Physical Fitness for too many Americans is summed up in the following quotes:
From the actress, Joey Adams, "If it weren't for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn't get any exercise at all."
From the comedienne and show host, Ellen DeGeneres, “I really don't think I need buns of steel. I'd be happy with buns of cinnamon."
From the comedienne and actress, Rita Rudner, "The word aerobics came about when the gym instructors got together and said, "If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it jumping up and down."
And lastly, from the comedienne, Phyllis Diller, "My idea of exercise is a good brisk sit."
These four quotes were from people who get paid for being funny but being "out of shape" is no laughing matter.
Winnie the Pooh from author, A. A. Milne, summed it up very well..."A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise."
"Tubby" is too kind a word, "obese" is more descriptive of our times. All you need to do is go to your local mall, sit on a bench for 15 minutes and you will see what obesity in America looks like.
There is no way we can become fit with a pill, potion or diet. It takes work, sweat, discipline and dedication. But the good news is that it doesn't have to be work; it can be fun and will make you feel good.
Ever heard of endorphins? A neurologist would say that endorphins are endogenous opioid polypeptide compounds produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus during periods of excitement, exercise, orgasm or other enjoyable experiences.
They attach to areas of the brain responsible for pleasure (the limbic system and prefrontal cortex).
That's a bit complicated for most of us, so I'll just say that when we do hard exercise, our brain releases chemicals that make us feel good. Avid joggers might describe it as the "runner's high".
Photo below: Those runners look like they passed their "high" several miles ago.
The human body is a lot like a machine. If the machine sits idle for too long without maintenance, it gets rusty, its gaskets wear out, it's hard to start, it loses horsepower, and its tubes get clogged. Would you believe our bodies are very similar.
If we don't push our body, it builds up toxins and free radicals (gets rusty); its cartilage and joints start to degrade (gaskets wear out); it loses energy and stamina (gets hard to start); muscle tissue loses mass and bones get thin (loses horsepower); and veins start building up plaque (tubes get clogged).
The facts are, as our physical fitness goes, so goes our health. Why is it a fact? Read on!
When most people think of physical fitness (if they think of it at all), they automatically think "exercise".
Yes, exercise is a huge part of staying fit but it's not the whole story.
"Physical" refers to the total body, not just the muscles.
"Fitness" refers to how well the cells, tissue, organs and systems of the total body function.
To see what the physical fitness and wellness professionals think, click on the banner at the left to view "Body for Life" by Bill Phillips from Amazon.com.
Phillips has helped hundreds of thousands of men and women who read his magazine for guidance and straight forward information about exercise, nutrition, and living with strength as well as professional athletes, among them John Elway, Karl Malone, Mike Piazza, and Terrell Davis who have turned to Phillips for clear–cut information to enhance their energy and performance.
Click on the book cover or the link below to check it out.
Homeostasis is a word the medical community uses to describe a state of balance in the body; everything working together in harmony.
So putting the total package together...
Physical fitness involves proper nutrition and eating for health. That means we have to give our bodies the right fuel to do its job.
Physical fitness means we have to cleanse our body by removing the debris of life; toxins, free radicals and mutated cells. In keeping with the engine analogy, we have to change the oil every so often.
Physical fitness means we have to protect our body by keeping its immune system working at peak efficiency. This involves a number of things such as managing stress, managing weight, and avoiding toxins and harmful substances.
Photo below: What getting fit means to most people
But this section is about what most people think physical fitness means; muscular strength, stamina, proper breathing (respiration) and building bone density.
So let's see what we have to do to get fit and stay fit.
Anybody out there old enough to remember Jack LaLanne? Jack past away at the age of 96 on January 23, 2011 from pneumonia. He refused to see a doctor and was still doing his daily fitness routine until the day before he died.
He was sometimes referred to as the Godfather of Fitness and the First Fitness Superhero.
He hosted the Jack LaLanne show for 34 years on TV. It was the first and longest running show on health and fitness.
