Vigorous exercise involves minimal health risks for persons in good health or those following a doctor's
advice. Far greater risks are present by habitual inactivity and obesity.
Physical fitness is to the human body what fine tuning is to an engine. It enables us to perform up
to our potential. Fitness can be described as a condition that helps us look, feel and do our best.
More specifically, it is:
"The ability to perform daily tasks vigorously and alertly, with energy left over for enjoying
leisure-time activities and meeting emergency demands. It is the ability to endure, to bear
up, to withstand stress, to carry on in circumstances where an unfit person could not continue,
and is a major basis for good health and well-being."
Physical fitness involves the performance of the heart and lungs, and the muscles of the body.
And, since what we do with our bodies also affects what we can do with our minds, fitness influences
to some degree qualities such as mental alertness and emotional stability.
As you undertake your fitness program, it's important to remember that fitness is an individual
quality that varies from person to person. It is influenced by age, sex, heredity, personal habits,
exercise and eating practices. You can't do anything about the first three factors. However, it is
within your power to change and improve the others where needed.
KNOWING THE BASICS
Physical fitness is most easily understood by examining its components, or "parts."
There is widespread agreement that these four components are basic.
Cardiorespiratory Endurance - the ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues, and to
remove wastes, over sustained periods of time. Long runs and swims are among the methods employed
in measuring this component.
Muscular Strength - the ability of a muscle to exert force for a brief period of time.
Upper-body strength, for example, can be measured by various weight-lifting exercises.
Muscular Endurance - the ability of a muscle, or a group of muscles, to sustain repeated contractions
or to continue applying force against a fixed object. Pushups are often used to test endurance of
arm and shoulder muscles.
Flexibility - the ability to move joints and use muscles through their full range of motion.
The sit-and-reach test is a good measure of flexibility of the lower back and backs of the upper legs.
Body Composition is often considered a component of fitness. It refers to the makeup of the body in
terms of lean mass (muscle, bone, vital tissue and organs) and fat mass. An optimal ratio of fat to
lean mass is an indication of fitness, and the right types of exercise will help you decrease body
fat and increase or maintain muscle mass.
A WORKOUT SCHEDULE
How often, how long and how hard you exercise, and what kinds of exercises you do should be determined
by what you are trying to accomplish. Your goals, your present fitness level, age, health, skills,
interest and convenience are among the factors you should consider. For example, an athlete training
for high-level competition would follow a different program than a person whose goals are good health
and the ability to meet work and recreational needs.
Your exercise program should include something from each of the four basic fitness components described
previously. Each workout should begin with a warmup and end with a cooldown. As a general rule, space
your workouts throughout the week and avoid consecutive days of hard exercise.
Here are the amounts of activity necessary for the average, healthy person to maintain a minimum level
of overall fitness. Included are some of the popular exercises for each category.
WARMUP - 5-10 minutes of exercises such as walking, slow jogging, knee lifts, arm circles or trunk
rotations. Low intensity movements that stimulate movements to be used in the activity can also be
included in the warmup.
MUSCULAR STRENGTH - a minimum of two 20-minute sessions per week that include exercises for all the
major muscle groups. Lifting weights is the most effective way to increase strength.
MUSCULAR ENDURANCE - at least three 30-minute sessions each week that include exercises such as
calisthenics, pushups, situps, pullups, and weight training for all the major muscle groups.
CARDIORESPIRATORY ENDURANCE - at least three 20-minute bouts of continuous aerobic (activity requiring
oxygen) rhythmic exercise each week. Popular aerobic conditioning activities include brisk walking,
jogging, swimming, cycling, rope-jumping, rowing, cross-country skiing, and some continuous action games
like racquetball and handball.
FLEXIBILITY - 10-12 minutes of daily stretching exercises performed slowly without a bouncing motion.
This can be included after a warmup or during a cooldown.
COOL DOWN - a minimum of 5-10 minutes of slow walking, low-level exercise, combined with stretching.
A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE
The keys to selecting the right kinds of exercises for developing and maintaining each of the basic
components of fitness are found in these principles:
Specificity - pick the right kind of activities to affect each component. Strength training results
in specific strength changes. Also, train for the specific activity you're interested in.
