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Physical fitness is a general state of health and well-being and, more specifically, the ability to perform aspects of sports or occupations. Physical fitness is generally achieved through correct nutrition, exercise and rest. It is a set of attributes or characteristics seen in people and which relate to the ability to perform a given set of physical activities.
Before the industrial revolution, fitness was the capacity to carry out the day’s activities without undue fatigue. However with automation and changes in lifestyles physical fitness is now considered a measure of the body’s ability to function efficiently and effectively in work and leisure activities, to be healthy, to resist hypokinetic diseases, and to meet emergency situations.
Fitness is defined as the quality of being suitable to perform a particular task. Around 1950, perhaps consistent with the Industrial Revolution and the treatise of World War II, the term fitness increased in western vernacular by a factor of ten. Modern definition of fitness describe either a person or machine's ability to perform a specific function or a holistic definition of human adaptability to cope with various situations. This has led to an interrelation of human fitness and attractiveness which has mobilized global fitness and fitness equipment industries. Regarding specific function, fitness is attributed to personnel who possess significant aerobic or anaerobic ability, i.e. strength or endurance. A holistic definition of fitness is described by Greg Glassman in the CrossFit journal as an increased work capacity across broad times and modal domains; mastery of several attributes of fitness including strength, endurance, power, speed, balance and coordination and being able to improve the amount of work done in a given time with any of these domains. A well rounded fitness program will improve a person in all aspects of fitness, rather than one, such as only cardio/respiratory endurance or only weight training.
A comprehensive fitness program tailored to an individual typically focuses on one or more specific skills, and on age- or health-related needs such as bone health. Many sources also cite mental, social and emotional health as an important part of overall fitness. This is often presented in textbooks as a triangle made up of three points, which represent physical, emotional, and mental fitness. Physical fitness can also prevent or treat many chronic health conditions brought on by unhealthy lifestyle or aging. Working out can also help some people sleep better and possibly alleviate some mood disorders in certain individuals.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages the adult public, ages 18 to 64, to engage each week in at least one and a quarter hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity; that time can be met in any increments.
Diet is an important component to overall health that works best in combination with exercise. A balanced diet and exercising regularly are important for maintaining good health. Obesity is defined as body mass index, a measure of weight in relationship to height. With obesity on the rise, the U.S. has implemented more exercise and diet plans. Exercise and diet will help prevent type 2 diabetes, which is more common with obesity. There are millions of programs, websites, television shows, magazines, and movies regarding health and fitness. Recently, the trends of diets and lifestyle habits have become more and more encouraged. Understanding the importance of the health benefits resulted from diet and exercise will help decrease the amount of obesity in this country. Physical activity and exercise is defined in terms of type, intensity, duration and frequency.
Developing research has demonstrated that many of the benefits of exercise are mediated through the role of skeletal muscle as an endocrine organ. That is, contracting muscles release multiple substances known as myokines which promote the growth of new tissue, tissue repair, and various anti-inflammatory functions, which in turn reduce the risk of developing various inflammatory diseases.
Specific or task-oriented fitness is a person's ability to perform in a specific activity with a reasonable efficiency: for example, sports or military service. Specific training prepares athletes to perform well in their sports.
- 100 m sprint: in a sprint the athlete must be trained to work anaerobically throughout the race, an example of how to do this would be interval training.
- Marathon: in this case the athlete must be trained to work aerobically and their endurance must be built-up to a maximum.
- Many fire fighters and police officers undergo regular fitness testing to determine if they are capable of the physically demanding tasks required of the job.
- Members of armed forces will often be required to pass a formal fitness test – for example soldiers of the US Army must be able to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT).
- Hill sprints: requires a level of fitness to begin with, the exercise is particularly good for the leg muscles. The army often trains doing mountain climbing and races.
In order for physical fitness to benefit the health of an individual, an unknown response in the person called a stimulus will be triggered by the exertion. When exercise is performed with the correct amount of intensity, duration and frequency, a significant amount of improvement can occur. The person will overall feel better but the physical effects on the human body take weeks, months, or even years to be noticed or fully developed. For training purposes, exercise must provide a stress or demand on either a function or tissue. To continue improvements, this demand must eventually increase little over an extended period of time. This sort of exercise training has three basic principles: overload, specificity, and progression. These principles are related to health but also enhancement of physical working capacity.
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Cardiorespiratory training involves movement that increases the heart rate to improve the body's oxygen consumption. This form of exercise is an important part of all training regiments ranging from professional athletes to the everyday person. Also, it helps increase stamina.
- Jogging – Running at a steady and gentle pace. This form of exercise is great for maintaining weight.
- Elliptical Training – This is a stationary exercise machine used to perform walking, or running without causing excessive stress on the joints. This form of exercise is perfect for people with achy hips, knees and ankles.
- Walking – Moving at a fairly regular pace for a short, medium or long distance. Many walkers enjoy getting their workouts in at their local mall.
