 3 seconds closed. 

Ages 60-69: 32 seconds open, 4 seconds closed.

Ages 50-59: 41 seconds open, 8 seconds closed. 

Ages 40-49: 42 seconds open, 13 seconds closed. 

Under 40: 45 seconds open, 15 seconds closed. 

Want to know how much this matters? In a word, plenty! In a 2014 study of BMJresearchers tested 2760 adults who were all 53 years old. 

They measured three things: how quickly they could stand up from a sitting position, grip strength, and how long they could stand with their eyes closed. Thirteen years later, the three tests all predicted mortality during that period.

But the one-legged stand was the most predictive of all. Those who lasted less than 2 seconds with eyes closed, were three times more likely to die than those who could do it 10 seconds or longer. 

Fortunately, you can improve your balance with activities such as yoga and tai chai. Given the odds, it’s really worth working on it. 

Fitness woman checking time on smart watch.

How Exercise Affects the Body

When you engage in aerobic activities, your heart muscle grows stronger and more efficient at pumping blood. Over time, this can lead to a lower resting heart rate and a reduction in high blood pressure – two key markers of cardiovascular health.

Physical activity also helps keep your blood vessels flexible and open, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Respiratory System

Along with your heart, your lungs also get a workout during aerobic exercise. As you breathe harder and faster to take in more oxygen, your respiratory muscles get stronger and your lungs become more efficient at oxygenating your blood.

This increased lung capacity can help you feel less winded during everyday activities and may even reduce your risk of respiratory illnesses like pneumonia.

Musculoskeletal System

Physical activity also has a big impact on your muscles and bone health. When you engage in strength-training activities like lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises, you create tiny tears in your muscle fibers. As your body repairs these tears, your muscles grow back stronger and more resilient. 

Weight-bearing exercises like walking, running, and dancing also help maintain bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures as you age.

And let’s not forget about flexibility – stretching and activities like yoga can help keep your joints mobile and your muscles limber, which becomes increasingly important as we get older.

Measuring Physical Fitness

There are a few key ways to measure progress in each of the major fitness components. To assess your cardiorespiratory fitness, you can measure your VO2 max – the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise. 

This is typically done through a treadmill or bike test in a lab setting, but there are also some field tests like the 1.5 mile run that can give you a rough estimate. In general, a higher VO2 max indicates better cardiovascular fitness.

Muscular Strength and Endurance Tests

For muscular strength, you can measure your one-rep max – the heaviest weight you can lift for a single repetition – on exercises like the bench press, squat, or deadlift.

Muscular endurance, on the other hand, is typically assessed through tests like the push-up or sit-up test, which measure how many repetitions you can do in a set amount of time.

Body Composition Calculation

Finally, body composition – the ratio of fat to lean mass in your body – can be measured through methods like skinfold calipers, bioelectrical impedance scales, or hydrostatic weighing. A healthy body composition is one that falls within the recommended ranges for your age and gender, with a lower percentage of body fat and higher lean muscle mass. 

The most important thing is to track progress over time and celebrate the small victories along the way. Whether it’s shaving a few seconds off your mile time, adding an extra rep to your strength routine, losing 5 pounds, or just feeling more energized in your daily life, every improvement counts on the journey to better health and fitness.

Key Takeaway: 

Physical fitness isn’t just about lifting weights or running marathons. It’s a blend of 11 components, split between health-related and skill-related fitness, that boost your overall well-being and performance in physical activities. 

From improving mood to managing chronic diseases and aging gracefully, staying active is key at any stage of life. 

Start small with exercises you enjoy to build up your fitness gradually.

Conclusion

Consistency is key. Make physical activity a regular part of your routine to transform your life. And don’t be afraid to mix things up and try new workouts – variety is the spice of a fit life!

Embrace the journey. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small, and be kind to yourself along the way. Consider me in your corner, waving that big foam finger at every leap forward. 

So go out there, have fun, and let’s keep rocking this physical fitness lifestyle together! During May’s National Fitness and Sports Month and always!

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Get Fit for Life: The Ultimate Guide to Physical Fitness

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