FITNESS - Fit or UnfitFit or Unfit - the Choice is Yours
The way you take care of yourself shows - not just in how you look, but also in how you feel. Which side of the fitness picture do you fit into?
Getting fit doesn't mean changing your whole life. You don't need to run 10 miles a day. You don't need to buy leotards or fancy aerobic shoes. All you need to do is decide that you want to get fit and then start making exercise a part of your life, little by little. If you have trouble doing it by yourself, exercise with a partner or friend. Ease into an activity that you can really enjoy. It's never too late to take the first step toward fitness.Say "Yes" to Exercise
You can ALWAYS find excuses not to exercise. Funny thing is, once you get in the habit of exercising, you also start enjoying it - and looking forward to it. Exercise makes you feel better both physically and mentally. So instead of making excuses, start finding ways to stay active and healthy.Does this sound like you?
"I don't have time."
"I don't like exercise."
"I look ugly in shorts."
"I can't stand pain."
"I hate to sweat."
"I'll do it tomorrow." Avoid the Consequences - Get in Shape
Without exercise, your body and mind suffer, leading to problems ranging from stroke to stress. You're more likely to feel tired and tense. You might have trouble losing or controlling weight. Or you get sick more easily. If you want to feel energetic, clear-headed, healthy and trim, start making exercise part of your daily routine. Don't be a victim of inactivity.
Before you start moving, take the time to learn what it means to be truly fit. You're in for some pleasant surprises; fitness can have a positive impact on all aspects of your life.The Benefits of Fitness
When you exercise, your body's systems begin to work together. Vigorous exercise helps prepare the lungs and heart to take in and distribute oxygen (O2) to active muscles. The effective use of O2 results in more stamina, better resistance to disease and a younger, more vibrant appearance. As you become more fit, you'll notice other benefits, too - such as greater confidence and self-esteem, better ability to handle stress and an improved quality of life.Your O2 Connection
Oxygen is life itself. In order to come alive, you had to breathe oxygen. In order to stay alive, you need to continue taking in oxygen and distributing it throughout your body. When you're unfit, your body doesn't use oxygen efficiently. Regular exercise enhances your ability to use oxygen more efficiently.Your 02 Intake
When you are unfit, even mild exertion will make you huff and puff. It's not because your lungs are inadequate. It is the inability of your body, particularly your muscles, to use oxygen efficiently.Your 02 Pump
A neglected heart can fall into disrepair. It can only pump a lesser amount of blood, and with exertion it has to overwork to keep up with the body's demand for oxygen. A strong heart doesn't have to work as hard since it can pump more blood per beat.Your O2 Circulatory System
When you don't get enough exercise, fatty deposits can clog your blood vessels and reduce the flow of blood and O2. Exercise increases the resiliency of your arteries, decreases fat levels in the blood and helps prevent the formation of blood clots that may interfere with circulation.A Stronger You
Muscle that is underused and out of condition does not make use of 02 as well as fit muscle. Moreover, when you don't use a muscle, it shrinks and becomes more prone to injury. As you gradually ask more from your muscles, they will grow stronger, firmer and more resilient.A Firmer You
Without adequate exercise, muscles lose their tone. Fat can accumulate in and around the muscle bundles. Fatty deposits can build up under the skin, causing it to stretch and dimple. Exercise can help eliminate fat deposits by reducing the overall total amount of body fat.A More Enduring You
De-conditioned muscles have difficulty obtaining the oxygen they need to work efficiently. They tire out sooner than fit muscles do. An unfit body is more prone to injury and wears out faster than a fit one. A conditioned body has a better chance to keep going mile after mile, year after year.A Happier, Healthier You
A fit body that can take in and use O2 efficiently is full of vitality. Being fit can make you proud of how you look and impart a sense of self-esteem. It also bolsters the body's natural resistance to disease. Another plus: exercise is a natural antidote to anger, depression, anxiety and stress.O2 Adds Life
Fitness sets off a healthy chain reaction: you'll want to stay trim and healthy by eating right, not smoking, and maintaining ideal body weight - all changes that will add useful and productive years to your life.Fitness - the Inside Story
Fitness begins inside the muscle cell. Unfit muscle cells are unable to use oxygen to make energy, so they tire out quickly. Adequate exercise increases your muscle's capacity to take in and use O2 to power your movement. The story of cellular fitness can be told as a tale of two furnaces: the one that is starved for oxygen runs inefficiently; the one that uses oxygen runs smoothly, longer and at peak efficiency.