He set the world record for pushups; 1033 pushups in 23 minutes. He swam handcuffed and shackled for a mile and a half while towing 70 boats with 70 people on board.
What is Jack's secret? No secret, we already said it...get plenty of physical exercise, eat right and keep your mind sharp. Let's take them one at a time.
LaLanne worked out two hours every day but says that an exercise program lasting 20 to 30 minutes a day, three or four times a week is adequate for most people. His tips included a lot of common sense items. If you are out of shape, overweight or have some health condition, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Before exercising, stretch. LaLanne was never an advocate of warming up but stretching does warm up the body, gets the blood moving and limbers up the muscles.
Engage in some physical activity every day.
Set a goal, achieve it, and set another one.
It could even be something like golf. It's not a high intensity cardio workout but it does get the legs moving and promotes flexibility in upper body motion. Need some equipment to get started? Visit Fairway Golf USA at the link below. Besides, the apparel for the lady golfers is stunning.
Mix up the exercise routine to keep a well rounded program and keep it from getting boring. Tennis anyone?
Photo right: Getting ready for a workout? Don't overlook the stretches.
Lastly this giant of fitness did supplement his food intake with natural vitamins and minerals.
With mental acuity, he said that an idle brain will deteriorate just a surely and fast as idle muscles. The best activities are those that challenge the brain and involve social interaction. Suggestions included bridge, chess, music, sports and on and on.
A decent way to start the day might consist of a bowl of whole grain and fiber cereal (mixed), smothered in blueberries, walnuts, strawberries, flax, a couple of prunes and a glyconutrient powder (no sugar), all drowned in almond or soy milk, non-GMO if you please.
While eating the cereal, one might do the Sudoku and cryptogram in the local morning paper to get the mind kick-started for the day. If you can still find the car keys and remember what they're for, you're doing OK.
The way Jack LaLanne described it, anyone can do it; it's not rocket science.
Let's move to the medical world and see what Dr. Mehmet Oz has to say about exercise. Dr. Oz is the celebrity M.D. (cardiovascular surgeon) who makes frequent appearances on Oprah, has co-authored a lot of books with Dr. Michael Roizen and now has his own show.
The link below will take you to Amazon.com where you can see most of their recent books and buy new or used. Such a deal!
Dr. Oz reports that between 1966 and 1996, the number of Americans that took part in any physical exercise dropped by 1% per year. The good news is that from 1996 to 2002, the number of people engaging in regular exercise has risen by 1% a year.
Among other things, Dr. Oz is a proponent of resistance training. Benefits include an increase in lean muscle mass which consumes more calories than fat. Obviously, it makes the muscles stronger.
Strengthening the lower back muscles is the best way to avoid low-back pain. It decreases the age of our heart, arteries and immune system. Most important, it builds strong bones.
Photo: Free weights are a great form of resistance training. This is the free weight rack at the Istanbul Hyatt's health club.
Bones know when they are under stress, such as when muscles pull on them. Their response is to increase their density by absorbing more calcium. It would seem that resistance training should do wonders for osteoporosis sufferers.
Furthermore, Dr. Oz claims that it doesn't take much resistance to experience bone benefits. Just thirty minutes of weight bearing exercise a week will kick off the increase in bone density. Jack LaLanne might just dispute that.
It doesn't have to involve a gym or weights either; we can use our own body as the resistance. Squats and lunges, pushups, crunches and the like will all add to muscle mass and bone density.</p>
The other type of physical fitness training is for stamina. Stamina training can be self-defeating if it is of such duration that it damages joints and bones.
The best overall type of stamina training involves activities that elevates the heart rate and works all the muscle groups without causing shock to the joints and cartilage.
Swimming, rowing, cycling on a recumbent bike or an elliptical machine all come to mind.
Walking is great exercise but it must be done briskly and for at least thirty minutes a day; leisurely strolling around the mall doesn't count.
And speaking of walking, Dr. Joseph Mercola, who publishes his own daily health blog, has quite a lot to say about walking.
