What Does it Mean to Be Fit?

The early part of the year is the time for the new resolutions we have about many things, including our personal appearance and fitness. Summer will soon be here and we want to look our best. Perhaps we have already signed up for the gym and rather predictably not attended anywhere near as much as initially intended. We want to be fit but are not clear at all what that means or the significance of the typical fitness measures used to track progress. Our lack of knowledge impairs our ability to plan our training and reduces the chances of success. While physiotherapists understand more about these concepts than most people they are still not that knowledgeable in detail.

A major health focus in the community is the management and prevention of coronary heart disease, a very common health condition and responsible for a large annual death toll. We can all work at our risk factors and bring the various parameters closer towards safe limits. Fitness is not one thing but composed of various abilities, parts of each of which may need to be developed to reach an acceptable result. Allowing one of the components to be ignored can limit the potential fitness we might achieve.

In aerobic fitness the body can keep up a level of performance for a significant period of time without tiring, perhaps to cycle continuously for an hour. The training effect level must be achieved for 15 to 20 minutes or improvements in capacity will not be reached.

For our muscles to be fit we need to develop enough strength, power and endurance in them to perform the required movements for the required time.

Flexibility is the ability of our bodies to be extensible, for the balance of looseness and tightness in bodily structures to be optimal for functional activity.

Dynamic and functional activities demand considerable balance, maintaining the control over our postural stability as we perform complex motions under load.

To use all the strength, balance and endurance we need to work on coordination which is the practice of the skills needed to master the movements necessary.

Typical values for the measurements which are used to indicate fitness and health are a resting blood pressure of less than 140/90 (140 over 90). The higher figure, 140, is the systolic blood pressure, the pressure occurring in the main artery when the heart is in systole (sist-oley) which is the main pumping action. The lower figure, 90, is the diastolic blood pressure, the pressure in the main artery when the heart is in diastole (di-ast-oley), the resting phase when it is refilling before the next pumping action. If the diastolic, lower number is elevated it indicates that the arterial system is stiffer than it should be and so the pressure within it is higher.

The likelihood of heart disease, the risks of stroke, problems with peripheral blood supply, abnormalities of kidney function and heart disease are all potential consequences of hypertension or high blood pressure. The risks of getting atherosclerosis or cardiac disease are increased by elevated cholesterol levels and the recommended level is less than 5 millimoles per litre. Bodyweight is another indicator of health and the BMI or Body Mass Index is a measurement of the appropriate bodyweight for our height. The typical poster gives coloured areas of the chart, relating weight to height and giving a figure which indicates the weight categories of healthy, underweight, obese or overweight.

Healthy BMI values are stated as between twenty and twenty-four point nine, so by examining the chart we can predict our ideal weight ranges for our height and so realistically assess what we need to do. The BMI may have some limitations as it can give what seems like unrealistically low healthy ranges in some people, perhaps related to their particular structure such as having a high muscular bulk or large bodily frame. However, it does give a general indicator of the suggested healthy weight. Body fat content, another health indicator, is recommended to be between twenty one and twenty seven percent.