Public Health Corner: Physical fitness and its importance

Being physically fit and active is important no matter what age you are.

Physical fitness is important because it allows a person to feel better on the inside and outside. Cardio fitness or exercise that increases the rate at which your heart works helps the ability of the heart to pump effectively and improve blood pressure. It can improve the way the body uses oxygen and provides the body with the ability to handle increased work with less effort. The immune system can also be enhanced and better able to handle attacks by viruses and other illnesses. As a result, physical activity can lower a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer and improve a person’s ability to think and concentrate.

Working out can tone muscles and strengthen bone to prevent fractures and improve balance as a person ages. Along with that comes flexibility which is a positive that can result from working out. Flexibility allows your body to move freely without pain or stiffness through all different range of motions.

A fit body can handle stress and increase mood busters after a good work out. It can improve the appearance of your body so if you feel you look good you will probably feel better.

Physical activity helps a person reach and maintain the proper body weight and BMI or body mass index. To be considered fit, men should have a BMI of less than 17% and women should be less than 24%. This is calculated by height and weight. The following link is a good place to start to get an idea of where you fall in the body mass index.

Now the big question is, “Where do I start especially if I haven’t been active recently?” If you work at desk and sit a lot during the day, take a stretching break for 5 minutes every hour. Get up and walk to your coworker’s desk verses sending an email, park further away and walk or take the steps instead of the elevator, bike around the block, dance to your favorite song, or try swimming. The goal is to be moderately active for 150 minutes a week. That means you can use 10 minute increments to obtain that 150. Walking is easy and not very expensive. Choose activities that you enjoy and then just do them. Add strength training exercises once or twice a week. You can use dumbbells or just cans from your pantry if that is all you have. The key is to avoid NOT moving! Remember that it is always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise workout.

There are also opportunities for more formal workout opportunities like fitness centers in your community. Fitness centers usually have coaches or people who can give you guidance.

Life is short so enjoy the life you have been given by making it the healthiest you can! Reach for the goal of a balanced life – body, mind, and spirit!