Definition of Fitness:
Fitness is defined as “the capacity or ability to perform work; energy.” A person’s fitness level may vary from one individual to another, but it generally refers to their physical strength and endurance. Some definitions include other factors such as flexibility, speed, agility, stamina and mental toughness. For example, some say that someone with a low level of fitness would not be able to do heavy manual labor because they lack the strength and endurance required for such tasks.
Others believe that a person’s fitness level depends on many different factors, including age, gender, weight and health status.
What Is Physical Strength?
Physical strength is the ability to exert force against resistance. It includes things like muscle mass and bone density. Muscle mass is measured in kilograms (kg) while bone density measures in millimeters squared per centimeter (mm2/cm). People have varying levels of muscular strength depending on their height, body type and activity level.
For example, a 5’6″ woman weighing 150 pounds might have a higher level of muscular strength than a 5’4″ man weighing 100 pounds. Women tend to have greater bone density than men and therefore are less likely to suffer osteoporosis which increases the risk of fractures later in life. However, women also tend to lose muscle mass during pregnancy and lactation, so their strength levels will decrease over time. Men also experience slower bone turnover due to having larger bones overall.
How Is It Measured?
There are several ways to measure physical strength. One popular method is called the grip test, in which a person squeezes an object in their hand as hard as they can for eight seconds. The average is 101 kilograms force (kgf) for men and 42 kgf for women. There is also a pinch test, which measures the amount of force someone can exert using only their fingertips. The average is 18 kgf for men and 9 kgf for women. There are other measurements for muscular strength, including the chin-up and push-up tests.
Health Risks Associated with Weakness
While having great muscular strength may be beneficial in some respects, it can also create problems of its own. For example, a person’s increased ability to exert force may cause them to suffer injuries more easily. A football player with a high level of muscular strength faces the same risk of breaking a bone as an elderly woman. Other problems with having too much strength may include tendinitis and other overuse injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Other risks may include an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease such as heart attack or stroke, due to an increase in heart disease risk factors. These might also include high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels. This is partly because people who engage in regular heavy exercise have a higher basal metabolic rate. This means they burn more calories, even at rest.
The risk is usually only increased if an otherwise sedentary person starts a new exercise program without also making other changes to their diet and lifestyle.
Another concern with muscular strength is that some people use it as an excuse to avoid other forms of physical activity. They may think that working on their six-pack abs will give them a lean, fit body, for example. While it’s true that abdominal muscles are important for supporting the torso and spinal column, most professionals also recommend that people engage in a variety of activities to keep the entire body active and strong.
How to Increase Your Strength
The best way to increase your strength is to engage in regular exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults engage in at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity, every week, in addition to muscle strengthening activities on two or more days a week. Different people find different exercises more appealing. Some possibilities include:
Stretching exercises, such as yoga or pilates
There are also different ways to work on your strength. You might try circuit training, in which you move from one exercise to the next with little or no rest in between. Or, you could engage in a sport or activity that requires skill and coordination, such as surfing, skiing or skateboarding.
In addition, it’s important to engage in strength training on a regular basis. The CDC recommends aiming for at least one muscle-strengthening activity on two or more days a week. Again, it’s important to choose something that you enjoy. Some ideas for adults include:
Resistance training with free weights or weight machines
Using elastic bands, ropes or tubes
Pushing or pulling against gravity with activities such as jumping jacks or clapping push-ups
Activities such as pushing a stroller, climbing stairs, gardening or carrying groceries can also help to build strength. However, these activities won’t provide the same benefits as a formal program of resistance or weight training.
Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program. This is particularly important if you’re currently sick or have a medical condition. Your doctor can help you decide which exercises would be most helpful and how often you need to engage in them.
Most importantly, have fun! The best way to stick with an exercise program is to engage in something that’s enjoyable for you.
Sources & references used in this article:
ACSM fitness book by American College of Sports Medicine – 2003 – books.google.com
Body, Mind, and Sport: The Mind-body Guide to Lifelong Health, Fitness, and Your Personal Best by J Douillard – 2018 – books.google.com
Cardiorespiratory fitness attenuates the effects of the metabolic syndrome on all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in men by PT Katzmarzyk, TS Church… – Archives of internal …, 2004 – jamanetwork.com
Cardiorespiratory fitness and adiposity as mortality predictors in older adults by X Sui, MJ LaMonte, JN Laditka, JW Hardin, N Chase… – Jama, 2007 – jamanetwork.com
Resurrecting free play in young children: looking beyond fitness and fatness to attention, affiliation, and affect by HL Burdette, RC Whitaker – Archives of pediatrics & adolescent …, 2005 – jamanetwork.com
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