Everything You Need to Know About Fitness – And Why It’s About Way More Than Hitting the Gym


Fitness is a concept that’s hard to find a unified definition for. Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as “the quality or state of being fit.” The definition of “fit” is: “sound physically and mentally.” If these words sound vague to some extent, welcome to the club.

Exercise experts think that’s kind of the point. Fitness doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an ultra-long-distance swimmer or that you can do one pull-up or a thousand. Fitness can represent different things for different people.

Grayson Wickam, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and founder of Movement Vault, says that fitness, for him, is first and foremost about feeling good and being able to move without pain. It’s about feeling healthy and being in good shape to do the activities you want to do and live the lifestyle you want to live. Can you play with your children or grandchildren? If hiking the Inca Trail is one of your goals, are you able to do it? How are you feeling after a day spent gardening? Can you climb all the stairs in your life without taking a break?

“Since medical school, I’ve learned that physical fitness is simply defined as your body’s ability to perform tasks. Nowadays, there are more tools available than ever for fitness enthusiasts to track, measure, and follow,” Michael Jonesco DO confirms.

For instance, you can use body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, VO2 max, resting heart rate, 100-meter-dash times, 5k or marathon personal records (PRs), and bench-press maxes, he notes. All of these are objective measures exercise experts can resort to so that they gauge progress (or measure themselves against the next person).

That said, physical fitness is much more complex than the sole measurement of any one of these or other tests, Dr Jonesco continues. For example, you wouldn’t use one factor, like blood pressure, to measure someone’s overall health. Doctors use blood pressure test to check whether or not someone has a cardiovascular disease, but it wouldn’t be useful to monitor for cancer or dementia.

People should consider physical fitness a balance of many of the previously mentioned measures as well as many more intangible ones, Jonesco notes. These include your outlook on both your body and your attitude toward your overall health.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, body composition (the amount of fat and fat-free tissue in the body), cardiorespiratory or aerobic fitness, flexibility, muscular strength, and muscular endurance are the five basic components of physical fitness that specialists have traditionally identified. However, you can’t overlook the importance of nutrition, sleep, and mental and emotional wellness, says Jeffrey E. Oken, MD, and deputy chief of staff at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois.

In short, looking fit and actually being fit aren’t the same thing.

Some people obsess over their physical appearance and numbers, but they’re driven by low self-esteem and criticise how they look. Some forego sleep and rest to achieve more goals. However, Dr. Jonesco says that this leads to burnout and serious health problems. Fitness is a spectrum of physical well-being in which we should aim for a physical and emotional balance.

Continue reading to find out why staying healthy is so crucial for your health and well-being today and in the future.

Being fit boosts energy, mood, sleep, and your immune system

Since fitness is the state of being physically able to lead a happy, fulfilled life, the first and most obvious benefit of obtaining fitness is an improved quality of life.

Research correlates fitness with:

  • Increased energy levels
  • An improved work-life balance, as stated by a study in the November/December issue of the journal Human Resource Management
  • Better sleep
  • Stronger immunity

Some research suggests that physical activity may help mild-to-moderate depression just as much as medication.

Physical fitness also pertains to better focus and productivity. A study in the journal Psychophysiology (May 2015) claims this is because exercise boosts the blood and oxygen flow to the brain.

The mental and emotional health advantages of physical fitness are some of the most significant ones – and often have the greatest impact on your quality of life, Jonesco notes. Pushing your body and observing how it responds produces not only a stronger, faster, and leaner body, but also a more serene, satisfied, and confident mind.

When you’re physically fit, you see, with your own eyes, what you can achieve when you set your mind to it, and therefore gain the confidence to achieve personal, professional, and relationship goals in ways you wouldn’t otherwise.

 Furthermore, the significant role fitness plays in achieving healthier weights cannot be ignored. Increasing your fitness level through daily exercise not only burns calories, but it also produces metabolically active muscle. And, according to Wickam, the stronger, healthier muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest every day. A fitter body equates to higher metabolism, which equates to a healthier weight.

Exercise and sleep are bound for life. Here’s how they both play a role in overall fitness

Consider this: Even a marathon runner who puts in multiple strength-training workouts each week might jeopardise his health by having a diet that’s high in saturated fats and low in nutrients.  Similarly, even someone who has excellent workout and food habits can jeopardise their fitness by failing to get a sufficient amount of sleep each night.

In order for your body to function properly, sleep is essential, says W. Christopher Winter, MD, president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Virginia and the author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It. When it comes to sleep, slacking can be detrimental to your fitness objectives.

Staying active helps you sleep better, and getting the 7-9 hours of sleep each night, as advised by the National Sleep Foundation, will give you the energy you need to stick to your workout plans and stay active throughout the day.

