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In the quest for the ideal body, the value of physical fitness and strength can get lost in the shuffle. Many people use the words fit and athletic interchangeably to express the ways they want their bodies to look, but fitness and athleticism are about more than just appearance.
Physical fitness is a measure of overall physical strength and health, and is measured according to physical capabilities rather than appearance. A physically fit person has good aerobic and muscular fitness, and is flexible with a healthy body size and composition, according to the Mayo Clinic. Physically fit people can perform basic physical tasks such as walking and climbing stairs without becoming winded, have a healthy blood pressure and relatively low resting pulse and are not overweight or underweight.
Athletic fitness is a measure of a person's ability to participate in athletic events. People with athletic bodies typically appear lean or muscular, and may have more muscle in one area of the body than in another. A competitive tennis player, for example, may be slim with large shoulders and legs. A person who is athletically fit is typically physically fit, but not always. Conversely, a person who is physically fit may not be athletically fit, particularly if she has injuries that prevent high-intensity training or regular sports competition.
Thin vs. Health
The pressure to be thin is so overwhelming that many people equate thinness with fitness or athleticism. But many thin people are simply naturally thin or eat very few calories. People with larger bodies may be very physically fit if they exercise regularly. Sometimes physical fitness actually means gaining weight. People who are too thin may experience cardiovascular problems, weakness, lethargy and difficulty regulating body temperature.
Regular exercise, a healthy diet and eliminating bad habits such as excessive smoking and drinking are key to physical fitness. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control emphasizes the importance of cardiovascular exercise such as jogging, running or cycling. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week. Additionally, you should engage in strength or resistance training two days per week. A healthy diet consisting of lean proteins, plenty of fruits and vegetables and lots of water can help you maintain a healthy body weight and sustain the energy necessary to keep up with your exercise routine.