The importance of including physical fitness into your life spans every aspect from weight control to disease prevention to improvements in your physical appearance. It is not just a matter of doing so many pushups or situps. It means following an exercise plan which will enhance your body's ability to respond to stress.
What Is Physical Fitness?
Physical fitness means being in a state of good health. Its simple definition belies the comprehensive nature of fitness. Not only does it involve exercising regularly, it also includes following a good diet, getting enough rest, and being in a good mental state. All of these aspects are interconnected.
Physical fitness can also describe your athletic performance, such as your best time on a 5k run or how many laps you swim in a given period of time. Exercise, of course, is at the crux of your ability to perform well and efficiently.
One of the primary benefits of physical fitness is the ability to maintain a normal weight. Being overweight is one of the serious risk factors of metabolic syndrome. Others include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and excessive abdominal fat. Exercise addresses all of these conditions.
Cardio workouts provide the best way to burn calories for weight maintenance. The more intense your activity, the more calories you will burn. Your calorie burn will also result in fat loss. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (99(4): 1613-1618) found that exercise time is more important for weight maintenance than intensity. You will still burn calories and fat. Your goal is to devote at least 30 minutes a day to exercise, preferably more for weight loss.
The value of physical fitness cannot be overestimated when it comes to reducing your risk of chronic disease. A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice (64(13): 1731-1734) identified 25 health conditions in which exercise reduces your primary and secondary risk.
There are the obvious benefits of lowering your risk for heart disease. However, making good physical fitness your goal will also reduce your risk of dementia, certain types of cancer and type 2 diabetes. Exercise increases the amount of HDL or good cholesterol in your blood which in turn, reduces your risk of atherosclerosis and stroke.
Good physical fitness targets another health risk. Abdominal fat increases your risk of heart disease and breast cancer. Fortunately, exercise can help you shed fat around your midsection. Inactivity increases accumulation of belly fat. A 2003 Journal of Applied Physiology study also found that inactive women accumulate twice as much abdominal fat as sedentary men.
Quality of Life
If the thought of exercising when you don't feel like it depresses you, consider another value of physical fitness and how it impacts your quality of life. When you engage in weight-bearing exercises, such as running, you reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.
These exercises build muscle mass and increase bone density. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one-third of seniors suffer a fall each year, with over 300,000 resulting in hip fractures in 2004. A hip fracture will severely affect your quality of life. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, about 20 percent will die within one year of the injury.
By improving your physical fitness early on, you can build strength which will help you with everyday tasks. Adding stretching exercises to your routine will improve your flexibility and range of motion. Not only will this improve your performance at the gym, but it will also help prevent falls. You can also prevent back injuries. Every aspect of your life can be improved.
The Overall Value of Physical Fitness
Good physical fitness comes from hard work and an appreciation for its ability to improve your quality of life. Your fit body will enhance your self-esteem. In addition, your regular exercise will help you control stress which, when left unchecked, can compromise your well-being. The benefits go far past the physical aspects. Good physical fitness is the most important gift you can give yourself and your loved ones.