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Fitness; Overview.

If a friend told you that delaying the aging process, controlling your weight, feeling happier and less anxious, sleeping better, and warding off illnesses like heart disease, some forms of cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes was as easy as walking briskly for 30 minutes each day, would you believe her?

It's true. You can receive all these benefits simply by taking that 30-minute daily walk. The American Heart Association reports that not being active is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and research studies find that people who start a regular physical exercise program after a heart attack have better rates of survival and an improved quality of life compared with those who remain inactive. Studies also find that walking at a brisk pace for three or more hours a week or exercising vigorously for 1.5 hours a week can reduce the risk for coronary heart disease by 30 to 40 percent. And if walking isn't your cup of tea, there are endless options, all with the similar results.

What's missing in this age of modern conveniences and desk jobs are ways to get our bodies up and moving on a regular basis.

That's why a 2005 government report found that 37 percent of American adults (39 percent of women) ages 18 years and older get insufficient physical activity, and more than 53 percent of women and 51.3 percent of men get less than the recommended amount of exercise per day.

Overall, less than half of adults engage in regular, leisure-time physical activity (light to moderate activity at least five times per week for at least 30 minutes each time, or vigorous activity at least three times per week for at least 20 minutes each time).

Being sedentary has several negative health consequences. Your muscles, including your heart and lungs, become weak; your joints become stiff and easily injured; and you can develop high blood pressure, fatigue, obesity and osteoporosis. Lack of physical activity can also contribute to anxiety and depression. Being physically fit, on the other hand, reduces the risk of heart disease, some forms of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases. Exercise may also reduce bone loss after menopause.

The good news is that it's never too late to take up exercise. At any age, at any level of health, even if you already suffer from a chronic disease, you can improve your level of fitness. In fact, according to the U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, women with heart disease or arthritis actually experience improved daily function from involvement in various modes of physical activity.

What, exactly, is fitness? Physical fitness has five components:

Cardiovascular fitness. Your level of cardiovascular fitness determines your body's ability to use oxygen to help provide energy. It provides the stamina or endurance to be active without gasping for breath.

Muscular strength. Muscular strength is the ability of your muscles to exert force during an activity.

Muscular endurance. Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscle to continue to perform without fatigue.

Flexibility. Flexibility refers to maintaining an optimal range of motion in the joint areas, making bending and stretching easy.

Body composition. Body composition refers to the ratio of lean muscle tissue to fat.

References

"Physical activity." HealthierUS.gov. 2007. http://www.healthierus.gov. Accessed October 2007.

"Physical activity." Womenshealth.gov. January 2005. (Link from the HealthierUs.gov site). http://www.womenshealth.gov/. Accessed October 2007.

"Fitness Fundamentals: Guidelines for Personal Exercise Programs." 2007. http://www.fitness.gov. Accessed October 2007.

"U.S. Physical Activities Statistics." The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated May 2007. http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov. Accessed October 2007.

Jakicic JM, et al. "Effect of Exercise Duration and Intensity on Weight Loss in Overweight, Sedentary Women" JAMA. 2003;290: 1323-1330. http://jama.ama-assn.org. Accessed September 2003.

"What are some tips for being more active?" National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated Feb. 2003. http://www.cdc.gov. Accessed August 2003.

Yoke M. "A Guide to Personal Fitness Training." Sherman Oaks. Calif: Aerobics and Fitness Association of America; 1997. http://www.afaa.com. Accessed August 2003.

Jordan P. "Fitness: Theory and Practice." Sherman Oaks. Calif: Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and Stoughton. Mass: Reebok University Press; 2nd ed. 1995. http://www.afaa.com. Accessed August 2003.

"Healthy eating tips." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov. Updated April 2003. Accessed Aug. 2003.

"Physical activity and good nutrition." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov. Reviewed May 2003. Accessed August 2003.

"Exercise: Feeling fit for life." National Institute on Aging. http://www.niapublications.org. 2000. Accessed August 2003.

Cahill S. "Exercise." National Institute on Aging. http://www.niapublications.org. June 2001. Accessed Aug. 2003.

"Physical Activity: AHA scientific position." American Heart Association. 2007. http://www.americanheart.org. Accessed February 2007.

"Chapter 4: Physical Activity." Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.health.gov. Accessed February 2007.

"Target Heart Rates." American Heart Association. 2007. Accessed February 2007.

"Strength Training: Get stronger, leaner, and healthier." The Mayo Clinic. July 2006. http://www.mayoclinic.com. Accessed February 2007.

"Aerobics & Your Feet" American Podiatric Medical Association 2007. http://www.apma.org. Accessed February 2007.

"ACE Yoga Study." The American Council on Exercise. 2007. http://www.acefitness.org. Accessed February 2007.

"Strength Training 101." The American Council on Exercise. 2007. http://www.acefitness.org. Accessed February 2007.

"Pilates Primer" The American Council on Exercise. 2007. http://www.acefitness.org. Accessed February 2007.

"Types of Exercise." American Diabetes Association. 2007. http://www.diabetes.org. Accessed February 2007.

"Getting Started." American Diabetes Association. 2007. http://www.diabetes.org. Accessed February 2007.

"Physical Activity Among Adults: United States, 2000 and 2005." The National Center for Health Statistics. 2007. http://www.cdc.gov. Accessed February 2007.

"Physical inactivity and your heart." American Heart Association. 2007. www.americanheart.org. Accessed February 2007.

"Flexible benefits." The American Council on Exercise. 2007. http://www.acefitness.org. Accessed February 2007.

"Exercise During Pregnancy." Harvard University Health Services. 2003. http://huhs.harvard.edu. Accessed February 2007.

"Risk Factors." The University of Virginia Health System. 2007. http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu. Accessed February 2007.

Keywords: fitness, low-level activity, high blood pressure, physical activity, cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, heart disease
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Publication:NWHRC Health Center - Fitness
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Date:Oct 9, 2007
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