- Swimming – Using your arms and legs to keep yourself afloat and moving either forwards or backwards. This is a good full body exercise for those who are looking to strengthen their core while improving cardiovascular endurance.
- Biking – Riding a bicycle typically involves longer distances than walking or jogging. This is another low stress exercise on the joints and is great for improving leg strength.
Controls blood pressure
Physical Fitness has proven to result in positive effects the body's blood pressure. This is because staying active and exercising regularly builds up a stronger heart. The heart is the main organ in charge of systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Engaging in a physical activity will create a rise in blood pressure, once the activity is stopped, however, the individual’s blood pressure will return to normal. The more physical activity that one engages in, the easier this process becomes, resulting in a more ‘fit’ individual. Through regular physical fitness, the heart does not have to work as hard to create a rise in blood pressure, which lowers the force on the arteries, and lowers the over all blood pressure.
Centers for disease control and prevention provide lifestyle guidelines of maintaining a balanced diet and engaging in physical activity to reduce the risk of disease. The WCRF/ American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) published a list of recommendations that reflect the evidence they have found through consistency in fitness and dietary factors that directly relate to Cancer prevention.
The WCRF/AICR Recommendations include the following:
- "Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
- Each week, adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity
- Children should engage in at least one hour of moderate or vigorous physical activity each week
- Be physically active for at least thirty minutes every day
- Avoid sugar, limit the consumption of energy packed foods
- Balance your diet with a variety of vegetables, grains, fruits, legumes, etc.
- Limit sodium intake, the consumption of red meats and the consumption of processed meats
- Limit alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women a day"
These recommendations are also widely supported by the American Cancer Society. The guidelines have been evaluated and individuals that have higher guideline adherence scores substantially reduce cancer risk as well as help towards control with a multitude of chronic health problems. Regular physical activity is a factor that helps reduce an individual’s blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels, two key components that correlate with heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. The American Cancer Society encourages the public to "adopt a physically active lifestyle" by meeting the criteria in a variety of physical activities such as hiking, swimming, circuit training, resistance raining, lifting, etc. It is understood that cancer is not a disease that can be cured by physical fitness alone, however because it is a multifactorial disease, physical fitness is a controllable prevention. The large associations tied with being physically fit and reduced cancer risk are enough to provide a strategy to reduce cancer risk. The American Cancer Society assorts different levels of activity ranging from moderate to vigorous to clarify the recommended time spent on a physical activity. These classifications of physical activity consider the intentional exercise and basic activities done on a daily basis and give the public a greater understanding by what fitness levels suffice as future disease prevention.
Cardiovascular disease prevention
Physical activity effects one’s blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood lipid levels, blood clotting factors and the strength of blood vessels. All factors that directly correlate to cardiovascular disease. It also improves the body’s use of insulin. People who are at risk for diabetes, Type 2 (insulin resistant) especially, benefit greatly from physical activity because it activates a better usage of insulin and protects the heart. Those who develop diabetes have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In a study where a sample of around ten thousand adults from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, physical activity and metabolic risk factors such as insulin resistance, inflammation, dyslipidemia were assessed. The study adjusted basic confounders with moderate/vigorous physical activity and the relation with CVD mortality. The results displayed physical activity being associated with a lower risk of CVD mortality that was independent of traditional metabolic risk factors.
The American Heart Association recommendations include the same findings as provided in the WCRF/ AICR recommendations list for people who are healthy. In regards to people with lower blood pressure or cholesterol, the association recommends that these individuals aim for around forty minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity around three or four times a week.
Achieving resilience through physical fitness promotes a vast and complex range of health related benefits. Controlling one's weight and physical activity go hand in hand. Being physically fit regulates body weight, insulin resistance, sex hormones, inflammation, and a healthy immune system. Individuals who keep up physical fitness levels generally regulate their distribution of body fat and stray away from obesity. Abdominal fat, specifically visceral fat, is most directly affected by engaging in aerobic exercise. Sex steroid hormones, insulin, and an appropriate immune response are factors that mediate metabolism in relation to the abdominal fat. Therefore, physical fitness provides weight control through regulation of these bodily functions.
Regular exercise is effective for preventing the age-related decline in cognition and improving overall neuropsychological function. The increased synthesis of neurotrophic factors in the body and brain and the resulting neurogenesis in various brain structures is largely responsible for these effects. Exercise also has persistent antidepressant effects and has been found to serve as both a means to prevent and treat drug addictions, particularly psychostimulant addictions.
Menopause and physical fitness
The menopausal period in women can be associated with symptoms such as vasomotor symptoms, sleep disturbance, alteration in mood, lowered libido, and musculoskeletal pain. Any of these symptoms could potentially lead to a lower quality of life. Physical fitness may have the ability to alleviate or even eliminate the effect of most of these, for some individuals.
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