For example, optimal swimming performance is best achieved when the muscles involved in swimming
are trained for the movements required. It does not necessarily follow that a good runner is a good
Overload - work hard enough, at levels that are vigorous and long enough to overload your body above
its resting level, to bring about improvement.
Regularity - you can't hoard physical fitness. At least three balanced workouts a week are necessary
to maintain a desirable level of fitness.
Progression - increase the intensity, frequency and/or duration of activity over periods of time in
order to improve.
Some activities can be used to fulfill more than one of your basic exercise requirements.
For example, in addition to increasing cardiorespiratory endurance, running builds muscular
endurance in the legs, and swimming develops the arm, shoulder and chest muscles. If you
select the proper activities, it is possible to fit parts of your muscular endurance workout
into your cardiorespiratory workout and save time.
MEASURING YOUR HEART RATE
Heart rate is widely accepted as a good method for measuring intensity during running, swimming,
cycling and other aerobic activities. Exercise that doesn't raise your heart rate to a certain level
and keep it there for 20 minutes won't contribute significantly to cardiovascular fitness.
The heart rate you should maintain is called your Target Heart Rate. There are several ways of
arriving at this figure. One of the simplest is: Maximum Heart Rate (220 - age) X 70%. Thus, the
target heart rate for a 40 year-old would be 126.
Some methods for figuring the target rate take individual differences into consideration.
Here is one of them.
1. Subtract age from 220 to find Maximum Heart Rate.
2. Subtract resting heart rate (see below) from maximum heart rate to determine Heart Rate Reserve.
3. Take 70% of heart rate reserve to determine Heart Rate Raise.
4. Add heart rate raise to resting heart rate to find Target Rate.
Resting heart rate should be determined by taking your pulse after sitting quietly for five minutes.
When checking heart rate during a workout, take your pulse within five seconds after interrupting
exercise because it starts to go down once you stop moving. Count pulse for 10 seconds and multiply
by six to get the per-minute rate.
CONTROLLING YOUR WEIGHT |
The key to weight control is keeping energy intake (food) and energy output (physical activity) in
balance. When you consume only as many calories as your body needs, your weight will usually remain
constant. If you take in more calories than your body needs, you will put on excess fat. If you
expend more energy than you take in you will burn excess fat.
Exercise plays an important role in weight control by increasing energy output, calling on stored
calories for extra fuel. Recent studies show that not only does exercise increase metabolism during
a workout, but it causes your metabolism to stay increased for a period of time after exercising,
allowing you to burn more calories.
How much exercise is needed to make a difference in your weight depends on the amount and type of
activity, and on how much you eat. Aerobic exercise burns body fat. A medium-sized adult would have
to walk more than 30 miles to burn up 3,500 calories, the equivalent of one pound of fat. Although
that may seem like a lot, you don't have to walk the 30 miles all at once. Walking a mile a day for
30 days will achieve the same result, providing you don't increase your food intake to negate the
effects of walking
If you consume 100 calories a day more than your body needs, you will gain approximately 10 pounds
in year. You could take that weight off, or keep it off, by doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise
daily. The combination of exercise and diet offers the most flexible and effective approach to
Since muscle tissue weighs more than fat tissue, and exercise develops muscle to a certain degree,
your bathroom scale won't necessarily tell you whether or not you are "fat." Well muscled
individuals, with relatively little body fat, invariably are "overweight" according to
standard weight charts. If you are doing a regular program of strength training, your muscles will
increase in weight, and possibly your overall weight will increase. Body composition is a better
indicator of your condition than body weight.
Lack of physical activity causes muscles to get soft, and if food intake is not decreased, added
body weight is almost always fat. Once-active people, who continue to eat as they always have
after settling into sedentary lifestyles, tend to suffer from "creeping obesity."
All exercise clothing should be loose-fitting to permit freedom of movement, and should make the
wearer feel comfortable and self-assured.
As a general rule, you should wear lighter clothes than temperatures might indicate. Exercise
generates great amounts of body heat. Light-colored clothing that reflects the sun's rays is
cooler in the summer, and dark clothes are warmer in winter. When the weather is very cold,
it's better to wear several layers of light clothing than one or two heavy layers. The extra
layers help trap heat, and it's easy to shed one of them if you become too warm.
