Are you a fitness freak or a couch potato? Does the thought of exercise make you panic and break out in a cold sweat? We’re here to help by shedding some light on what fitness is all about. And why it’s good for you.
5 key fitness elements
Fitness isn’t just based on your cardiovascular fitness or whether a person is within their normal weight range. For instance, a marathon runner who has excellent cardiovascular fitness may not be strong or flexible. An overweight person who is aerobically active may be fitter than someone in a normal weight range who doesn’t exercise.
The bottom line – physical fitness isn’t just about one thing. It's important to consider several different areas before you can really know how to get fit. We’re going to go through five major components of fitness: cardiovascular endurance; muscular strength; muscular endurance; flexibility; and body composition. Taking these all into consideration might help you to organise and execute your own well-balanced workout routine.
For adults, a normal resting heart rate ranges from 60-100 beats per minute (bpm). Generally, a lower resting heart rate indicates a more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. Outside these ranges may suggest a health issue. A resting heart rate below 60bpm (unless you are a professional athlete) may not necessarily be a concern – but you should watch out for symptoms like weakness, dizziness and low-level energy. Studies show that a high resting heart rate is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular incidence in diabetics. Given that heart disease is one of the biggest killers in the UK, boosting cardiovascular health is particularly important.
You can improve your cardiovascular fitness by doing regular exercise. Running, walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, and boxing are just a few of the many workouts you could try out. The key is to be consistent. Carry on reading to see how much exercise you should be aiming to do.
Want to be able to lift heavy things and not even find it difficult anymore? That’s what muscular strength is all about! It refers to how much force a muscle group can exert in one effort. To train your muscular strength, you can perform controlled movements with larger loads of weight increased in increments. For example, you could do squats with weights sufficient enough to make 6-15 repetitions difficult. Other strength training exercises include the bench press, leg press or bicep curl.
Better muscular strength can improve your muscle mass, and also induce a metabolic effect that helps in burning fat. Bonus!
Muscular endurance is the ability of muscles to perform a repetitive motion for a prolonged period without fatiguing. Why not test out your endurance with the sit-up test?
Examples of muscular endurance training include plank holding; skipping; and long-distance cycling, where you can develop fatigue-resistant muscles in your legs and glutes. You can also try performing any single movement such as squats or sit ups for 90 seconds or more. Basically, it’s muscle group-specific. This means you can develop high levels of endurance in some muscle groups but not others.
So, where you choose to focus your muscular endurance should correspond to your personal fitness targets. Being able to climb several flights of stairs may be your goal; but if you want to become an endurance athlete, using high-repetition exercises can help you achieve this.
Can you touch your toes? Flexibility is the range of motion you have around a specific joint. For instance, you might have very flexible shoulders, but tight and inflexible hamstrings or hips. Improving your flexibility can have a massive impact on your overall wellbeing - at any age. It can help increase your muscular performance, reduce tension, stress and chance of injury. Test out how flexible you are with the sit and reach test.
Examples of flexibility training include yoga, Pilates, stretching individual muscles, lunging, and self-myofascial release. Wait...what on earth is that? Check out this article which explains a bit about self-myofascial release.
This final component refers to your body’s ratio of fat mass to fat-free mass, including lean muscle, bone and organs. Maintaining a healthy body composition is the goal of almost all regular fitness routines, reducing the chance of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
But good news - by working on the other four components, you’re well on your way to a healthier body composition. Why not measure your body fat percentage and record it in your Evergreen Life app so you can keep track of your body composition?
Increasing your daily activity
Which do you think is more effective?
- Going to the gym twice a week.
- Making small efforts throughout each day to increase your overall physical activity.
It turns out that doing the latter might be more beneficial than you think...
If you’re not exactly a gym-bunny or you get home from the office and can’t imagine anything worse than attending your local spinning class, you might still know that you really should be making an effort to increase your activity levels. Simply, performing small tasks repetitively throughout every day could be your key to success.
If we account for 8 hours of sleep per night, most people have 16 hours in the day to perform what is essentially the rest of their life. Using 1 hour of this to work on your activity levels is already putting yourself at a disadvantage. By doing something as little as a minute of squats or 5 minutes pacing every hour could help to expend a similar amount of energy taken to complete a gym session.
