What is Fitness and how does it affect our health.

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We’re always told exercise leads to better health, but many of us don’t know exactly how or why. Most of us just hit the gym as hard as we can and hope for the best. The article “What Does Being Physically Fit Mean?”  breaks down the different components of fitness (cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition, and flexibility). By understanding fitness, we can exercise more efficiently and optimize our health in the process.

 

Exercise improves cardio respiratory fitness by making the heart work harder to pump blood to the body and improving oxygen intake. The heart is made up of cardiac muscle so by exercising that muscle the heart becomes stronger. Exercise also improves the rate at which oxygen is taken up by the body. The lungs do not necessarily get bigger but the oxygen it takes in gets used more effectively.

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Along with cardio respiratory fitness there is also muscular strength and muscular endurance. The U.S. department of Health and Human Services defines muscular strength as “the ability of muscle to exert force during an activity”.  Strength training causes muscle cells to expand causing hypertrophy or causing the muscle cells to increase. Muscular endurance on the other hand is the ability of the muscle to continue exerting force without tiring. By training for muscular endurance you condition the body to pump more blood to the muscles allowing them to fatigue at a lesser rate. Muscular strength training involves lifting at lower repetitions while muscular endurance training involves lifting at higher repetitions.

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There are also the body composition and flexibility components of fitness. An individual can maintain the same weight but have a different body composition, or the measure of relative amounts of muscle, bone, water and fat. Especially since muscle weighs more than fat, two people that have the same weight can look completely different. Flexibility also comes into play when being fit. Flexibility improves the ability of the body to link movements together and prevent injuries. A person can have all the muscles in the world and the best body composition, but if they have poor flexibility the body won’t be able to utilize their muscles, making that person less fit.

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There is more than just looking good to being fit. All components of fitness are interrelated as each component affects each other. If all components of fitness are exercised and accounted for you will enjoy a long and high quality of life.