Staying fit benefits long-term health in massive ways

While the immediate joy of exercise is fantastic, keep in mind that many of the key benefits of fitness may not be apparent for years, if not decades. So, patience is essential.

Physical fitness, for instance, is consistently linked to increased longevity according to several studies. One study published in Lancet Oncology (October 2018) shows that as your body gets fitter, its lengthens the protective caps on your chromosomes called telomeres. Telomeres are responsible for defining the rate at which your cells age. That means that keeping them in good form (being fit) can help you live longer.

Furthermore, increased fitness significantly lowers the chance of chronic diseases that develop over time, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer. Fitness may also help prevent dementia, according to a growing body of research. Fitness is the one thing that can help prevent practically every disease, Wickham explains.

In addition to all of these advantages, fitness can help you live a longer and healthier life. According to research published in the journal Age and Ageing (November 18), one out of every three individuals aged 60 and older suffers from severe muscle loss, known as sarcopenia. Additional research reports that the condition relates to fat accumulation, decreased mobility and function, falls, and even death in older people – but that exercise can assist to counteract these ageing effects.

It all boils down to biology, says the Wickam. When you give your body what it requires, it returns the favor by performing at its peak.

Why being fit helps with chronic disease management

Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body reduce the chances of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. But what about the persistent issues that do arise? In general, physical activity and maintaining fitness are generally beneficial.

According to the Mayo Clinic, depending on your symptoms, you may need to change your exercise routines or take special precautions. (Before beginning a new fitness regimen, consult your doctor and discuss any limitations or modifications you should take into consideration).

Generally speaking, regular exercise can help most people with serious illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, asthma, back pain, arthritis, and cancer. Maintaining your fitness also helps avoid any additional health conditions that you may otherwise develop.

How much physical activity you should be doing?

So, how can you include fitness into your daily routine and achieve your own fitness goals? Jonesco advises that you begin by following the federal guidelines designed for physical activity.

Adults should strive for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical exercise per week, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). More than those amounts of activity will provide extra health benefits. Adults should practice muscle-strengthening exercises (of moderate or higher intensity) for all major muscle groups at least two times per week.

Aerobic exercise has been shown to be beneficial to cardiovascular health in studies. (The intensity you choose should be determined by your present fitness level and the advice of your doctor.) Walking, running, cycling, and swimming are all good examples to that end.

Other research demonstrates that strength training also has other major health benefits. Resistance exercise, compared to cardiovascular exercise, is more effective at preventing the accumulation of abdominal (visceral) fat, which is linked to the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, according to a study published in the journal Obesity (February 2015). Individuals who regularly strength trained had a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, or death related to heart disease than those who did not strength train, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise — and these benefits were independent of whether or not they regularly did aerobic exercise.

One or more of the body’s basic muscle groups, such as the legs, core, back, hips, chest, or arms, should be targeted throughout these strength workouts. Lifting weights, using resistance bands, or doing body-weight workouts are all viable options to complement and increase your present fitness level.

There’s no shame in gradually implementing these guidelines over the course of a month or so, Jonesco says. Also, keep in mind that the guidelines are only meant to guide you, which means they allow for a great deal of flexibility. This is done on purpose because the most crucial part of any workout is to keep going. If you want to stay motivated to do something on a regular basis, you have to enjoy it, he explains. It’s fine if you don’t enjoy running. Take a swim or an indoor cycling lesson.

Importantly, the HHS physical activity guidelines emphasise that any movement is preferable than none, and that any amount of activity, no matter how brief, can count toward your weekly goals. The bottom line is that adults should move around more and sit less throughout the day.

That may sound daunting, but it isn’t if you broaden your definition of exercise beyond time spent at the gym, according to Wickham. Instead, consider all of your movements to be exercise. Even people who exercise regularly aren’t constantly moving throughout the day, he claims.

In fact, a study conducted by Northwestern University researchers shows that women who meet current exercise requirements sit equally as much as those who don’t.

Wickham recommends incorporating movement and activity into your day-to-day life rather than focusing on acquiring all of your day’s (or week’s) activity in one sitting. Break up extended periods of sitting with any activity that allows your body to move through its complete range of motion, feels good, and allows you to return to whatever you were doing with fresh vigour.

Also, don’t forget to stretch. Stretching throughout the day is a great way to ease tight muscles, relieve tension, and promote the flexibility you need to perform both in the gym and in life, Wickham adds. While experts are currently debating the benefit of stretching after a workout, they don’t recommend doing pre-workout stretches anymore.

Fitness is all about providing your body with the nutrients it requires in order to thrive. Just remember to pay attention to what your body is telling you and be consistent.

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I’m Imad, the content creator and online marketing strategist behind The Guemmah Freelance Hub. My mission is to help more freelancers grow themselves, their business, and their profits.

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