One of the most famous dialogues, a general house-hold phrase uttered by our parents or our grandparents at some point in our lives - "We were much stronger when we were of your age".
More often than not, they are correct. According to a study, children today are less physically fit as compared to thirty years ago. The cause mostly being – people were more active back then. More physical strength is a direct result of more physical activity.
Their lofty anecdotes of crossing rivers and climbing mountains every day to get to schools and colleges, to get through with the mundane activities, contain a grain of truth after all. It is their physically strenuous lifestyle as a kid that made them stronger adults.
This article will provide insights into the following topics:
- What are the benefits of physical fitness?
- What is the importance of physical fitness and wellness?
- Why is physical activity so important for health and wellbeing?
Let's look into this concept of physical fitness:
What is Physical Fitness?
In general, physical fitness is a state of your well-being, encompassing a person's entire physical health. A physically fit person is characterized to be able to perform daily physical activities smoothly.
However, with changing times and changing lifestyles, the definition of physical fitness has also adapted to the change. Before the Industrial Revolution, when there were no machines and most of the physical work was done manually, physically fit person was one who could do all that work without getting fatigued easily. Today, things have changed. Most of our routine doesn't involve mandatory physical labour, thanks to machines. So, today physical fitness is more about being effective in day-to-day and recreational activities.
Traits of a Physically Fit Person
There are certain components which constitutes the entire physical fitness-
This is what we generally think when we are talking about strength—ability to lift and carry heavyweights.
For all of our daily functions, the muscles contract. Even the physiological functions taking place inside our body need muscle contraction. Muscle endurance is the muscle's ability to contract for an extended period.
It is our body's capability to keep up with any kind of strenuous activity like exercising. It includes how much our heart and lungs are ready to support by supplying oxygen to different tissues.
It is an important factor for the functioning of your limbs. Your body should be able to go through a range of movements to avoid still joints and limited movement.
Body Fat Composition
The amount of fat in your body is also considered a parameter when gauging your fitness. For men, the body fat composition should be lower than 17% while for women, the limit is 24%.
Importance of Physical Fitness
- To keep diseases away
Hypokinetic diseases or diseases of affluence are those diseases which are caused due to personal lifestyles and societal conditions. Earlier, they were also called the disease of rich people due to its link with economic development. These generally include non-communicable diseases like – diabetes, asthma, coronary heart disease, obesity, hypertension, alcoholism, allergies and even cancer. All these diseases are mostly caused due to less physical exercise and the absence of a healthy diet. To keep such disease at bay, you need to be physically fit. Staying healthy also controls our blood pressure. Physical fitness also keeps away the inflammation that could lead to allergic reactions.
- To build a healthier Immune system
It has been seen that frequent exercising and like activities can increase the level of certain hormones, blood flow, hydration status and cells responsible for fighting infections. Thus, a physically fit body creates a strong defence system that won't let infections easily enter our body.
- For better mental health
Hypokinetic diseases also include mental disorders like depression. Working out or being involved in other physical activities leads to more blood flow to the brain, which leads to an increase in levels of hormones like endorphins and dopamine that promote positive feelings. Physical exercise also leads to stress hormone- cortisol level to go down. It can also have a positive impact on Schizophrenic patients, leading to a decrease in the effects of the disease.
- To combat ageing
As we grow old, our body undergoes a lot of changes, most of them can be difficult to deal with. Physical fitness can help alleviate some of the unescapable conditions related to ageing.
- Menopause, which occurs around 49-52 years of age in women, brings with it a lot of other symptoms like weight gain, back pain, joint soreness and cardiovascular diseases. Physically more active women (who were more physically active before or during menopause) are likely to have less severity of the above symptoms. Even the emotional and mental health, that is impacted after menopause, is improved with more exercising.
- General conditions like muscle deterioration, coronary heart diseases, high blood pressure, weakening bone health that comes with ageing in both men and women, can be controlled with a proper regimen of physical activities.
- Risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, stroke is also reduced.
- It leads to a higher level of functional health, for example- it lowers the risk of falling.
- It improves cognitive functions.
- Overall, a good dose of daily physical exercises throughout our lives can slow the ageing process and improve the quality of life. A study that took place at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana found a similar correlation between exercising and ageing. They found that older men who have been physically active throughout their lives, their muscle's cellular structure was similar to that of a 25-year-old.
- To sleep better
Regular exercise can help you sleep better. It can help you fall asleep quickly and deeply. Research shows that physical fitness can prevent insomnia and other sleep-related issues.
- To boost energy & mood
A physically fit person is more likely to be in a better mood as exercising and other activities like dance, Zumba, sports, yoga can help you socialize and can immediately lighten your mood. It also immediately pumps your blood with oxygen and increases your energy levels.
- To improve sexual health
Not only physical fitness makes you feel more energetic, but it can also reduce the chances of other sex-related issues.
- Jorge Chavarro, MD, of the Harvard School of Public Health says that exercising, even the mildest ones like brisk walking for 30 minutes, can lower the risk of erectile dysfunction.
- It can also reduce the risk of a common condition, BPH- benign prostatic hyperplasia or enlarged prostate, which causes low libido.
- British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that men who are involved in moderate to intense workout at least 15 hours a week had higher sperm counts compare to those who didn't participate in any physical activity.
- In general, active men can perform much better due to better muscular fitness and feel more confident, energetic and would find sex more enjoyable.
How to Be More Physically Fit
To gain wholesome physical fitness, you need to inculcate the aerobic as well as anaerobic exercises into your daily routine along with a balanced diet.
- Aerobic exercises- These are the exercises which improve the body's oxygen consumption by improving cardiorespiratory fitness. These include walking, running, jogging, swimming, cycling and treadmill training and other elliptical exercises which involves using machines for walking and running.
- Anaerobic exercises- These are fast, high-intensity exercises that help to enhance strength, endurance, speed and power which can increase metabolic rate. These include weight lifting, isometric exercises like the plank and sprinting.
- Intake of a healthy diet is significant to be healthy. A diet should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat like skinless chicken and turkey, fish, beans, eggs, low saturated fat, low salt and added sugar. Monitor the daily calorie intake.
- Be positive and motivated as mental health is directly related to physical fitness.
Physical fitness is pivotal to live a healthy and happy life. Our current sedentary life is a setback which we need to conquer using daily exercising and proper diet. Try to include different kind of exercises into your routine according to your body requirement and interest. Take help from fitness apps and professional trainers and nutritionists. And remember, physical fitness is not a goal but a continuous journey which we need to work on every day.
Co-author: Shreya Arya
A digital marketing enthusiast with experience in HR and hospital management, Shreya has wide interests ranging from philosophy, psychology to latest trends in automation. She is also a freelance content writer and loves lending beautiful words to ideas and feelings.