If you’ve taken your fitness activity check in your Evergreen Life app, you may have noticed a few things that you might like to improve or change about your current fitness levels. In this article, we’ll address the aspects covered in the questionnaire to help you understand more about each area so you can decide where you might want to focus your attention.
5 key fitness elements
Physical fitness isn’t just about one thing. It’s important to consider all the different areas before you can really know how to get fit. We’re going to go through five major components of fitness that were highlighted in the fitness activity questionnaire: cardiovascular endurance; muscular strength; muscular endurance; flexibility; and body composition. Taking these all into consideration might help you to shape your own well-balanced workout routine.
Cardiovascular fitness (aka cardiovascular endurance or aerobic fitness)
For adults, a normal resting heart rate ranges from 60-100 beats per minute (bpm). Having 80-100bpm doesn’t mean you’re acutely unwell or require urgent medical attention, but having a consistent chronic resting heart rate in this range may indicate a lower level of cardiovascular health and a higher risk of long-term cardiovascular mortality.
Studies also 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 and circulatory diseases causes 1 in 4 deaths in the UK, boosting cardiovascular health is particularly important.
However, if you’re a professional athlete or an avid exerciser, you may have a resting heartbeat of below 60bpm, sometimes as low as between 30-40bpm, because physical activity strengthens your heart muscle. This means your heart can work more efficiently, pumping a greater amount of blood with each heartbeat, and delivering more oxygen to your muscles. Yet, for most adults, outside the range of 60-100bpm may suggest a health issue. For example, it’s important to watch out for symptoms like weakness, dizziness and low-level energy when a person has a resting heart rate below 60bpm and doesn’t exercise often.
You can improve your cardiovascular fitness by doing regular exercise. Running, walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, and boxing are just a few of the many forms of movement you could try out. The key is to be consistent. Carry on reading to see how much exercise you should be aiming to do.
Strength training is designed specifically to increase strength, build muscle and improve durability with load-bearing activity. 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 1-12 repetitions difficult. Other strength training exercises include the bench press, leg press or bicep curl.
Better muscular strength can improve your muscle mass, and strength training may also be particularly effective for fat loss and maintaining or increasing bone density. Doing this kind of resistance training for at least four weeks may help decrease body fat by an average of 1.46%, as per a review of 58 studies.
Muscular endurance is the ability of muscles to perform a repetitive motion for a prolonged period without fatiguing. This type of resistance training is like strength training but focused on higher repetitions (12+) and lower weights.
Other 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.
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
Here are few tips to increasing your activity if you want to improve your overall fitness:
Little and often
If you’re not exactly a gym-bunny or you can’t imagine anything worse than attending your local spinning class, making an effort to increase your activity levels and performing small tasks repetitively throughout every day could be your key to success. For example, doing 20 squats every time you go to the loo, 15 press ups before each meal or 20 lunges every 45 minutes can all add up!
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’s a good indicator of how much physical activity you achieve in a day. In addition, whilst there are better measures, the more active you are the less visceral body fat you’re likely to have.
However, there are other studies indicating that it’s not the number of steps that are important but the intensity of the activity. So, the intensity or speed with which you walk may be just as beneficial as the number of steps you take. Although, increasing amounts of moderate-vigorous exercise, lowering sedentary time, and step count all have a significant impact on cardiovascular fitness overtime, the results do suggest that the more vigorous the exercise, the greater impact.
An attempt has been made to count the number of steps that match up with the national guideline of at least 150 minutes a week of moderate activity and has shown this to be approximately between 7,500 and 9,999 steps a day (which equates to approximately 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous daily physical activity).
How much exercise is enough?
Current guidelines say adults aged under 64 should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous high-intensity exercise a week. It’s even beneficial to do short ten-minute bursts of an activity that raises your heart rate. Keep this up three times a day for five 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.
- 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!
Track it and improve your Wellness Score
If you decide to increase your daily activity or take up a new fitness routine, may be a good idea to retake the Fitness Check in the Evergreen Life app (if you haven’t done it already) to see how your Wellness Score has changed – tracking changes over time can help motivate you and support you in understanding the areas that you might want to focus on next.
Dr Claire Marie Thomas MRCGP DFSRH DTMH DipNLP MBChB BMedSci Medical Expert
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