Physical activity is any movement that is carried out by the skeletal muscles that requires energy. In other words, any movement one does is actually physical activity.
Exercise, however, is planned, structured, repetitive and intentional movement intended to improve or maintain physical fitness.
5 Components of Physical Fitness
- The 5 components of physical fitness are often used in our school systems, health clubs and fitness centers to gauge how good a shape we are truly in. These components are:
- Cardiovascular Endurance
- Muscular Strength
- Muscular Endurance
- Body Composition
Total fitness can be defined by how well the body performs in each one of the components of physical fitness as a whole.
A closer look at the individual components:
Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of the heart and lungs to work together to provide the needed oxygen and fuel to the body during sustained workloads. Examples would be jogging, cycling and swimming. The Cooper Run is used most often to test cardiovascular endurance.
Muscular strength is the amount of force a muscle can produce. Examples would be the bench press, leg press or bicep curl. The push up test is most often used to test muscular strength.
Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscles to perform continuous without fatiguing. Examples would be cycling, step machines and elliptical machines. The sit up test is most often used to test muscular endurance.
Flexibility is the ability of each joint to move through the available range of motion for a specific joint. Examples would be stretching individual muscles or the ability to perform certain functional movements such as the lunge. The sit and reach test is most often used to test flexibility.
Body composition is the amount of fat mass compared to lean muscle mass, bone and organs. This can be measured using underwater weighing, Skinfold readings, and bioelectrical impedance. Underwater weighing is considered the “gold standard” for body fat measurement, however because of the size and expense of the equipment needed very few places are set up to do this kind of measurement.
Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. It has many benefits, including improving overall health and fitness, and reducing the risk for many chronic diseases. There are many different types of exercise; it is important that one picks the right combination.
What are the health benefits of exercise?
- Help you control your weight.Along with diet, exercise plays an important role in controlling your weight and preventing obesity. To maintain your weight, the calories you eat and drink must equal the energy you burn. To lose weight, you must use more calories than you eat and drink.
- Reduce your risk of heart diseases.Exercise strengthens your heart and improves your circulation. The increased blood flow raises the oxygen levels in your body. This helps lower your risk of heart diseases such as high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and heart attack. Regular physical fitness can also lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
- Help your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels. Exercise can lower your blood sugarlevel and help your insulin work better. This can cut down your risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. And if you already have one of those diseases, exercise can help you to manage it.
- Help you quit smoking. Exercise may make it easier to quit smoking by reducing your cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It can also help limit the weight you might gain when you stop smoking.
- Improve your mental health and mood. During exercise, your body releases chemicals that can improve your mood and make you feel more relaxed. This can help you deal with stress and reduce your risk of depression.
- Help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age. Exercise stimulates your body to release proteins and other chemicals that improve the structure and function of your brain.
- Strengthen your bones and muscles. Regular exercise can help kids and teens build strong bones. Later in life, it can also slow the loss of bone density that comes with age. Doing muscle-strengthening activities can help you increase or maintain your muscle mass and strength.
- Reduce your risk of some cancers, including colon, breast , uterine, and lung
- Reduce your risk of falls. For older adults, research shows that doing balance and muscle-strengthening activities in addition to moderate-intensity aerobic activity can help reduce your risk of falling.
- Improve your sleep. Exercise can help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
- Improve your sexual health. Regular exercise may lower the risk of erectile dysfunction(ED) in men. For those who already have ED, exercise may help improve their sexual function. In women, exercise may increase sexual arousal.
- Increase your chances of living longer. Studies show that physical activity can reduce your risk of dying early from the leading causes of death, like heart disease and some cancers.
How can I make exercise a part of my regular routine?
- Make everyday activities more active.Even small changes can help. You can take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk down the hall to a coworker’s office instead of sending an email. Wash the car yourself. Park further away from your destination.
- Be active with friends and family.Having a workout partner may make you more likely to enjoy exercise. You can also plan social activities that involve exercise. You might also consider joining an exercise group or class, such as a dance class, hiking club, or volleyball team.
- Keep track of your progress.Keeping a log of your activity or using a fitness tracker may help you set goals and stay motivated.
- Make exercise more fun.Try listening to music or watching TV while you exercise. Also, mix things up a little bit – if you stick with just one type of exercise, you might get bored. Try doing a combination of activities.
- Find activities that you can do even when the weather is bad.You can walk in a mall, climb stairs, or work out in a gym even if the weather stops you from exercising outside.
How much do I need exercise?
Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. Or you could do a combination of the two.
- Try to spread your physical activity out over several days of the week. That’s better than trying to do it all in one or two days.
- Some days you may not have long blocks of time to do physical fitness. You can try splitting it up into segments of ten minutes or more.
- Aerobic activities include walking fast, jogging, swimming, and biking
- Moderate intensity means that while you are doing that activity, you should be able to say a few words in a row but not sing
- Vigorous intensity means that while you are doing that activity, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without stopping for a breath
Also, do strengthening activities twice per week.
- Strengthening activities include lifting weights, working with exercise bands, and doing sit-ups and pushups
- Choose activities that work all the different parts of the body – your legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms. You should repeat exercises for each muscle group 8 to 12 times per session.
For preschool-aged children (ages 3-5):
Preschool children should be physically active throughout the day, to help with their growth and development.
They should get both structured and unstructured active play. Structured play has a goal and is directed by an adult. Examples include playing a sport or a game. Unstructured play is creative free play, such as playing on a playground.
For children and teens:
Get 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day. Most of it should be moderate-intensity aerobic activity.
- Activities should vary and be a good fit for the child’s age and physical development
- Moderate-intensity aerobic activities include walking, running, skipping, playing on the playground, playing basketball, and biking
Also, try to get each of these at least 3 days a week: vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, muscle-strengthening activity, and bone-strengthening activity.
- Vigorous-intensity aerobic activities include running, doing jumping jacks, and fast swimming
- Muscle-strengthening activities include playing on playground equipment, playing tug-of-war, and doing pushups and pull-ups
- Bone-strengthening activities include hopping, skipping, doing jumping jacks, playing volleyball, and working with resistance bands
For older adults, pregnant women, and people with chronic health problems:
Older adults, pregnant women, and people who have special health needs should check with their health care provider on how much physical activity they should get and what types of activities they should do.
People who are trying to lose weight may need to get more physical activity. They also need to adjust their diet, so they are burning more calories than they eat and drink.
If you have been inactive, you may need to start slowly. You can keep adding more gradually. The more you can do, the better. But try not to feel overwhelmed, and do what you can. Getting some physical activity is always better than getting none.
Please note that all with any health conditions must take advice from their Family doctor or Specialist to prescribe the suitable combination required.
It is also important that everyone considering starting an exercise regimen should have a health check with their Doctor.