This paper clarifies the concepts of health and fitness, briefly explains why attaining both is essential for all ages, and imparts a beginning program for those who are truly motivated. Being in the best of health means more than the absence of illness.
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Beyond avoiding the sickbed, being healthy and fit has immense physiological, cosmetic, and psychological value. Since keeping fit means staying active and engaging in a program of exercise, one gets improved muscle strength, bone density/durability, and cardiovascular tone.
In turn, better circulation improves skin tone and appearance. If your preferred exercise is playing a competitive sport, so much the better.
Stress recedes and the pleasant feeling of exhaustion afterward calms your nerves and helps you sleep better (WebMD LLC, 2009). Given these physiological benefits, exercise is great for helping prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (Atwal, Porter, and MacDonald, 2002).
What to Do
Exercise can take many forms. Start with a program of brisk walking on the treadmill at home. Or walk several laps around the track at school. Sign up for an aerobics dance class at one of many gyms around town. Or go biking around the park or forest trails and marvel at the sights you used to miss.
The Body Composition Benchmark
Since it is good to engage in exercise for the long term even if improvements in physique and health are subtle at first, it is good to have a reliable benchmark. The American Heart Association (2009) recommends keeping track of body composition: how much of your body are fat, bone, and muscle. Typically, an inactive but reasonably slender adult female may have 20-25% body fat. A nurse can measure how thick the fat layer under the skin is with calipers or run one through a bioelectrical impedance analysis device that measures resistance encountered by a low-voltage electrical current to assess body fat. After a period of exercise at some vigorous sport (multi-lap swimming or distance running), one can get fat down to as little as 10% of body mass (National Institutes of Health, 2007).
American Heart Association (2009). Body composition tests. Web.
Atwal, S., Porter, J. & MacDonald, P. (2002). Cardiovascular effect of strenuous exercise in adult recreational hockey: The Hockey Heart Study. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 166 (3); 303-307 (5 pages).
National Institutes of Health (2007). Weight management. Web.
WebMD LLC (2009). The incredible benefits of regular exercise. Web.