Physical fitness is your ability to perform physical activity. There are two aspects to your physical fitness: 1) your general fitness, which is your physical condition of health, 2) your performance- related fitness, which is your ability to perform skills related to a specific sport or type of physical activity.
Exercise, or any physically engaging activity which challenges your physical fitness, is key to developing, improving, and maintaining your physical health.
Benefits of Exercise
Exercise isn’t a magical cure for all of life’s ills, but it’s probably one of the closest things we’ve got. Some of the many, scientifically proven ways exercise can benefit you include:
- Managing your weight
- Improving your mood
- Reducing your risk of chronic diseases
- More energy
- Better sleep
- Better sex
And many, many more!
How do I know how fit I am?
your physical fitness is highly individual and multifaceted. You can be
physically fit at swimming, but not soccer, for instance. Figuring out your
overall physical fitness level involves assessing various aspects of your body
and physical ability. Each separate indicator is useful, but only helps you
gauge one particular aspect of your physical fitness.
Good indicators of your physical fitness include:
1) Body Composition
a) Body Mass Index (BMI)- calculation based on your weight and height that can help you identify where you fall in the range of healthy weight classifications.
b) Waist Circumference – a measurement of your waist-to-hip ratio that can also serve as an indicator of your health risks and where you fall in the range of healthy weight classifications. Abdominal fat is an indicator of serious health risks, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and heart disease.
2) Flexibility - your ability to move your joints through their full range of motions. Flexibility is indicates the conditions of the joints, muscles, and connective tissues in control of these motions. Inflexibility may affect your body’s ability to perform daily tasks, function effectively, protect against injury, and move fluidly and normally.
Test: One of the most common fitness tests used to measure flexibility is the Sit-and-Reach test.
3) Muscular Strength and Endurance - your muscles’ ability to exert force without fatigue (for a period of time). Having muscle mass is critical to your health and your ability to carry out daily activities. You need muscles to do anything that requires movement, balance, or force, from dragging yourself out of bed to moving a couch to sprinting in a flag football game to walking to class. Muscle mass also protects your organs and skeletal structures.
Test: A couple of ways to measure your muscular endurance include the Half Sit-Up and the Push-Up.
4) Aerobic Fitness -how efficiently your heart and lungs deliver oxygen to your body. Generally, the more efficient your cardiovascular system, the more intensity, energy, and endurance you have to exercise. Good aerobic fitness is also associated with lower health risks such as high blood pressure and coronary heart disease.
a)heart rate – To figure out your resting heart rate, take your pulse after sitting quietly for five minutes. Count your pulse for 10 seconds. Multiply this number by 6 and you have your resting heart rate. In healthy individuals, this should not be more than 60.
b) blood pressure - Your blood pressure can be measured at Health Services, your physician’s office, before donating blood, or oftentimes at a local pharmacy. If your blood pressure does not fall near the 120(systolic) and 80(diastolic) readings, then consult a physician before starting your exercise regimen.
Please keep in mind that while these calculations are useful assessments of your physical fitness level, they comprise only one aspect of physical health and may not accurately convey your state of physical fitness. For instance, athletes who have a muscular build may technically fall outside of the “normal/health” weight BMI but are very physically fit.
Tips for Improving Your Fitness
1) Exercise at a moderate-intensity for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. You’ve probably heard this from your mom and every P.E. teacher and fitness poster you’ve ever encountered, but it’s true. Regular exercise is a fundamental baseline for maintaining not only physical fitness, but preventing chronic disease, and reaping a ton of other health benefits.
2) Take a well-rounded approach to fitness. If you don’t, you risk neglecting some part of your body that’s crucial to your overall improvement and general physical health. For instance, if you focus only on running, and ramp up your mileage without incorporating other forms of exercise, you risk losing the muscle mass you’d maintain by doing strength training, and that may in turn improve your running ability, as well. Although your approach to improving your fitness level is up to you, integrating a variety of different activities will better enhance and maintain your long-term, overall physical health.
3) Challenge yourself - Change or intensify your exercise routine by boosting any one of or all of the following factors:
F (Frequency) How many times you do an exercise each week or month.
I (Intensity) How strenuous or heavy the exercise is in terms of weight lifted, speed of movement or effort exerted.
T (Time) How long you do the exercise per session.
T (Type) What kind of exercise you do (for example, running, swimming, biking, or strength training).
Here are some suggestions to liven up your exercise routine:
- Make your exercise a regular routine – In order to see the benefits, you’ve got to incorporate exercise into your lifestyle. Stressed about fitting it in? Consider making it a study break. Or, find a part of your day when you don’t have as much going on, like early morning or the evening, and schedule yourself in. Everyone has half an hour to spare to improve their health – and if you don’t think you do, then it’s time to reevaluate your bigger picture schedule.
- Mix it up – Varying your exercise routine will not only keep you from getting bored, it’ll keep your various muscle groups from getting bored, and your fitness from subsequently hitting a plateau. Incorporate different types of exercise on a weekly basis to make sure you’re hitting all of your physical fitness needs.
- Challenge yourself - Exercise should push your body to work harder. If you can have a conversation while you’re exercising, then you’re not exercising hard enough. In order to see results from exercise, you should be getting your heart rate up and sweating it out.
- Set realistic goals – Setting exercise goals is a good way to hold yourself accountable to sticking to a routine, but make sure that you don’t overload. Plan to progress, but at your own pace, so that you won’t burn out or injure yourself.
- Practice good nutrition – What you eat affects everything you do, and how well your body is able to use that food energy to fuel your physical activity. Timing matters, too: exercising on an empty stomach may make you run out of steam faster, but trying to burn off that heavy hunk of triple chocolate cake when it’s pretty much still sitting in original form in your stomach is probably not a good idea, either.
- Include a buddy – Bringing a friend along to exercise can keep you on pace, on schedule, and amp up the fun factor!
- Have fun! – Find a type of exercise that you like. Exercise doesn’t have to be “torture,” nor does it have to be a chore. Exercise can be a fun, productive way to get outside, blow off steam, break a sweat, boost your mood, or try a new activity. Get moving, be proud of your progress, and enjoy the results!
1) I played some sport in high school that
Rice doesn’t have, and that was the only reason I enjoyed exercising in the
first place. But I want to find something to take its
place. What should I do?
Rice offers a wide variety of physical fitness
options for you to explore, at all different levels of play. The residential
colleges compete against each other for the coveted President’s cup in a range
of intramural and college sports. Rice’s many club sports teams
play at a competitive level against other university teams. And, Rice offers
plenty of facilities for the occasional pick-up game of soccer or basketball. If
team sports aren’t your thing, consider taking one of the many classes the Recreation Center offers. Another good way to explore different types of fitness is
through your LPAP requirements, which offer everything from
country western dancing to fencing to nutrition on a semesterly basis.
2 ) I’m having a problem when I do a specific
type of fitness, or specific type of motion when exercising. What should I do?
Experiencing pain or difficulties when exercising may be cause for a serious health concern. Contact Rice Health Services to get it checked out. In the meantime, avoid exercising the potentially injured part to prevent exacerbating it.
“Definitions: Health, Fitness, and Physical Activity.” The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. http://www.fitness.gov/digest_mar2000.htm
“Fitness Fundamentals: Guidelines for Personal Fitness Programs.” The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. http://www.fitness.gov
The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research Digest.
President’s Challenge: The Adult Fitness test. http://www.adultfitnesstest.org/
2National Institutes of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Obesity Education Initiative Guidelines on Overweight and Obesity Electronic Toolkit. Available on-line at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/e_txtbk/txgd/4142.htm