Most of us pursue fitness in order to look good. In this quest, we run an extra mile to lose five pounds or pick up a heavier weight to trim our arms. A balanced fitness program and sensible eating habits are powerful tools for weight loss. However, the same tools we use to look our best and lose weight are also powerful tools in maintaining the quality of our lives and our health.
What is physical fitness? Physical fitness includes five health-related components: muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiorespiratory fitness, flexibility and body composition. The FIRM workouts are designed with these components in mind. Once you’ve begun to see results on the scale, in your jeans and with your tape measure, what are the benefits you don’t see?
- Increased life span
- Reduced blood pressure
- Less risk of metabolic syndrome
- Reduced risk of coronary heart disease
- Improved bone health
- Reduced anxiety and depression
These are just a few of the medically measurable health benefits. One-third of Americans currently have high blood pressure. Being fit can improve your blood pressure readings. Aerobic exercise has been shown to measurably improve HDL cholesterol. This is the “good” cholesterol that your body naturally creates. It helps to keep the LDL, “lousy” cholesterol, in check.
Metabolic syndrome is the diagnosis of three or more specific metabolism disorders at the same time, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre-diabetic syndrome or diabetes, and obesity (especially abdominal obesity). Having metabolic syndrome puts you at an increased risk for heart attack or stroke. If you present with all of these conditions, there will be medications, perhaps a cocktail of them. Again, maintaining your fitness level will combat metabolic syndrome along with the elevated risk of a coronary episode that goes along with it.
Anxiety and depression are reduced with regular exercise. When you push yourself hard during exercise, the body releases endorphins. These endorphins bring a feeling of well-being. But, it is not as simple as a hormone release. The sense of accomplishment — of completing a challenge or a goal — is a powerful thing. Accomplishing something just for you, in the quest for self-care, can translate to accomplishing other goals in your life.
100% of Americans age. There is a physiological process that comes with aging called sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the loss of lean muscle tissue with the passing years and decades. There is only one way to fight this: exercise. Weight bearing, resistance training exercise is the only way to combat muscle loss with aging.
All of our “activities of daily life” become easier and less taxing when we are physically fit. It’s easier to get the vacuum out of the closet when you are physically fit. Climbing the staircase is a breeze when your muscles have endurance. Lifting the jug of water out of the car is no big deal when you have developed strength. Reaching the can of veggies on the very top shelf is easy when your legs and back are flexible. And when Rover bolts out the front door after the neighbor’s cat, you are on it, barely out of breath.
Make your next trip to the doctor more fun. Make it easier to dig the lid to your slow cooker out of the back of the bottom cupboard. Commit or re-commit yourself to your fitness. Know that you are improving and guarding your health with every aerobic interval and every lunge that you do.