How can you improve your fitness?

This is the fourth column in the series about health and exercise.

First column discussed Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest”. Research supporting the concept of survival of the fittest is strong and compelling. There is plenty of evidence showing relation of fitness, physical activity and exercise to reduced mortality overall and from cardiovascular causes.

Second column was on the fundamentals of exercise. We need to exercise regularly to maintain tone in our muscles. If you do not use certain muscles on a regular basis then the muscles start to waste, become thin and weak. Our cardiac and skeletal muscles need regular exercise to keep them toned and strong.

Third column was on the importance of having a good exercise plan. An exercise plan should have three components – aerobic exercise, resistance training (weight lifting) and stretching. The plan should have two aims – to prevent disease and reduce mortality. A good exercise plan should prevent cardiovascular disease and prevent weakness of muscles, bones and joints .

Today, we will discuss the concept of physical fitness. A fitness program should train you to build strength, power, stamina, endurance, flexibility and balance.

To build strength, power and stamina, the best exercises are: swimming, basketball, bicycling, climbing stairs, dancing, hiking, and jogging.

To build flexibility, the best exercises are: swimming, basketball, dancing, tennis and yoga.

Except for swimming, none of the other exercises cater to all aspects of fitness. Therefore, you should combine more than one type of activity in your schedule to maximize your fitness.

To prevent boredom and monotony, you should change the exercise regime and goals every six to eight weeks. This keeps your mind and body working towards a new goal. A professional qualified trainer can help you achieve this. They know more about strength, power, stamina, endurance, flexibility and balance. This article is just an introduction to what you need to do to be fit and healthy.

Review of literature suggests swimming is excellent for all aspects of fitness. It probably fits the definition of a perfect or best exercise. When swimming, you can burn 12 calories per minute. Compare this to jogging 9.6 km. (six miles) an hour, cross-country skiing, squash and handball where you can burn 10 to 11 calories per minute.

Those people who are calorie conscious and want to shed some weight off their girth, thighs and gluteal areas would like to know what kind of exercise would do that. Here is some information on how to melt that unwanted fat.

You can lose two calories per minute by just standing or sitting at one place. You can lose up to four calories a minute by walking 3.2 km (two miles) an hour or bicycling eight km. (five miles) an hour.

You can lose up to seven calories a minute by indulging in sexual activity, shoveling dirt, skating or bicycling 16 km. (10 miles) and hour. Anyway, who would like to shovel dirt when you can burn calories by getting involved in a romantic activity?

Other examples are: housework burns five calories/minute; raking leaves burns six calories/minute; tennis, shoveling snow, downhill skiing, and water-skiing burn eight calories/minute; and basketball burns eight to 10 calories/minute.

What about golf? Golf is not a good activity to build stamina. It is good for flexibility. And has small effect on building strength. You can lose 250 calories per hour when you golf riding a cart.

A study done by Golf Digest showed a golfer who walks 18 holes while carrying his bag travels an average of 9.4 km. (5.9 miles) and burns 1811 calories. A rider with no cart path restrictions, surprisingly, walks an average of 3.7 km. (2.3 miles) and burns 859 calories.

So, keep moving. Remember, more is better and less is better than being a couch potato.

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