What Does it Mean to be Fit?

You might have seen a recent article about endurance athletes and heart damage.  The article referred to research that showed excessive exercise could damage the heart in ways similar to a minor heart attack.

Luckily, one needn’t exercise for three hours a day in order to be fit.  Of course a professional athlete will have different requirements, but for those of us just looking to improve our quality of life, or even to compete in local events, we can be more balanced in our approach.

So what does it mean to be fit?  What would you need to do to improve your fitness level?  You might be thinking, “I run every day, so I’m fit.”  Well, according to the definition, you would not be completely fit if you only ran.  Fitness has five basic components:

  • CARDIOVASCULAR ENDURANCE.  This term refers to how efficient your lungs and heart are over the long run.  To improve your cardiovascular endurance, you might try a spin class or running or swimming–any activity that keeps you moving for an extended period of time.
  • MUSCULAR ENDURANCE.  This term refers to how efficient your muscles are over the long run.  In other words, how many times could you lift a moderate weight?  Pushups would be a good example.
  • MUSCULAR STRENGTH.  Your muscular strength is a measure of how much weight you can lift once.  Think of those large Russian men in the Olympics who clean and jerk obscene amounts of weight;  they only lift it one time, but it’s a LOT of weight.
  • FLEXIBILITY.  An often neglected area, flexibility is the range of motion that is possible around a joint.  You don’t need to take a yoga class; just try adding a couple of simple stretches after your workout.
  • BODY COMPOSITION.  This term refers to the ratio of lean muscle mass to body fat.  A certain amount of body fat is essential for proper body function.

So how do you measure up now?  Are you neglecting some areas?  Remember, you should expect, even demand, that your body be able to walk up and down stairs without getting winded, to shovel snow without straining a muscle, to put lotion on your own back and not miss any spots.  Your body was made to be used in a variety of ways, so in order for you to be fit, make sure you consider all five areas in your exercise routine.

Happy Training!

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