For example, you’d never guess - but doing 5 minutes of press ups, abdominal crunches or lunges every half an hour over the course of an 8-hour shift could burn the same number of calories burnt in an average gym session (based on a metabolic rate of 2000kcal per day).
Watch your step!
You’ve probably heard that you should be walking 10,000 steps per day to stay healthy. But why? And how did they come up with this number? Is it just a fitness myth?
Well, the 10,000 steps mantra has been traced back to a public health initiative in Japan in the 1970s. But it is a good indicator of how much physical activity you achieve in a day. And the more active you are, the lower your body mass index (BMI) is shown to be.
More recently, there have been studies that have devised a ‘daily step’ index:
- Less than 5000 steps per day may means you’re leading a 'sedentary lifestyle.'
- 5000-7499 steps per day is typical of daily activity excluding exercise and can be considered 'low active.'
- 7500-9999 likely includes some physical activities (and/or increased activity because of your job) and might be considered 'somewhat active.'
- 10000-12500 steps per day means you are 'active.'
- Over 12500 steps per day would classify you as ‘highly active.’
Quality over quantity?
There are other studies indicating that it’s not the number of steps that are important but the intensity of the activity. So, getting your heart rate up may be just as beneficial as the number of steps you take. Studies are currently looking into whether moderate activity with 10,000 steps is better than a shorter but brisker walk or playing sport.
An attempt has been made to count the number of steps that match up with the national guideline of 150 minutes a week of moderate activity and has shown this to be approximately 7500 steps.
How much exercise is enough?
Current guidelines say you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous high-intensity exercise. It’s even beneficial to do short 10-minute bursts of an activity that raises your heart rate. Keep this up 3 times a day for 5 days per week and you’ll have hit that 150-minute target!
Being physically active has been shown to have a range of highly important benefits, including:
- Reducing your risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer and depression.
- Less likely to fracture your hip or vertebrae.
- Higher level of cardiovascular fitness and muscular fitness as well as a healthier body composition.
You can achieve this level of exercise by carrying out any of the following types of moderate activity for 150 minutes per week:
- Brisk walking
- Riding a bike on level ground
- Pushing a lawn mower
- Water aerobics
- Or any other type of moderate activity you enjoy!
Maintaining a balanced fitness routine can benefit your health and wellbeing in almost every way, just remember – it has to work for you!
Discover what good fitness means for people like you
Most advice about fitness comes from studies on a large number of people. But we know that we’re all different which is why that advice doesn’t always work for you as an individual. There’s also a whole load of research on fitness which hasn’t even been done yet!
The Evergreen Life approach is to uncover good fitness habits based on a simple outcome. Does your fitness allow you to feel well and avoid long-term diseases? Despite there being a wealth of fitness information, obesity and heart disease are at an all-time high. Basically, there’s a lot more to learn – and that’s where you come in. We want to help you and all our users get personalised advice to achieve the results everyone wants to achieve.
By asking questions to a large group about their exercise and fitness habits via the Evergreen Life app, we can ask what people do to keep fit and measure how fit they are and then let you know about the habits and practices of people just like you. Over time, we’ll all know what fitness practices people are doing and whether it’s the best way to avoid long-term disease. By pooling our information, we’ll start to see the ‘Big Picture,’ and expose trends in what fit people do compared to those who aren’t as fit. Sharing this information with you – you'll be able to find out the optimal ways to keep fit and achieve your own fitness targets.
It’s your data: you own it, you share it
Here’s where the Evergreen Life approach to fitness differs… this information is owned by you. It’s completely up to you to decide if you want to act on the information and share it for the benefit of others, or simply observe what we find out - you decide. If you do decide to share any information you contribute, it’ll be entirely confidential and completely anonymised. By sharing your data as a Data Donor we can help you help others in a similar way to donating organs. You’ll be doing your bit to help us all be fit and healthy.
If you’d like to be part of our Data Donor programme:
- Tap the top left menu in the app
- Select ‘Data and Consent’
- Go into the ‘Data Sharing Options’
- Tick ‘On’ within the ‘Data Donor’ section
We hope you’ll be as excited as we are to begin this journey and we’d like to say thanks in advance for taking the time to help with answering the app questionnaires and agreeing to be a Data Donor.