Anaerobic metabolism means "making energy without oxygen." The muscle cell that is forced to rely on anaerobic metabolism runs inefficiently and loses energy quickly. Just as a poorly ventilated furnace burns unevenly and needs a lot of kindling to keep going, the muscle cell must gobble up large quantities of glucose (sugar), producing little energy for the amount of fuel taken in. At the same time, it gives off acid, which impairs functioning, like soot in the poorly ventilated furnace. And because the anaerobic mechanism can't metabolise fat, losing weight can be difficult.
Aerobic metabolism is a way of making energy by using oxygen. Aerobic exercise - the kind that raises your heart rate - actually changes the biochemical structure inside the muscle cell so that it can use oxygen more efficiently. The aerobically conditioned muscles can use slower-burning "fat logs" instead of the glucose "kindling". That means less waste, so your muscles can power you through a day's activities with plenty of endurance and reserve. Burning fat makes it easier to lose weight, too!Setting Your Pace
How do you know that you're doing aerobic exercise? You breathe deeper and faster than normal. Your heart rate should also increase. But how far should you go? To find your safe and most efficient level of exercise, you need to know your target heart rate (THR). First, find your pulse and take your resting heart rate. Then, complete the calculation below. By using your THR, you can exercise safely.
Target Heart Rate
Your target heart rate is your safe, effective exercise pulse, given your age and current level of fitness. Your THR shows you're exercising at the right pace for you. This means not so hard that it hurts and you get discouraged, and not so easily that you don't see results.
Try finding your pulse either on the thumb side of your wrist, palm up or in the groove of your neck. Use your first two fingers (not your thumb). Press lightly and practice counting the number of beats per minute. During exercise, you can take your pulse for 10 seconds.Resting Heart Rate
Your resting heart rate (your pulse at your lowest level of activity) helps you calculate your target heart rate. For an accurate resting heart rate, take your pulse for a full minute when you first wake up, still lying down. Do this two mornings in a row. Then average the two numbers.Find Your Target Heart Rate
Now you are ready to find your target heart rate.
1. Subtract your age (say, 40) from 220 (220 - 40 = 180).
2. This (180) is your predicted maximum heart rate; the fastest your heart should beat at your age.
3. Subtract your resting heart rate (say, 72) (180 - 72 = 108).
4. Choose your target zone, based on how fit you are. Start with a lower THR and work your way up as your fitness level improves. Beginners use 50 to 60%. Intermediate exercisers use 70 to 75%. Competitive athletes use 85%
5. Multiply by your selected target zone (say, 60%) (108 x 0.60 = 65).
6. Add your resting heart rate (65 + 72 = 137).
7. This (137) is your target heart rate (THR), ideal for aerobic exercise.
A trick: Divide your THR by 6 so you can take your pulse for just 10 seconds while exercising (137/6 = 23). Your 10-second THR, ideal fro aerobic exercise is therefore 23.
During aerobic exercise, take your pulse once you start sweating lightly and breathing harder (about 3-5 minutes into your workout). If you're below your THR, you can push yourself a little harder. If you're above, slow down a bit and take it easy.
