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Exercise and Physical Fitness

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

Written by: Ava Garrido

Date: December 2020

Have you ever wondered why parents and teachers stress the importance of exercising? If you go to a public school in America, it’s very likely that you’ve had to do some form of physical activity throughout your schooling. Games like tag and jump rope are introduced to children with the hope of getting their heart rate up in a fun way. But the push for people to continue exercising doesn’t stop in middle school or high school; various sports and clubs with the goal of exercising try to reel in new students every year.

But why?

Physical activity is crucial to a healthy lifestyle. With physical activity, you are able to better your physical composition: reducing the risk of heart attacks, managing a healthy weight, lower cholesterol, and much more. As a matter of fact, exercising even helps with mental health. Various studies show that exercise can block negative thoughts and distract you from worries. It does this by changing the levels of chemicals in your brain, decreasing stress hormones, and increasing endorphins.

Exercise can be as simple as walking up the stairs, sweeping the floor, and even jumping over a puddle. This is because these activities all require engaging your muscles. Yes! Even household chores are a way to exercise. But what is the best way to exercise?

Although these simple tasks of moving around are considered exercise, it’s crucial that you choose exercises to do that will help maximize your physical fitness. Physical fitness can be defined as the condition of being physically fit and healthy. For example, being able to do daily activities with optimal performance, with manageable fatigue. With this, there are five components of physical fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition.

Cardiovascular endurance refers to your heart, and how efficiently your heart and lungs work to supply you with the oxygen and fuel your body needs throughout your daily activities. “Cardio” is a prefix that means “heart,” and “endurance” in exercise refers to how long you can maintain an activity in one go. For example, running for a long time at a slow pace. Exercises to help you improve your cardiovascular endurance include running, power walking, swimming, dancing, and jumping rope.

Muscular strength refers to how much force your muscles can produce. If lifting a bag of rice is the heaviest thing you can hold, then that’s your maximum muscular strength. To improve muscular strength, most people lift weights. It is highly advised that when lifting weights, you have a spotter, someone who watches you lift, and is on standby in the case that you reach your maximum and your muscles give in; their purpose is to keep you safe.

Muscular endurance is a bit different from muscular strength. It tests how long you can exert a certain force consistently over a period of time. A good way to work at your muscular endurance is by choosing a small weight and lifting it in large repetitions. This is the opposite from training for muscular strength, in which you would lift a large weight in smaller repetitions.

If you hear the word flexibility, you probably think of a gymnast or ballerina who can do the splits. Flexibility is actually defined as how well you can move a joint (or series of joints) through a range of motion without pain. This component of physical fitness is especially important because it helps you do daily tasks such as reaching for something in your spice cabinet. Note that it is often advised to do static stretching versus ballistic stretching. Static stretching is where you hold a position for a period of time to stretch, while ballistic stretching requires some sort of bouncing or movement to stretch your muscles. Ballistic stretching can be dangerous because it risks injuries like straining or pulling muscles.

The last component of physical fitness is body composition. Body composition is as simple as assessing your body in the following components: fat, protein, minerals and water. No matter what weight you are, the ratio of muscle to fat is important. If you have too much fat, you are more susceptible to heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes. Having too little fat lowers your immune system.

By optimizing your physical fitness and remembering to exercise, you can live a healthier lifestyle. A good rule of thumb is to take at least 30 minutes a day to get your heart rate up. This can be anything from walking to dancing to lifting weights! Exercise can make you happier and healthier, so it’s especially important during a time where we can’t go out much.