Introduction & Benefits

What does it mean to be physically fit?

As we age, without regular exercise, our bodies lose muscle mass and gain body fat. We may be the same size and weight as we were in high school, but without exercise and physical challenge over time our bodies get weaker, softer, and gain body fat. Physical fitness is not just a number on a scale. Being physically fit not only improves health and vitality, we actually look and feel better too. Being fit elevates self-esteem, mood, energy and puts a spring in our step. The key elements of a well-designed fitness program include the following:

Posture

When building a house, it is important to start with a solid, well-constructed foundation. When beginning a fitness program, it is important to learn good posture and form. Good posture includes a relaxed stance and major weight bearing joints such as the neck, shoulders, hips, knees and spine being aligned. Good posture optimizes strength, flexibility, breathing, and circulation, as well as, reduces muscle strain and risk of injury.

Body Fat and Muscle Composition

The proportion or ratio of fat in the body compared to the bone and muscle mass is called the BMI (Body Mass Index). BMI does not just refer to body weight in pounds or body shape. It is calculated starting with a person’s height and weight, but can include other body measurements as well. You may be thin and still have an unhealthy body fat ratio. Body Fat can be lowered to attain a firmer and more toned physique with proper nutrition and a regular exercise program designed to develop Aerobic/Cardio Fitness and Muscular Strength as described below.

Aerobic/Cardio Fitness

Aerobic or Cardio fitness is the ability to do moderately strenuous activity over a period of time. It reflects how well your heart and lungs work together to supply oxygen to your body during exertion and exercise. Being fit aerobically increases the amount of oxygen that is delivered to your muscles, which allows them to work longer. Any activity that raises your heart rate and keeps it up for an extended period of time will improve your aerobic fitness and support weight loss and weight management.

As you increase your aerobic fitness, you will notice that you can do more physical activity without becoming out of breath or feeling like your heart is pounding. You will be able to do activities such as playing with children, housework, yard work, or hiking without becoming exhausted as quickly. Many forms of aerobic exercise will also strengthen your muscles and increase your flexibility.

Benefits of aerobic exercise include improvements in heart health and blood supply to heart and muscles, the body’s use of oxygen, muscular endurance, mood elevation, self-esteem, and energy level. Additional benefits of aerobic exercise include decreased body fat and associated risks related to cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, cholesterol level, shortness of breath, diabetes and blood sugar, some cancers, anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

Muscular Strength and Endurance

Maintaining good muscle mass and strength not only looks and feels good, it increases metabolism, bone density, burns more calories, and lowers body fat. Having strong arms, legs, back, and abdominal muscles increases mobility and reduces risk of injury. It feels good to be able to lift heavy packages, children, or pets without becoming overly tired or injuring ourselves. Any sound fitness program includes strength development.

Flexibility, Agility, Balance and Coordination

Without regular exercise, our bodies become less flexible and agile, and we lose balance and coordination. Flexibility is the ability to move a joint through its full range of motion and the elasticity of the muscles, and is related to how limber or supple you are. Agility is the ability to change the body’s position and direction quickly in response to a stimulus such as running to or away from an emergency. Balance is the ability to control the body’s position such as standing on one leg or while moving such as walking on unstable ground or surfaces. Coordination is the ability to integrate all of the above. A sound fitness program will improve flexibility, agility, balance, and coordination, and will allow you to move more gracefully and with less effort.