What is Exercise and Fitness?

Exercise (or physical activity) is any movement that works your body at a greater intensity than your usual level of daily activity. Exercise raises your heart rate and works your muscles and is most commonly undertaken to achieve the aim of physical fitness.

Fitness is defined as a set of attributes that people have or achieve that relates to the ability to perform physical activity. This goes beyond being able to run long distances or lift heavy weights at the gym. Despite being important, these attributes only address single areas of fitness. Fitness is more than simply a question of listing which activities you do or how long you do them. There are many components of fitness, but the common ones are:

  • Cardiorespiratory endurance – typically measured by how long or fast a person can perform an activity and how this impacts measurements such as heart rate and oxygen consumption.
  • Muscular endurance – typically measured by how many repetitions of an exercise a person can perform.
  • Muscular strength – typically measured by how much weight can be moved in relation to repetitions.
  • Muscular power – typically measured by how much force can be generated during a given activity.
  • Flexibility – typically measured by how far a muscle group can be stretched or joint can be moved.
  • Balance – typically measured by how long a particular position can be held with or without some type of activity being performed.
  • Speed – typically measured by how quickly an individual can move from one point to another.
  • Body composition – this is the amount of fat on the body versus other tissues such as muscle, bones and skin.

In many cases, endurance and strength are the components used to assess fitness. But utilising the other components offers a more complete picture of overall fitness, along with health and athleticism.

What are the Benefits?

Exercise and being physically fit have various physical and mental benefits, such as:

  • Control weight – prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss by burning calories.
  • Combat health conditions and diseases – regular exercise helps prevent or manage a wide range of health problems and concerns, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, a number of types of cancers, arthritis and falls.
  • Boost energy – exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lung health improve, you have more energy to tackle daily chores.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety – working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise increases a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress, and the warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down.
  • Improve mood – exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed.
  • Improve self-confidence – on a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender, or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her attractiveness, that is, self-worth.
  • Prevent cognitive decline – While exercise and a healthy diet can’t “cure” Alzheimer’s, it can help support the brain against cognitive decline that begins after age 45. Particularly between age 25 and 45, it boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.
  • Boost brainpower and sharpen memory – various studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells, boosts memory and ability to learn new things, and improve overall brain performance.
  • Help control addiction – the brain releases dopamine, the “reward chemical” in response to any form of pleasure which can result in addiction. Short exercise sessions can also effectively distract drug or alcohol addicts, making them de-prioritize cravings (at least in the short term) and can help in addiction recovery.
  • Increase relaxation – moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep.
  • Get more done – research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers.

There are many different types of exercise including cardio, weight training, cross training and core training such as yoga and Pilates, which are covered in more detail further on.

Get Started

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Cross Training

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