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Fitness can mean different things to different people. Some see it as a healthy state in which they are able to perform daily physical tasks without much strain. Others aspire to a type of fitness where they are able to outperform others by maintaining proper nutrition and engaging in regular exercise. Still others work towards six-pack abs and massive biceps and chest. 

[Read More: How To Make Six-Pack Abs At Home?]

While individuals can choose their level of fitness, there’s no denying its importance in every aspect of life. After all, a fit person can do all the things that an unfit person can but an unfit person can’t always do what a fit person can. This could include playing sports, hoisting things, or even simple tasks like standing for extended periods of time.

  1. What are the Benefits of Fitness?
  2. What are the Components of Fitness?
  3. What are the Types of Fitness?
  4. What is the Importance of Nutrition for Fitness?
  5. How to Plan Your Fitness Goals?

What are the Benefits of Fitness?

Physical exercise and good nutrition - if we pay attention to these two things, we can experience a range of positive changes in our lives. The benefits range from better overall and mental health to achieving our ideal weight, healthy heart, lower risk of diseases and slowed ageing process, etc.

Weight Management

Physical exercise and diet control can help you achieve your ideal weight. Simply put, the idea is to burn more calories than you consume. Intense physical activities increase your metabolism and help keep obesity at bay. So if your routine does not allow you to go to the gym or exercise daily, you can reap some of the benefits of exercise by modifying your daily chores in such a way that you need to walk more, lift more things, basically do more things that involve physical exertion.

Prevention of Diseases

Regular physical exercise helps improve heart health and reduces the pressure on your arteries, thus lowering the overall blood pressure. Exercises also improve cholesterol levels. High cholesterol and blood pressure are linked with type 2 diabetes and heart disease

Although physical fitness is not a treatment for cancer as cancer is a multifaceted disease, it nonetheless serves as a preventive tool in the hands of individuals. Even the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity each week along with dietary restrictions like avoiding sugar and reducing the intake of sodium, red meats, processed meats and alcohol for preventing cancer.

Improves Sleep

Body temperature increases during physical exercise. Experts say this enables body temperature to fall during sleep, which helps improve sleep quality. Exercises are also known to help people suffering from insomnia sleep better and longer. According to a study, 150 minutes of mild to moderate physical activity can improve sleep quality by 65%.

Mental Health

Regular physical exercise can help an individual deal with stress, depression, anxiety, and more. Studies have shown that it can help manage depression of a moderate or mild level with virtually no side-effects. Higher levels of depression can be brought down by up to 26% with just 10-15 minutes of running or an hour’s walk. Just 30 minutes of daily exercise, five days a week, can help you reap mental health benefits. Exercising releases endorphins in the brain which stimulate the mood and make you feel good.

Women’s Health

Menopause can be difficult for most women. Symptoms include night sweats, mood changes, weight gain and reduced metabolism. Exercising can help women maintain their weight, improve their mood, and reduce the risk of endometrial cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer, and strengthen their bones - both before and during menopause.

Better Immune System

Regular exercise throughout one’s life can help reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and inflammatory diseases. There is also evidence to show that people with an active lifestyle contract fewer viral infections and bacterial infections.

What are the Components of Fitness?

Being able to lift heavy weights, do 50 pushups, twist your body into difficult postures, or run for 30-40 minutes do not indicate the same kind of fitness. Boxers are usually quite fit yet they don’t have the kind of fitness that a footballer has. Similarly, the footballer doesn’t have the fitness of a boxer. Fitness can be divided into at least five components.

Cardiovascular Endurance (heart and lung endurance)

Cardiovascular endurance is your heart and lung’s ability to provide oxygenated blood to the muscles for movement. It is considered the most critical component of fitness. People with cardiovascular endurance have a strong heart.

  • Aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming, biking, running and dancing help improve cardiovascular endurance.
  • Continuous, preferably lifelong, involvement in physical activity helps improve endurance
  • A person with good cardiovascular endurance doesn’t tire easily

Muscular Strength

Sports such as powerlifting, weightlifting, football and wrestling require a lot of muscular strength. Muscular strength refers to the maximum amount of force or resistance that a muscle can produce.

  • Exercises such as pushups, bench presses, bicep curls, crunches, leg squats, etc. help strengthen the muscles
  • Muscular strength improves your body alignment and metabolism, and allows you to carry out daily chores with ease

Muscular Endurance

A person with good muscular endurance can do a strenuous chore for a longer period of time. Muscular endurance is related to cardiovascular endurance. In fact, a lot of cardiovascular endurance exercises can be turned into muscular endurance exercises by increasing the repetitions.

  • Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to contract repeatedly for a long period of time
  • Muscular endurance is associated with stronger muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons
  • Cycling, boxing and sit-ups are just a few examples of activities that test your muscular endurance

Flexibility

The flexibility component of fitness is pivotal in sports such as figure skating, gymnastics and diving. Flexibility is the ability to go through the full range of motion allowed by a joint, without being hindered by excess fat.

  • Women are more flexible than men due to their body composition(body fat to muscle ratio)
  • Joint mobility decreases with age, making older people less flexible
  • The more a joint is used, the more flexible it becomes; stretching is considered good for increasing flexibility

Body Composition

A combination of genes and environmental factors shape the body you are born with. Yet what you do with it has a long-term effect on your fitness and wellness. Body composition refers to the amount of fat and lean muscle mass in the body. Strength training exercises such as squats, bench press, deadlift, etc., are excellent for increasing the ratio of muscle to fat in the body.. 

