CSEC Physical Education Lecture Series - Fitness and performance
Jenniffer Ellison-Brown, Contributor
Definition of Fitness
Physical fitness is the ability of the body to deal with the demands of the environment. When we are physically fit, the body systems work efficiently and we are able to cope with the physical tasks we face every day.
Another definition states that fitness is the ability of the body to carry out every day activities without excessive fatigue and enough energy remaining for other tasks. This means that as well as performing our normal daily tasks, we can also perform additional physical activities, including sport.
Health and performance fitness
Being fit is central to our health and to our sense of well-being. If we are healthy and fit, then the physical, mental, and social aspects of our lives are working well. Fitness is critical to success in sport. Physical fitness consists of health-related fitness and sports performance related fitness.
Health related fitness
In order to have good health, we should eat sensibly, engage in regular physical activity, get required rest and sleep, limit alcohol intake, resist smoking and other social drugs, and improve our ability to cope with stress. It is important to adapt healthy lifestyles for us to maintain our health.
The following health-related fitness components are important for the human body to work efficiently:
Cardiovascular endurance: The ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply fuel and oxygen to the muscles.
Muscular strength: The ability to exert an external force or to lift a heavy weight.
Muscular endurance: The ability of the muscles to repeatedly exert themselves.
Flexibility: Having a wide range of motion in the joints.
Body composition: Having the relative percentage of muscle, fat, bone, and other tissues of which the body is composed.
The ability to cope with stress.
This is the level of physical fitness necessary for the demands of regular sporting activity. We may be fit from a health-related perspective but not fit for sport. Each sport activity makes its own particular demand on the body. For example, the fitness demand for a badminton player is different from that of a sprinter.
To be successful in sports, it is important to have health-related fitness and also to be as fit as possible in the performance-related components below.
Explosive strength (power): The ability to combine speed and force in one explosive act;
Speed: The ability to move all or part of the body as quickly as possible;
Agility: The ability to change direction of the body at speed;
Coordination: The ability to carry out a series of movements smoothly and efficiently in response to your senses;
Balance: The ability to maintain equilibrium when stationary or moving.
Reaction time: The ability to respond to a stimulus quickly.
Timing: The ability to coincide movement in relation to external factors (to act at the right moment).
Benefits of exercise
Exercise refers to a subset of physical activity - planned, structured, repetitive movement of the body - designed specifically to improve one's health and to maintain physical fitness. Physical fitness is a set of physical attributes that allows the body to adapt to the demands and stress of physical effort.
Fitness depends on such physiological factors as the heart's ability to pump blood and the size of muscle fibres. Only exercise will significantly improve fitness. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that individuals include a moderate amount of exercise on most, preferably all, days of the week (Fit and Well 6th edition 2005).
What can exercise do for you?
- Exercise helps you to look good and feel good.
- It burns up stored body fats so your shape improves.
- Gives superb muscle tone.
- Strengthens back and abdomen.
- Strengthens bones.
- Keeps joints flexible to encourage efficiency.
- Strengthens heart and lungs so you won't get tired easily.
- Helps to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, back pain, cancer.
- Slows the ageing process.
- Exercise increases your social well-being, especially if it's in the form of a sport.
- Boosts confidence.
- Helps you to cope better with difficult people and situations.
- You can meet people and make good friends.
- Develops team work and cooperation.
- Mental benefits
Exercise helps your mental well-being too.
- It is stimulating and enjoyable.
- It relieves tension and stress, which can cause high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Relieves aggression.
- Relieves boredom and provides a challenge.
- It helps you sleep better so you feel more rested.
- Boosts self-esteem.
All these benefits mean that exercise helps you to meet the demands of your environment more easily. In other words, it makes you fitter. You can work harder, feel less tired, and enjoy life more.
The way to improve your fitness is through exercise. The more easily you are able to meet demands, the less likely you are to suffer stress, fall ill, or injure yourself.
Next week: Assessing and evaluating physical fitness