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Understanding the real fitness
12 Jan 2022
Understanding the real fitness image

‘No pain, no gain.’

‘Being fit means getting bulky.’

‘The more exercise you do, the better.’

These are some common phrases we often hear about fitness. But the term ‘fitness’ may be understood differently by different individuals, but actually, it refers to a person’s state of health and overall well-being. It defines the ability of a person to perform daily activities without getting exhausted quickly. Fitness is not at all confined to physical health. It involves other aspects like emotional and mental health. Being fit means you have the:

  • Energy to do your tasks efficiently. 
  • Ability to handle stress and mental challenges with optimism.
  • Strength to conquer physical challenges.
  • Reduced chances of getting health issues like cancer, heart disease, etc.
  • Better quality of life and chances of having a longer lifespan.

So when it comes to physical fitness, there are seven essential components. They are flexibility, cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, muscular power, balance, speed, and body composition. These components are important because they are measured to assess a person’s fitness level.

Why is nutrition an important part of fitness?     

Our eating habits directly influence our physical and mental health and according to research, nutrition plays the most important role in our fitness, even more than regular exercise. So eating healthy food can help reduce body fat, give us a confident look and decrease chances of illness. Hence healthy eating habits make our lives happier and comfortable. So it is essential to choose the right quantity and quality of food that we consume to stay fit.

Nutrient-dense foods, also called superfoods, act as medicine to our bodies. Superfoods are great sources of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fats essential for our health. Some of the superfoods preferred by fitness experts are listed below:-

  • Green vegetables (antioxidants, reduces inflammation)
  • Fruits (antioxidants, reduces inflammation/increases metabolism)
  • Oats (high in fiber, improves digestion/increases metabolism, heart health)
  • Eggs (protein source, muscle building)
  • Yogurt (calcium, improved digestion, bone health)
  • Meats/fish (amino acids, protein source, muscle building)
  • Beans (high fiber content, antioxidants, improved brain function)

But there is a contradiction that healthy food comprises only proteins, carbohydrates, etc., and no sugar. This may force you to change your daily diet. Losing your favorite food can be depressing. Well, the good news is that you don’t have to. It is totally fine to please yourself with your favorite dish occasionally. Remember, a balanced healthy diet is a key to a healthy lifestyle.

How are exercise and fitness related?

Physical activity and exercise are essential for the proper functioning of the body. Exercise provides us with lots of physical and psychological benefits. Daily physical activity helps us to gain more energy, maintain proper body weight, improve our mood, and enable us to stay active. It is beneficial to everyone irrespective of age, gender, or physical ability. Doing regular exercise can prevent many diseases like stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, back pain, etc. It can also improve several mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, stress, trauma, etc.

When we engage in physical activity, calories are burned. This helps us to lose excess weight and maintain body structure. It also enhances our muscle strength and endurance, thus boosting our energy to perform daily chores. Moreover, a gym session or a long walk can destress all our anxieties. It can uplift our emotions and improve our mood. Hence, doing exercise daily grants us a fresh body and mind.

Some other benefits of exercise include sharper memory, better sleep, and a better immune system. Physical activity can be enjoyable too. It gives us the chance to explore and enjoy the outdoors and perform activities that make us happy. Attending a gym session or a yoga class is also a space for improving social connections. 

Exercise is broadly classified into three categories:-

1. Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise involves the use of oxygen for energy and is associated with an increased rate of breathing. It improves how the body utilizes oxygen for energy. These exercises are of average intensity and should be done for at least 150 minutes. Moderate aerobic exercise includes swimming, biking, brisk walking, etc. Running, heavy yard work and aerobic dancing are examples of vigorous aerobic exercise. These exercises can improve overall muscle strength, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

2. Anaerobic exercise

This type of exercise is useful for building power, strength, and muscle mass. It does not use oxygen for energy. Such exercises are of high intensity and should be done only for short periods. Examples of anaerobic exercises are weightlifting, sprinting, interval training, rock climbing, etc. These activities provide lesser benefits for cardiovascular health than aerobic exercise. However, it is more effective for building muscle strength and losing weight.

3. Agility training

Agility training improves a person’s ability to maintain control, flexibility, and balance during movement. It is most useful for people who take part in sports that require speed, balance, coordination, and positioning. Examples of sports that need agility are tennis, football, hockey, badminton, volleyball, basketball, boxing, etc. Benefits of agility training include injury prevention, increased cognitive function, better coordination, balance, and improved recovery times.

What is the role of sleep in fitness? 

Getting good sleep and rest is as crucial as controlling diet and exercise. Sleep gives the body time to conserve energy, recover, repair, and build muscles. Good quality sleep is necessary for the body to produce growth hormones. On average, adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night whereas babies sleep about 16 hours a day. Teenagers and young children need around 9 to 10 hours of sleep. Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies. It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, and blood pressure. Studies claim that lack of sleep causes obesity, affects cardiovascular health and other infections. Sleep can also affect the efficiency of vaccinations.

As people get older, they may not be able to sleep properly because of illness, sleep disorders, or other conditions. Relaxation and deep breathing are common methods to overcome sleep disorders. Exercise is also a very efficient way to induce sleep. This is because exercise has a chemical effect on the brain. It creates more adenosine in the brain which makes us feel sleepy. That is the reason why a day of hiking or vigorous physical activity produces immediate sleep.

In a nutshell, good nutrition, regular exercise, and proper sleep are the major factors that influence a person’s overall fitness. It’s not at all about losing weight or getting bulky, but developing a healthy lifestyle and performing tasks actively that make a person fit. So consider consulting a dietician to know more.

-Joel V George

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