In cold weather, and in hot, sunny weather, it's a good idea to wear something on your head. Wool
watch or ski caps are recommended for winter wear, and some form of tennis or sailor's hat that provides
shade and can be soaked in water is good for summer.
Never wear rubberized or plastic clothing. Such garments interfere with the evaporation of perspiration
and can cause body temperature to rise to dangerous levels.
The most important item of equipment for the runner is a pair of sturdy, properly-fitting running shoes.
Training shoes with heavy, cushioned soles and arch supports are preferable to flimsy sneakers and light
WHEN TO EXERCISE
The hour just before the evening meal is a popular time for exercise. The late afternoon workout
provides a welcome change of pace at the end of the work day and helps dissolve the day's worries
Another popular time to work out is early morning, before the work day begins. Advocates of the
early start say it makes them more alert and energetic on the job.
Among the factors you should consider in developing your workout schedule are personal preference,
job and family responsibilities, availability of exercise facilities and weather. It's important
to schedule your workouts for a time when there is little chance that you will have to cancel or
interrupt them because of other demands on your time.
You should not exercise strenuously during extreme hot, humid weather, or within two hours after eating.
Heat and/or digestion both make heavy demands on the circulatory system, and in combination with exercise
can be an overtaxing double load.
About... Fitness and Exercise
Fitness and Exercise Introduction
Today, there is a growing emphasis on looking good, feeling good and
living longer. Increasingly, scientific evidence tells us that one of
the keys to achieving these ideals is fitness and exercise. But if you
spend your days at a sedentary job and pass your evenings as a "couch
potato," it may require some determination and commitment to make
regular activity a part of your daily routine.
Equal Opportunity Benefits
Exercise is not just for Olympic hopefuls or supermodels. In fact,
you're never too unfit, too young or too old to get started. Regardless
of your age, gender or role in life, you can benefit from regular
If you're committed, exercise in combination with a
sensible diet can help provide an overall sense of well-being and can
even help prevent chronic illness, disability and premature death. Some
of the benefits of increased activity are:
* increased efficiency of heart and lungs
* reduced cholesterol levels
* increased muscle strength
* reduced blood pressure
* reduced risk of major illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease
* weight loss
Improved Sense of Well-Being
* more energy
* less stress
* improved quality of sleep
* improved ability to cope with stress
* increased mental acuity
* weight loss
* toned muscles
* improved posture
Enhanced Social Life
* improved self-image
* increased opportunities to make new friends
* increased opportunities to share an activity with friends or family members
* increased productivity
* increased physical capabilities
* less frequent injuries
* improved immunity to minor illnesses
Mind Over Immobility
Getting moving is a challenge because today physical activity is less a
part of our daily lives. There are fewer jobs that require physical
exertion. We've become a mechanically mobile society, relying on
machines rather than muscle to get around. In addition, we've become a
nation of observers with more people (including children) spending their
leisure time pursuing just that - leisure. Consequently, statistics show
that obesity and the problems that come with it (high blood pressure,
diabetes, stroke, etc.) are on the rise. But statistics also show that
preventive medicine pays off, so don't wait until your doctor gives you
an ultimatum. Take the initiative to get active now.
The Fitness Formula
If you're interested in improving your overall conditioning, health
experts recommend that you should get at least 30 minutes of moderately
intense physical activity on all or most days of the week. Examples of
moderate activity include brisk walking, cycling, swimming or doing home
repairs or yard work. If you can't get in 30 minutes all at once, aim
for shorter bouts of activity (at least 10 minutes) that add up to a
half hour per day.
Instead of thinking in terms of a specific exercise program, work toward
permanently changing your lifestyle to incorporate more activity. Don't
forget that muscles used in any activity, any time of day, contribute to
fitness. Try working in a little more movement with these extras:
* Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
* Park at the far end of a parking lot and walk to the office or store.
* Get off public transportation a few blocks before your stop.
* Get up from your desk during the day to stretch and walk around.
* Take a brisk walk when you get the urge to snack.
* Increase your pace when working in the house or yard.
* Mow your own lawn and rake your own leaves.
* Carry your own groceries.