Listen to your body for signs of overexertion when you exercise. The THR formula is only a general guide. Stop exercising and see your doctor if you have pounding in your chest and a dizzy or faint feeling, or profuse sweating. You might be exercising too hard if you feel fatigued or have sore muscles long after exercise.A Medical Evaluation
If you are under 40 and have no health problems, you may start an exercise programme right away. If you have high blood pressure, smoke, are over 40 or are overweight, see your health care provider first. The following tests can rule out heart disease. These tests may also reveal muscular or skeletal problems and help find your starting fitness level.
Your medical history includes questions about smoking, stress and fitness. You will also be asked if anyone in your family has had heart disease. (Conditions that you thought were inherited could be changed in your lifetime - by you!) Be sure to bring up any problems you've had with your feet, ankles, knees, hips or back. After taking your history, your health care provider can help tailor your fitness programme to meet your needs.
A physical examination may be needed to check your weight and blood pressure. A laboratory test for cholesterol and triglycerides (fat) in the blood may also be ordered. You will also be checked for problems affecting your heart, blood vessels, muscles and bones. To do a more thorough study of the heart, your health care provider may order other tests such as an ECG and exercise stress test.
An ECG (electrocardiogram) provides information about your heart rate and rhythm. The ECG records electrical currents from the heart that reach the skin. A "resting" ECG can reveal many types of heart problems. However, because you are lying down, the ECG has its limits. That's why a "stress" test may be done to observe your heart function during exercise.
An exercise stress test combines a blood pressure test with an ECG while you exercise on a treadmill or bicycle. As you pick up speed, your heart works harder to keep up. Also, ECG changes may arise that didn't appear in a resting ECG. The results can help to determine your target heart rate as well as normal recovery rates. Most people exercise harder during the stress test than they ever will during actual exercise.A Fitness Evaluation
A fitness evaluation can help to determine your present fitness level. It can also help you set fitness goals. These tests may be found at health clubs, fitness centres and sports medicine clinics. Ask your health care provider about testing sites in your area.
Muscle strength tests can evaluate single muscles or muscle groups. These tests may use special equipment in a laboratory setting or be a general field test, such as push-ups and sit-ups. Your performance is compared to standard charts to rate the strength of each muscle group tested.
Flexibility tests involve simple stretches, such as touching the toes while sitting. The tests help reveal impaired flexibility of muscles and joints, which may cause problems later on. Tight hamstrings or lower back muscles can lead to knee or back injuries. Your fitness programme should include exercises to increase and maintain flexibility.
Back assessments may be made to check your back's strength and its ability to extend. Back flexibility may be measured while you lie on an examination table. Be aware of your back's limits. Use exercises to improve your back's fitness and to help protect against injury.
Leg strength tests use special equipment to measure the strength of the upper leg muscles. These muscles help provide stability to the knee joint. As the leg extends and flexes against a bar, the strength of the muscles while in motion can be analysed.
Body composition tests show how much body fat you have. Depending on your age and body type, the desired amount of body fat in men is 13% - 17%, and 20% - 27% in women. There are several ways to measure your body fat.
Hydrostatic. In a hydrostatic tank, you exhale as much breath as possible and then are weighed underwater. Fat floats, and bone and lean muscle do not. That means the more fat you have, the less you weigh underwater.
Skinfold (pinch) test. Skinfold measurements are taken with calipers (a tong-like instrument) at various sites on your body. This gives a close estimate of your body fat.
Electrical impedance. Electrical currents pick up the amount of water in your body, which corresponds to your amount of body fat.A Balanced Fitness Programme
Now you know it's safe for you to get moving with a fitness programme. Try following the cycle of these exercises at least three times a week. You should notice an improvement in how you look and feel within a few months. A balanced fitness programme focuses on all the different muscle groups. It also promotes endurance, flexibility and strength.
Warm ups (5 minutes) greatly reduce your risk of injury during exercise. Mild stretching or simple calisthenics warm up your muscles and joints. This prepares your body for more intense exercise. Whatever activity you'll be doing, start out at a lower intensity. If you're going for a jog, ease into it by walking. If you're going biking, begin by riding slowly.
