People have different ideas of what it means to be physically fit. For some people it’s looking slim, to others it’s the ability to run without stopping for 5 or 10k. For some it’s the size or strength of their muscles, yet for others it’s just a feeling of wellbeing.
However there are actually 5 factors of physical fitness that we all need to possess if we really want our bodies to be in the best physical shape they can be!
The first is muscular strength. We all need strength to not only lift and carry objects such as the supermarket shopping or moving furniture, but also down to the basic level of supporting our own bone structure. Indeed the body’s core (including our abdominal, pelvic floor and lower back muscles) needs to be strong to support our intricate spinal structure in particular. The increasing sedentary lifestyle that many people now experience with long hours working at desks can weaken the core and elevate the risk of poor posture and increasing levels of lower back pain. By adding weights and core exercises to our training we can increase our body’s overall strength.
- Muscular endurance
Muscular endurance is the ability to continue using our muscles over an extended period of time. It’s the difference in being able to lift a heavy object for 1 minute versus being able to carry that weight further, or the difference in running at 9kmph for 5 minutes versus maintaining that speed for 10 or more minutes. And who wouldn’t want to be faster?
- Cardiovascular fitness
Cardiovascular fitness (CV) is basically how strong, effective and efficient your heart and lungs are at transporting blood and oxygen around your body and to those all important muscles! There tend to be two types of attitudes to CV training. Many people are put off because they think it means hours spent on the treadmill or bike and they find this boring, whilst others think that running, swimming or cycling for endless miles is the only way to be truly classed as ‘fit’. However there are many efficient ways of increasing your CV fitness without spending hours exercising, such as interval and high intensity training which can be challenging and really good fun!
Some people are blessed with great flexibility, for others it’s a bit of a challenge. But all people can benefit from being flexible at every stage of life. As toddlers we have the great ability to be able to squat low to the ground whilst keeping our feet flat on the floor. We can stretch our legs behind our head and get into so many different positions, its fascinating to watch. As we grow older we spend less time moving unless we consciously undertake regular exercise or sport and our flexibility diminishes. But laying down good foundations now will benefit us in our older years, helping us to continue to be independent in our own homes, getting out of bed, climbing stairs and being able to manage the garden.
- Body composition
The last factor of physical fitness is the ratio of fat to lean muscle that we carry. You could say that this probably the most important factor as high levels of fat have been linked to so many different diseases and health risks such as diabetes and heart disease, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer.
Our bodies are an amazing feat of engineering, and we only have one to see us through to the end of our life.
So shouldn’t we invest the time to keep it in tip top condition?