If you're ready to move up to more vigorous activity, remember that "no
pain, no gain" isn't exactly true. The best-laid plans of many a fitness
program have been ruined by too much enthusiasm on the first day and
sore muscles on the second. A goal is an end point, not a beginning, so
work toward your goal gradually. Once you're in better shape, you can
gradually increase your time or distance or change to a more vigorous
If you have cardiovascular disease, you should check with your physician
before undertaking more vigorous activity. Likewise, if you're a man
over 40 or a woman over 50 with risk factors such as smoking, high blood
pressure, high cholesterol or obesity, seek your doctor's advice.
The key to a lifetime of fitness is consistency. Here are some tips to
help you make exercise a habit.
* Choose an activity you enjoy.
* Tailor your program to your own fitness level.
* Set realistic goals.
* Choose an exercise that fits your lifestyle.
* Give your body a chance to adjust to your new routine.
* Don't get discouraged if you don't see immediate results.
* Don't give up if you miss a day; just get back on track the next day.
* Find a partner for a little motivation and socialization.
* Build some rest days into your exercise schedule.
* Listen to your body. If you have difficulty breathing or experience faintness or
prolonged weakness during or after exercise, consult your physician.
It's a good idea to choose more than one type of exercise to give your
body a thorough workout and to prevent boredom. Also, you might want to
choose one indoor exercise and one outdoor activity to allow for changes
in your schedule or for inclement weather. Very few people live in a
climate that's temperate year-round. But weather extremes don't have to
interfere with your exercise routine if you make some minor adjustments.
When it's hot or humid:
* Exercise during cooler and/or less humid times of day. Try early morning or evening.
* Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
* Avoid alcohol, which encourages dehydration.
* Wear light, loose-fitting clothing.
* Stop at the first sign of muscle cramping or dizziness.
When it's cold:
* Dress in layers.
* Wear gloves or mittens to protect your hands.
* Wear a hat or cap. Up to 40% of body heat is lost through your neck and head.
* Adjust the size of your shoes if you need to wear thicker socks.
* Warm up slowly.
* Drink plenty of fluids. You can get dehydrated in the winter, too.
* Stop if you experience shivering, drowsiness or disorientation. You may need help for hypothermia.
* Let someone know where you're going and when you'll be back.
* Carry identification with you when exercising outside the home.
* Exercise indoors or try mall-walking when it's stormy. Don't risk a run-in with lightning or ice.
* Build in warm-up and cool-down periods to decrease risk of injury.
* Avoid strenuous exercise for one to two hours after eating.
* Wear sturdy, well-fitting shoes appropriate for the activity.
* Wear brightly colored clothing when exercising outdoors.
* Add lights and reflector tape to your body or bike if you exercise after dark.
* Wear helmets and safety pads appropriate for the activity.
* Move against traffic if you must run or walk on the road.
* Don't let headphones distract you from observing traffic and safety concerns.
* Respect pollution alerts and exercise indoors when warnings are posted, especially if you
have heart or lung disease.
* Avoid areas where traffic is heavy.
* Take special care of your feet if you are diabetic or have vascular disease.
Diet and Action - the Fitness Combo
Did you know you need to burn off 3,500 calories more than you take in
to lose just one pound? If you're overweight, eating your usual amount
of calories while increasing activity is good for you, but eating fewer
calories and being more active is even better. The following chart gives
you an idea of the calories used per hour in common activities. Calories
burned vary in proportion to body weight, however, so these figures are
|Bicycling 6 mph ||240|
|Bicycling 12 mph ||410|
|Jogging 5.5 mph ||740|
|Jogging 7 mph || 920|
|Jumping rope || 750|
|Running in place || 650|
|Running 10 mph || 1,280|
|Skiing (cross-country)|| 700|
|Swimming 25 yds/min || 275|
|Swimming 50 yds/min || 500|
|Tennis (singles) || 400|
|Walking 2 mph || 240|
|Walking 4 mph || 440|
Source: American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Before making any major dietary changes, you should check with your
doctor. But there are plenty of small changes you can make on your own,
such as avoiding sweets and salty foods and cutting down on fat in your
diet, especially saturated fat.
No More Excuses
You can probably come up with plenty of excuses for why you're not more
active. You're too young, you're too old, you're too busy, you're too
tired or you're in pretty good shape - for your age. But with few
exceptions, these excuses are pretty flimsy. There are activities for
the young and old and for those with little time. So the next time you
think about getting fit, don't ask "Who has time?" Instead, ask yourself
"Who doesn't want to feel better?"