  • Women have more body fat because of the energy demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding. According to one study, women have 6-11% more body fat than men
  • Athletes have to focus on their body composition to be at their fighting best for sporting events. Extra adipose tissue, or fat, holds them back in most sports like swimming, tennis and track and field events
  • Muscle and fat distribution in the body can be changed with specific training

What are the Types of Fitness?

Simply running or doing push-ups won’t cover fitness in its entirety. You need to incorporate aerobics, stretching, balance and strength exercises in your fitness routine.  

Aerobic Exercises

When you run, your pulse becomes faster. The heart pumps more oxygen-rich blood to your legs. This helps you burn calories, for sure. But it also increases stamina over time - a person who runs regularly has to run faster and farther to achieve the same heart rate as a less experienced runner. 

The term aerobic means “with oxygen”. If walking up a flight of stairs leaves you breathless, it is a sign that you need to do more aerobic exercises. Aerobic exercises, also known as cardio exercises, can help build your stamina. Examples of aerobic exercises include running, swimming, walking, cycling, dancing, etc. 

Doing aerobic exercises has multiple benefits:

  • Aerobic exercises are great for losing extra kilos
  • Over time, aerobic exercises increase your stamina
  • These exercises improve your immune system
  • They reduce stress and depression, and help reduce your risk of getting diabetes
  • Research shows that people who do regular aerobic exercise tend to live longer than those who do not
  • These exercises improve your mood and sleep

Strength Exercises

Muscles burn through calories at a faster rate than body fat, even when you are resting. As you age, you start to lose muscle mass. This, in turn, can lead to fat accumulation. Strength training can come to the rescue, and help rebuild some of that muscle mass.

Also known as resistance or weight training, strength training uses resistance to cause muscle contraction. Examples of strength training exercises include lifting weights, using resistance bands, weight machines, and doing body weight exercises such as pushups, pullups, squats and crunches. By doing strength exercises, you are better able to do daily chores such as carrying things like groceries from one place to another, gardening, walking up a flight of stairs, getting up off the floor, etc. 

Doing strength/resistance exercises has multiple benefits:

  • These exercises improve bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Strength training helps you shed weight without losing muscle mass as opposed to cardio-based workouts
  • These exercises also improve joint flexibility and are known for bringing down signs of arthritis 
  • Strength exercises are good for older people, as these exercises improve their balance and strength. It also builds up their confidence, and reduces the chances of falling and injuries

Stretching Exercises

Stretching is a critical component in a fitness routine. At the start of the workout, it helps you gently warm up the muscles. During the workout, it helps improve flexibility. People tend to neglect flexibility in their youth, when their muscles are in good condition. But flexibility decreases with age, causing problems such as cramps, strains, joint pains, and even falling in later years. It is good to aim for a stretching session at least three to four times per week as frequent stretching makes your muscles longer and more flexible.

Doing stretching exercises has many benefits:

  • They improve your performance in physical activities, including athletic performance
  • They reduce the risk of sustaining injuries, cramps and strains
  • After proper stretching exercises, you can enjoy the full range of motion allowed by a joint

Balance Exercises

You need balance to be able to walk, get up from a chair, or even stand for an extended period of time. Balance exercises focus on your legs, lower back, arms and core. These exercises are often difficult to do but can be performed with repeated practice. Practising yoga poses is a great way to gain balance. Asanas such as Natarajasana (lord of the dance pose), Vrikshasana (tree pose), and Garudasana (eagle pose) are a few examples of exercises that can help you improve your balance. 

Doing balance exercises has many benefits:

  • These exercises improve your body awareness, which is the sense of self movement and body position
  • These exercises improve stability in the ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders
  • Balance exercises improve your reaction time. So you are less likely to stumble, trip, and fall

What is the Importance of Nutrition for Fitness?

Physical exercise and activity alone cannot give you overall fitness. Nutrition plays a role in accentuating the positive effects of physical exercise. 

An active people’s diet should have 60% carbohydrates, 30% fats and 10% proteins. Meaning, it should incorporate vegetables, fruits, grains, lean meat and low-fat dairy products. Carbohydrates and fats break down to give energy. Proteins help to develop and repair the muscles. And these are just the macronutrients. The body also needs vitamins and minerals to function properly.

How to Plan Your Fitness Goals?

Before you embark on your personal odyssey of fitness, it is important to assess your fitness level and fitness goals. Different fitness goals call for specific sets of exercises and diet to achieve the desired result. Following are some of the common fitness goals:

  • Losing weight (weight loss)
  • Rehabilitation from injury
  • Maintaining blood sugar levels (diabetes) or blood pressure
  • Better mental health
  • Increasing stamina 
  • Healthy ageing
  • Gaining strength and stability
  • Gaining agility 

Here’s what you need to keep in mind before beginning:

  • Ask a medical professional to assess your fitness level and readiness to take on physical exercise
  • Choose an activity or a training programme that keeps you engaged and excited. Make sure to switch between activities to avoid getting bored
  • If you are new to exercise or moderate physical activity, go easy on yourself. Start with 5-10 minutes of walking every day for five days a week
  • Increase the intensity of your workout slowly to let your body get used to the increased heart rate
  • Do stretching exercises along with some aerobic exercises as you build your stamina and endurance
  • Listen to your body; challenge it a little bit but not so much that it leads to injuries and unnecessary pain
  • Remember to do weight-training exercises along with cardio, to lose fat and build lean muscle mass
  • Plan your nutrition according to the fitness routine
  • Each week, give your body a day or two to rest and recuperate
  • Monitor your progress after six to eight weeks, to motivate yourself and achieve your fitness goals
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