Aerobic exercise (20-30 minutes), such as walking, jogging, cycling or swimming, stimulates and conditions the heart and lungs. You'll get results by doing aerobic exercise at least 20 minutes a day. Do enough to reach your target heart rate. Exercise often enough to maintain fitness (at least 3 times a week on alternate days). To get the full benefits of exercise, try to exercise 3 to 5 times a week. Of all the things you can do to become fit, aerobic exercise is the key.
Muscle strengthening (10-15 minutes) tones all your major muscle groups and provides strength and endurance. Fitness centres have special equipment to work each muscle group. You can also exercise at home, using weights or the resistance of your own body weight (with crunches or push ups). But don't focus on just one or two muscle groups. Devote equal time to all of the body's muscle groups for balanced tone.
Cool down exercises (5-10 minutes) are similar to warm-ups. First, ease your body to a lower level of activity following the aerobic workout. Then, promote flexibility in your muscles and joints with stretches. When your body is already warm from exercise, muscles are pliable, more responsive to stretching and less prone to injury. Stretching is also helpful in managing stress.
Total Exercise Time: 40-60 minutes
Set aside a convenient time to exercise. Exercise regularly, at least 3 times a week. Alternate days. You might slip off your schedule at times. But don't fall behind on the aerobic exercise if at all possible. If you do, try to get back on your schedule as soon as you can.Warm Ups
Your body, like your car, needs to warm up to run well. Warm-up exercises prepare you for an aerobic workout. Include calisthenics such as light stretches, jogging in place or skipping rope. Tailor your routine to your own needs. Here are some of the more common warm-up exercises.
Overhead stretch. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Bend your knees slightly. Pretend you're climbing up a rope, reaching straight up with your left arm, then your right. Repeat 5 times.
Walking or jogging in place. As a warm-up, lift the heels of your feet up and down. Walking or marching in place is a great warm-up, too. Swing your elbows, keeping them close to your body. If you are an active person, jog for a minute or two, or until you start breathing deeper and faster.
Calf stretch. Stand with your left foot close to the wall and right foot well back. Bend your left leg and lean toward the wall, keeping your right leg straight. Do this until you feel a stretch in the calf. Hold 5-8 seconds. Repeat 4-5 times, then switch legs. Then, to warm up the Achilles tendon, simply bend both knees. When you stretch, try to relax and breathe deeply.
Knee-to-chest pull. Stand against a wall, with your body balanced. Raise one knee toward your chest and grasp it behind the thigh with your hands. Hold the position for 3-5 seconds. Switch to the other knee. Repeat the stretch 4 more times on both sides.Aerobic Exercise
Muscles that are conditioned by aerobic exercise work more efficiently. That's why aerobic activity is the key to any exercise programme. Do aerobic exercise even if you do nothing else - but don't overdo it! Three times a week will keep you at a good fitness level. Exercise shouldn't hurt - slow down or stop if you have to. And fitness should be fun. Try to vary the type of activity you choose.
Walking/Jogging/Running. These are simple, basic aerobic exercises. All can be fun. And, because they don't require expensive equipment, they can be done almost anywhere by almost anybody. Change your route often to add variety.
Use your target heart rate (THR) to guide you through your aerobic exercises. Start with a moderate to fast-paced walk. As you become more fit, you may have to advance to jogging, then running, in order to reach your THR. Whichever you choose - walking, jogging or running - be sure to wear supportive, cushioned shoes designed for the activity.
Swimming. A great overall conditioner, swimming exercises arm, leg, back and stomach muscles. Water supports the body during exercise. That's why swimming is an ideal sport for people with injuries or "problem" joints and muscles.
