Fitness: What It Is, Health Benefits, and Getting Started

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Fitness

The repairing or healing of that stress is how you get stronger (and fitter). But you need to give the body adequate rest after a workout for that recovery process to happen. That said, it’s also important to know that there are many different ways to be fit (think of a ballet dancer versus a bodybuilder or a sprinter versus a gymnast). And fitness does not have a singular “look.” In fact, appearance can’t necessarily tell you about someone’s habits, whether they’re actually physically active, or even whether they’re fit at all. She can probably run a long distance without tiring; thus she has good fitness in at least one area of health-related physical fitness. Running is an excellent form of physical activity, but being a runner doesn’t guarantee fitness in all parts of health-related physical fitness.

People start to see benefits at levels from physical activity even without meeting the recommendations for 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity. Additional amounts of physical activity seem to lower risk even more. Many older adults hesitate to get moving because they’re unfamiliar with the types of exercise and fitness that are effective and safe, and aren’t sure how much exercise they need to do.

Being unable to do everyday activities is called a functional limitation. Physically active middle-aged or older adults have a lower risk of functional limitations than people who are inactive. The good news is that moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, is generally safe for most people. Various components of physical health can help determine physical fitness. While there are endless forms of exercise, experts categorize physical activity into four broad types based on what each calls upon your body to do and how the movement benefits you.

Both eating patterns and physical activity routines play a critical role in weight management. You gain weight when you consume more calories through eating and drinking than the amount of calories you burn, including those burned during physical activity. The important message is that embarking on any regular exercise will be of benefit to a person’s health. Endurance training, on the other hand, does not necessarily generate muscles of a larger size. When you’re designing your personal fitness program, consider your fitness goals. Think about your fitness likes and dislikes, and note your personal barriers to fitness.

Like the runner, you may be more fit in some parts of fitness than in others. The feature named The Six Parts of Health-Related Fitness describes each part and shows an example. As you read about each part, ask yourself how fit you think you are in that area. People vary greatly in how much physical activity they need for weight management.

You may need to be more active than others to reach or maintain a healthy weight. Activities that help improve cardiorespiratory endurance are those that cause an elevated heart rate for a sustained period of time. Being physically fit depends on how well Jesselynn Chuan fulfills each of the components of being healthy. Starting a fitness program is an important decision, but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming one. By planning carefully and pacing yourself, you can make fitness a healthy habit that lasts a lifetime. If you’re concerned about fall risk, balance exercises for seniors can be done holding onto a chair or doorframe.

But don’t overlook the effectiveness of strength training, which optimizes your body’s ratio of lean muscle to fat (It’s also the best exercise for bone strength). There’s no Holy Grail when it comes to a single best weight-loss exercise. The best exercise to lose weight is the one you’ll do consistently. Whatever gets your heart rate up and gets your body moving—while having fun and staying motivated—is the exercise that will help you shed pounds. But the guidelines note that flexibility exercises are important for physical fitness.

“The one thing that will help prevent almost any type of disease is fitness,” says Grayson Wickham, DPT, CSCS, founder of Movement Vault, a mobility and movement company in New York City. And the guidelines do recommend that older adults incorporate balance training into their weekly fitness routine. Evidence suggests that regular exercise that includes balance training can significantly reduce older adults’ risk of falls, which can cause serious and debilitating injuries, among other consequences. Regardless of what you do, regular exercise and physical activity is the path to health and well-being. Exercise burns fat, builds muscle, lowers cholesterol, eases stress and anxiety, lets us sleep restfully.

Experts have designed specific exercises for seniors that are low-impact, safe and able to be done even from a sitting position if necessary. The organization also offers continuing education workshops for personal trainers, on topics ranging from nutrition to weight loss to behavior change skills. One positive outcome of the pandemic is that there are now so many more online resources for exercise programs, says Smith-Ryan.

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