Jennifer Ellison-Brown: The concepts of fitness
Definition of fitness
Physical fitness is the ability of the body to carry out everyday activities without excessive fatigue and with 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 sports.
Being fit is central to our health and 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 sports. Physical fitness consists of health-related fitness and sports performance-related fitness.
In order to have good health, we should eat sensibly, engage in regular physical activity, get the 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 a healthy lifestyle 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 be fit for sports. Each sport activity makes its own particular demands on the body.
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 parts 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. 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 Organization recommends that individuals include a moderate amount of exercise on most, preferably all, days of the week (Fit and Well, 6th Edition 2005).
Exercise helps you to look good and feel good.
- It burns up stored body fat, 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.
- It 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 cope better with difficult people and situation.
- You will meet people, make good friends.
- Develops team work and cooperation.
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.