He reports that frequent prolonged sitting causes serious degradation to your cardiovascular and metabolic function. In other words, the more time we spend sitting, the shorter and less healthy our lives will be.
Dr. Mercola cites many researchers and studies on the downside of a sedentary lifestyle or profession but the bottom line is that getting up and walking for five minutes for every hour we sit is the bare minimum and far less than what is actually needed. In reality, "we need to sit as little as possible, ideally less than three hours a day".
He recommends using a pedometer or one of the newer fitness trackers. The feedback they give is invaluable in monitoring your level of activity and a great motivator to improve. To sum up, intense exercise coupled with intermittent movement like walking is a winning health and fitness combination.
Not many of us have the discipline needed to stick with a physical fitness program for the long haul. Good intentions fade away with the pressures of work, deadlines, family commitments or any other excuse our mind can conjure up.
Physical fitness must become nothing less than a lifestyle change. It must become an ingrained habit. Ideally we should schedule exercise time each day as if it were a business appointment or a hot date.
If anything intrudes on the scheduled time, the knee-jerk response would be, "I'm sorry, I have an appointment".
Since most of us lack such dedication, a personal trainer is a highly effective way to approach a physical fitness program. It's also a fact that most of us don't have a clue what we are doing when it comes to sensible exercise or how to go about it.
Photo left: Personal Fitness Trainer working with client
For example, most of us are jumping on the scale every other day when we should be using the tape measure. With physical fitness, inches matter more than pounds.
Remember that, per unit volume, muscle weighs more than fat. We can build muscle, lose fat and possibly <em>gain</em> weight...but it will be healthy weight.
Personal fitness trainers are professionals. They have experience, they
have the requisite schooling in physical education and they won't let us
This company, located in Mt. Airy, midway between Frederick, MD and Baltimore, MD, offers both personal one-to-one fitness training as well as online coaching.
The site is rich with photos of proper exercise routines and offers information on everything you would ever want to know about achieving fitness through exercise.
If you are like most people and don't want to take time out to visit the gym but still want to workout, a home gym might be the way to go. Space is always a consideration but it doesn't take all that much.
The home does not have to be particularly spacious to accommodate a home gym. For example, a programmable treadmill combined with a general purpose exercise machine will do the trick nicely. The two pieces of equipment together take up less than 130 sq. ft.
It's not necessary to get the top of the line equipment but if you intend to use it regularly it's probably not the best idea to get the bottom of the line; like Goldilocks said, not too hot, not too cold, mid-range equipment should work great for a typical home gym. A typical exercise machine is pictured below.
Photo below: The Body Solid G2B machine; no, she isn't part of the package.
Ideally, a home gym should be used every day. If something is convenient, people will probably stick with it.
The problem with home gyms and treadmills, or exercise bicycles is that there is a mind-boggling assortment of equipment to choose from.
How does one go about figuring out what to buy, what is quality equipment and what is junk? The prices are all over the map but as with most things, we get what we pay for.
There are a lot of moving parts in most home exercise equipment so, if you can, look for a dealer that will deliver and set it up for you and will stand behind their product. If something breaks, it's nice to have a local dealer that will fix it.
In wrapping up, we are faced with one of those Health-Choices-for-Life crossroads. We can choose to exercise and strive for physical fitness and reap the health benefits it bestows while enjoying a higher quality of life.
Or, we can choose the couch over the treadmill and keep getting our food handed to us through a window and reap the consequences of those choice; obesity, ill health and a life of prescriptions and waiting to see the doctor.
The information presented here is designed to whet the appetite and get people thinking about improving their quality of life through physical activity and being fit.
When it comes to physical fitness, this information is just a drop in the bucket; after all, there are 2-year, 3-year and full 4-year college degrees in physical fitness, physical therapy and sports coaching to name a few.
The choice is ours; let's be like Indiana Jones and choose wisely. Remember what happened to the guy that chose badly?
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