Fitness Basics for Everyone

Everyone knows if we want to be our healthiest and perform our best we shouldn’t smoke, or eat too much ice cream or pizza, and we should eat fruits and vegetables, plus exercise.  Things quickly get confusing and overwhelming, though.  How much ice cream and pizza is too much?  How many fruits and vegetables do I need to eat?  What kind of exercise should I do and how much?  We’ll cover some of these questions in other articles, but today let’s talk about exercise.

Physical activity is any movement that is the result of the work of our muscles.  Not all physical activity is exercise, but all exercise is physical activity.  Exercise is planned and structured activity with the purpose of improving or maintaining physical fitness.  Physical fitness is the ability to perform sports, activities of daily living, and our jobs.  So, one of the primary reasons we should exercise is to ensure we have the ability to do the things we need and want to do.

Because physical fitness is the sum of strength, cardiovascular capacity, agility, speed, balance, coordination, flexibility, power, and muscular endurance, it’s necessary to incorporate all of these into your programming to some extent.

How much of each you need depends on your situation and fitness goals.  If your goal is to run a marathon, then running primarily with the intent of increasing cardiovascular activity should feature in your program with the other components playing supporting roles.  If you’re a senior who is concerned about falling, your program is more likely to emphasize balance, power, and coordination.  If your goal is to be the most well-rounded and healthiest you can be for as many years into the future as possible, then a solid mix of all the fitness components over time is going to be best.

Regardless of the best mix for you, a basic starting point is to strive for 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise such as running or jogging, and 2 strength training sessions per week that work every major muscle group.  Increasing these numbers can yield better results for everyone and is necessary for those striving for sports performance.

One last thing to keep in mind:  The benefits of exercise aren’t an all-or-nothing proposition.  Some is always better than none, so don’t despair if you can’t do everything recommended here.  Instead, do what you can this week, and try to do just a little bit more next.

– Don Larkin