How can fitness improve our health?

Physical fitness has 5 components

  • Cardio-vascular fitness
  • Muscular strength
  • Muscular endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Motor fitness

First CARDIO VASCULAR fitness, which provides stamina.  Good stamina enables you to sustain free bodily movement for the length of time you need it without leaving you feeling puffed, exhausted or faint.   To achieve good stamina, you must aim to do enough regular activity in order to boost the efficiency of your heart and lungs and improve your circulation and digestion.

Work on your cardio-vascular fitness by doing aerobic exercises.   (Aerobic exercises simply mean exercising with air).   Examples of these types of exercise are: –

  • exercises to music, line dancing, ballroom dancing,
  • or jogging and
  • brisk walking.

Whichever aerobic exercise or activity you choose; you need to sustain it for a length of time in order to gain benefit.   30 minutes is an ideal time, but do take age and ability into account.   All aerobic activities will make your heart (which itself is a muscle) pump just that little bit harder, and this has the effect of making your lungs work more efficiently, utilising the oxygen you breathe in and improving your circulation.   It’s important to breathe deeply in order to encourage greater oxygen intake and lung elasticity.   Aerobic exercise makes you feel warm and you puff a bit, but you should still be able to talk whilst you’re doing them!

The second component of physical fitness is MUSCULAR STRENGTH.

This is the ability of a muscle to exert maximum force to overcome a resistance.   This simply means being able to do things like twisting the stubborn top off a jar of marmalade, or being able to pick up a particularly heavy object.  Your body needs strong muscles in order to maintain good posture and improve your shape.  As the years advance it’s paramount to keep leg muscles strong I’d suggest concentrate on strengthening the front thigh muscles (quadriceps) to maintain your physical mobility.   Simple regular brisk walking involves the rhythmic movement of both muscles and joints, and will stop the muscles atrophying.

To be physically fit you also need MUSCULAR ENDURANCE. This is the ability of a muscle (or group of muscles) to exert force, in order to overcome a resistance, for an extended period of time.    In other words, you need strong muscles to make light work of everyday chores.   Those occasions when you have to push yourself just that little bit harder, or exert a little more strength for longer periods than you want, in order to achieve.   How many times have I wanted to drop my heavy shopping bags in the supermarket car park just because I have stupidly forgotten where I parked the car!   Situations like this call for muscular endurance, and one has to keep on walking and looking!   What a relief to finally find the car and be able to put the bags down.  If you have well-toned, strong muscles, you reduce the risk of tearing ligaments or damaging yourself when pushed to the limits or IF you have a fall.

 

 

The next component of physical fitness is FLEXIBILITY. Being flexible enables you to put your muscles and joints through their full range of movements with ease.   We take this flexibility or suppleness for granted when we are young, but you need to work at it as you get older.   It’s a great feeling to be able to use your body efficiently to bend down to do up shoe laces, to stretch up to high shelves, and to use your body to its full potential.

Stretching exercises should be performed before and after an exercise session or physical activity, such as gardening, jogging or playing tennis, in order to prevent injury.   When you finish being active your muscles are warm, so it’s safe to stretch them out just that little bit more, in order to increase your flexibility and suppleness. Do it at the end of a brisk walk – and surprise yourself by finding you are suppler and able to reach parts you couldn’t before!

Finally, MOTOR FITNESS which governs your skill and ability to control movements, balance, speed, co-ordination and agility.   It gives you the capacity to react quickly, and the confidence to move about without fear of falling over.   With skill and the natural co-ordination of mind and body working together you can make your movements graceful, effective and efficient.

If you work hard on all 5 components of your physical fitness, there is a good chance of maintaining your physical independence long into later life.   The benefits to your general health and wellbeing are enormous and will give you the opportunity to live a full life.  In order to maintain your physical fitness, make exercise a natural part of every day. Try to be generally more active Walk more, climb stairs, cycle, dance, swim and garden. Moderate exercise CAN help enhance and maintain your quality of life. But there are no quick fixes for a healthy lifestyle, just 2 simple rules:   be more active and eat sensibly.

Reproduced from Sod Sitting, Get Moving!: Getting Active in Your 60s, 70s and Beyond Hardcover – 9 Mar. 2017 by Sir Muir Gray (Author), Diana Moran  (Author), David Mostyn (Illustrator)To buy a copy click here