What is physical fitness? What do we mean when we describe someone as being physically fit? You may be surprised to learn that these questions don’t have particularly straightforward answers.
Modern definitions incorporate the idea of fitness being essential for performing and enjoying daily activities, as a measure of the body’s ability to function efficiently, to resist hypo-kinetic diseases (diseases of a sedentary lifestyle), and to meet emergency situations.
In other words, being fit is more than just being able to lift heavy weights at the gym, keeping up a 7-minute mile pace or being able to touch your toes. These are only single components of the multi-dimensional concept of fitness.
So let’s dig a bit deeper, shall we? We can break down this concept into five separate elements.
1/ Cardio-respiratory endurance
• Also known as aerobic fitness
• How efficient the heart and lungs are at delivering oxygen to the muscles during exercise and how well our cells create ATP (adenine tri-phosphate) as fuel for muscular contraction.
• Exercises: activities that produce a sustained moderate elevation of heart rate e.g. running, swimming, cycling or crosstraining.
2/ Muscular Strength
• The capability of muscles to exert strength and lift weight.
• Exercises: weight training exercises e.g. bench press, deadlifts, squats.
3/ Muscular Endurance
• The ability of a muscle or group of muscles to perform repeated actions against resistance without fatiguing.
• Exercises: cardio-respiratory activities with strength components e.g. running, cycling or cross-training, or high repetition weight training.
• The range of movement across a joint. Increased flexibility can help to prevent injuries.
• Exercises: activities that promote stretching e.g. yoga, pilates, martial arts, gymnastics, swimming.
5/ Body Composition
• This relates to the relative amounts of fat, lean muscle, and bone in the body. This ratio can change while weight may remain the same. Body composition directly relates to overall fitness level.
The benefits of regular physical activity are numerous and include:
• Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
• A lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and several cancers
• Building stronger bones and reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis
• Maintaining optimal weight
• Improved mental health
• Improved sleep.
Whether you’re a beginner to exercise or an established fitness fanatic, try to include as many of the five components i’ve already described in your exercise regime. Optimising each of these is essential to improving your overall fitness and health.
Keeping fit and staying active is not just a lifestyle option but also one of the best investments in yourself that you will ever make. I would encourage you all to make the right choice.
In my next article, I shall tackle the topic of obesity, a growing problem here in Brunei.
Dr John Friis is a Consultant Anaesthetist at RIPAS Hospital. Having trained in Nottingham, London and Cambridge and having worked as a Consultant in London, he also served as a doctor at the 2012 Olympics, the 2014 Commonwealth Games and for Queens Park Rangers football club between 2007 – 2014. He has interests in critical care medicine, pre-hospital care and medical ethics. Follow him on Twitter @johnfriis