The term “physical fitness” refers to the condition of a person’s body and mind that allow him or her to participate effectively in his or her chosen profession, in sports, daily activities, and other types of physical activities. Ideally, it is achieved through a combination of healthy eating, adequate sleep, regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle. Physical fitness includes the ability to move freely and without pain. The term “healthy” refers to one’s capacity to work productively without developing sickness or weakening any part of the body. Physical fitness should be considered as a lifestyle choice and not a short-term goal for athletes, weekend warriors, or parents looking to reduce risks during pregnancy or childbirth.
Health experts suggest that everyone should consider engaging in some form of exercise to maintain their overall health and fitness. A complete fitness program should include exercises that use various muscle groups and improve strength, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, bone strength and body composition. Some experts believe that it is important to engage in exercise regularly to increase mental fitness as well. For example, those who have been involved in intense physical activity for long periods have been shown to possess higher levels of mental alertness than those who haven’t. Some of the most common benefits of fitness programs include improved immune function, lower blood pressure, decreased body fat, reduced levels of stress hormones and better moods.
To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, individuals should commit to an exercise program. Many physicians recommend aerobic activity, such as walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling or using other steady-force aerobics, as a way to improve one’s general health. Cardiovascular activities are especially beneficial after heart surgery, bypass surgery, or other heart-related conditions or injuries. Exercise programs should also be incorporated into weight loss plans.
To keep pace with modern living, it is helpful to practice agility, balance and steadiness. Activities that improve balance and agility, such as tumbling, jumping and juggling, require both flexibility and strength. Balance training is particularly helpful for individuals who have had knee or lower back surgery, are over 65 years of age, or have osteoporosis. These exercises improve stability and mobility, providing increased freedom and reduced fatigue during activity.
Muscular fitness is another component of a healthy lifestyle. The term refers to the quality of the muscles and ligaments that support the skeleton. Bodybuilders and other athletes recognize muscular fitness as being the primary reason for reaching and maintaining peak performance. While flexibility helps to prevent injury and improve performance, muscle mass contributes to an individual’s physical stature and builds strong bones and muscles. For this reason, it is important to include muscle building in a fitness plan, beginning in the childhood years.
Finally, to get the most benefit from fitness and to decrease illness and age-related diseases, it is important to monitor your pulse and respiration. Pulse rates and respiration are sensitive indicators of physiological health. If you feel faint, experience shortness of breath, or have a hard time catching your breath, you should make an appointment with your doctor. You should also take note of when you feel lightheaded or out of breath most frequently. If you are having trouble catching your breath, or you notice that you have stopped sweating, you should visit your physician.