Many misconceptions abound on the concept of fitness. Some people believe fitness means being thin or lean, while others think it is being muscular. But fitness goes beyond these. It is a combination of qualities that enable us to perform vigorous physical activities. It is the state of being fit, suitable, appropriate and competent (in good form). Fitness also means being in good physical condition (i.e. being healthy), as a result of exercise, proper nutrition and rest.
Physical fitness is the capacity to cope with daily routines that include occupation and lifestyle routines without undue tiredness, and with ample reserve of energy and zeal for recreation and emergencies. In other words, it is the body's capacity to carry out work and protect itself against disease, infection, and the effects of physical discomforts like heat, cold and stress.
Components of Physical Fitness
Complete physical fitness is made up of many components. However, for the average person involved in moderately tasking occupation or lifestyle, the major components are: flexibility, muscle strength, muscle endurance, body composition and cardio-respiratory endurance.
This is the ability to move joints and stretch muscles through their full range of motion. A person who is very flexible, for instance, can bend over and touch the floor easily; the reverse is the case with someone with flexibility problems. Good flexibility in the joints can help prevent injuries through all stages of life. While it is natural to lose some level of flexibility, as we get older, there are steps you can take to improve your flexibility through the years. For instance, you can make up your mind to always stretch before and after every physical activity. Stretching increases the range of motion and helps to stimulate muscle growth.
Muscle strength is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to exert maximum force for a brief time. It is the ability to perform some work of maximum intensity at once e.g., lifting a heavy object.
Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle to sustain a contraction, or make multiple contractions, over an extended period without undue fatigue. Put simply, it is the amount of time that your muscles are able to do a certain activity before they get tired.
This refers to the makeup of the body in terms of lean mass (muscle, bone, vital tissue and organs) and fat mass. A particular ratio of fat to lean mass is an indication of one's level of health and fitness.
Also called stamina, aerobic endurance, cardio-vascular endurance or oxidative endurance, cardio-respiratory endurance is the ability of the heart and lungs to supply sufficient oxygen and nutrients to all areas of the body during sustained physical activity. Your cardio-respiratory endurance level is of utmost importance because It reflects how well your heart and lungs work together to supply essential necessities to your body during exertion and exercise.
Exercise is a series of repeated activities, physical and physiological that could be aimed at: maintaining fitness and health, increasing the tensile strength of any tissue (increasing ability and productivity), reduction in body weight and recreation. Combined with good nutrition and rest, moderate-intensity exercise is an indispensable factor in any woman's efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Types of Exercise
Exercise comes in many different forms from the simple everyday exercise of just walking and running to more vigorous fitness routines such as press-ups and cycling. Many people think that for exercise to be beneficial to our health it has to be the vigorous type; but research has shown that exercise done in a moderate form is actually more beneficial to our health. Depending on factors such as your age, state of health and fitness goals, you could choose which form of exercise to engage in. Even if you're pregnant, you could still engage in some mild forms of exercise. An expert explains this further: “Exercise has important health benefits for all women, including those who are pregnant. Most pregnant women can establish an exercise routine that will help improve their health and reduce symptoms or complications associated with pregnancy and labor and delivery. In addition, a woman who maintains a high level of fitness during pregnancy is more likely to quickly return to her pre-pregnancy health, figure and weight after her baby is born. Exercise can help women ease many pregnancy-related complications, including, gestational diabetes (a temporary form of diabetes related to pregnancy), bladder and bowel problems, backache, fatigue and varicose veins.”
Benefits of Exercise
Research has shown that exercise helps women generally in the following ways:
(1) Exercise helps women to maintain a healthy weight. It helps a woman to burn excess calories and help prevent them from being stored as fat.
(2) It helps women build stronger muscles. While most women begin losing muscle strength as early as age 25, it has been established that strength training can slow down or even reverse this process.
(3) It helps to lower the risk of illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes.
(4) It helps to increase bone strength and density. This can help protect a woman from osteoporosis (a thinning of the bones that often occurs after menopause). Women who strengthen their bones at a younger age are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis later in life.
(5) It improves emotional health. Studies show that regular exercise can help women feel happier, less anxious and more relaxed.
As important as exercise is, it can be counterproductive if done at the wrong time or in the wrong way. If you observe any of the following signs during or after exercise, it means something is wrong somewhere: dizziness, fainting attack, headache, chronic fatigue, gasping for breath, severe pain in the chest and joints, tremor, muscle cramps, excessive palpation, sleeplessness etc. It could be that you're engaging in the wrong kind of exercise, or that you're doing the exercise at the wrong time or in the wrong way. To avoid the risks associated with problematic exercise, the following guidelines will be of help:
(1) Choose the most appropriate type of exercise for you. Understand your personal limitations and exercise accordingly. Note that you're not competing with anyone for a prize.
(2) Don't exercise when you're ill or feverish.
(3) Don't engage in vigorous activities immediately after eating.
(4) Adjust exercise to the weather. Be careful especially of hot weather.
(5) Aerobic exercise should always be started with a proper warm-up, before the main exercise.
(6) Wear proper clothing and shoes.