Cross-Training. Remember that you can alternate activities to keep your interest high. Good aerobic activities include bicycling, rowing, cross-country skiing, inline skating or an hour of aerobic dance. Try to choose an activity that will keep you on the move.Keep Moving
Along with your regular aerobic workout, look for ways to use your body more all day long. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to the corner store instead of driving.Muscle Strengthening
Balanced strengthening exercises work all of the body's major muscle groups. This achieves a uniform degree of muscle strength and tone. Strengthening exercises also improve endurance and increase lean body mass while decreasing fat. Muscle groups grow stronger by resisting weight. Heavy loads with fewer repetitions build stronger, more defined muscles. Light loads with multiple repetitions build longer, leaner muscles. Exhale while pushing the weight away from you; inhale while lowering the weight toward you.
Knee Push-Ups (for shoulders and arms). Lie face down with legs together and knees on the floor. Use your arms to push your upper body off the floor until your arms are fully extended and your body is straight from head to knees. Build up to at least 15 repetitions. (If this is easy, try more repetitions. Or, try doing it from your feet with full-body push ups.) Do 2-3 sets of these during your exercise routine. Don't hold your breath during this or any other exercise.
Crunches/Curl-Ups (for back and stomach). Lie on your back with legs together, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Clasp your hands over your chest. Slowly roll your head and shoulders off the floor. Then slowly roll back to the floor. Build up to at least 10 repetitions, in 2-3 sets.
Wall Slide (for legs). Stand with your back against a wall and your heels in front of your knees. Slide into a half-sit. Hold for a count of 10, then slowly slide back up. At first, your legs may tire easily. Repeat 3 times and build up to 10 repetitions in 2 sets.Exercises to Avoid
Deep knee bends can damage the cartilage in your knees.
Toe touches can strain your back. Don't touch your toe while standing. Sit when doing toe-touch stretches to relieve your back of the added strain from your body weight.
Sit-ups with straight legs increase your risk of back injury. Keep your knees bent.Cool-Down Exercises
For maximum flexibility, the muscles need to be stretched and the joints worked through their full range of motion. Focus on the back and legs and any muscles that feel tight before or after exercise. Try the calf stretch you did as a warm-up; also try the stretches given below for thigh muscles. Caution: do not bounce or jerk; stretching should always be slow and controlled.
Calf stretch. Stand with your right foot close to a wall and your left foot well back. Bending your right leg and keeping your back leg straight, lean toward the wall until you feel a stretch in the calf. Hold 15-20 seconds. Repeat 4-5 times, then switch legs. To stretch the Achilles tendon, simply bend both legs.
Hamstring stretch. Sit down with your legs straight, your heels no more than 15 cm apart, and your toes pointing toward the ceiling. Keep your knees slightly bent. Bend from the hips to get an easy stretch. Hold for 20 seconds. Feel the stretch in the back of your upper legs.
Quadriceps stretch. While standing, place your right hand against a wall for support. To stretch the quadriceps, hold the top of your left foot with your left hand and gently pull your heel toward your buttocks. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Slowing down. This allows your heart to return to its resting rate after aerobic exercise at the target heart rate. If you stop short, you're apt to feel dizzy. Instead, walk slowly for a few minutes, until your breathing and heart rate return to normal. Your heart rate should be below 100 before you retreat to the shower.Behold a Fitter You
You can tell when you're becoming more fit. You feel better. You look trimmer. You have more energy and endurance. Your heart and lungs are able to meet the demands of exercise.
To measure fat loss, try the "pinch test" . Record your overall fitness. Use a chart.Give It the Pinch Test
Grab the spot (waist for men; waist, arms, thighs for women) between your thumb and forefinger. Measure the thickness with a ruler and record the result. Each time there's less of you, be proud of your achievement.
You've put an inactive lifestyle behind you. You're on the road to a fitter, fuller life. To keep on reaping the benefits of fitness, keep moving!What Fitness Can Do for You
Fitness can add quality years to your life by slowing the ageing process and promoting health, well-being, endurance and productivity. A balanced fitness programme that stresses aerobic exercise and overall muscle conditioning strengthens your heart and lungs, reduces stress and increases your resistance to disease. At home and on the job you'll look and feel better, too!