Subarna Debbarma (BPT, DNHE)

What is Physical Fitness? 

Physical fitness involves the performance of the heart and lungs, and the muscles of the 
body. And, since what we do with our bodies also affects what we can do with our 
minds, fitness influences to some degree qualities such as mental alertness and 
emotional stability.

The physical fitness definition is the ability to perform daily tasks with ease, without becoming tired, and with extra energy to enjoy leisure-time activities such as hobbies and extra daily tasks. Physical fitness is when a person can execute daily activities with maximum performance, endurance, and strength.

History of Fitness

In the 1940s, an emigrant M.D. from Austria named Hans Kraus began testing children in the U.S. and Europe for what he termed, "Muscular Fitness." (in other words, muscular functionality) Through his testing, he found children in the U.S. to be far less physically capable than European children. Kraus published some alarming papers in various journals and got the attention of some powerful people, including a senator from Pennsylvania who took the findings to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. President Eisenhower was "shocked." He set up a series of conferences and committees; then in July 1956, Eisenhower established the President's Council on Youth Fitness.

In Greece, physical fitness was considered to be an essential component of a healthy life and it was the norm for men to frequent a gymnasium. Physical fitness regimes were also considered to be of paramount importance in a nation's ability to train soldiers for an effective military force. Partly for these reasons, organized fitness regimes have been in existence throughout known history and evidence of them can be found in many countries.

Gymnasiums which would seem familiar today began to become increasingly common in the 19th century. The industrial revolution had led to a more sedentary lifestyle for many people and there was an increased awareness that this had the potential to be harmful to health. This was a key motivating factor for the forming of a physical culture movement, especially in Europe and the USA. This movement advocated increased levels of physical fitness for men, women, and children and sought to do so through various forms of indoor and outdoor activity, and education. In many ways, it laid the foundations for modern fitness culture.

Types of Fitness 

• Aerobic Fitness or Cardiorespiratory Endurance – the ability to deliver oxygen and
nutrients to tissues and to remove wastes, over sustained periods of time. Guidelines:
20-30 minutes of exercise to raise your heart rate most days.

Muscular Fitness – Muscular fitness refers to the strength and endurance of your
muscles. Strength training can help you improve your muscular fitness. It also enables
you to increase your body’s lean muscle mass, which helps with weight loss.
Guidelines: two or three 30 minute sessions a week that challenge the major
muscle groups to fatigue (you can use calisthenics and/or weight training.

Flexibility – the ability to move joints and use muscles through their full range of
motion. Flexibility can help with performing daily tasks, improve circulation and posture,
aid in stress relief and enhance coordination. Many experts believe that stretching can
help reduce the risk of injury due to physical activity. Guidelines: Stretch when you
work out or at least 3 times a week to maintain flexibility.

Stability and Balance – Stability and balance are associated with your body’s core
muscle strength the muscles in your lower back, pelvis, hips and abdomen.
Strengthening these muscles can help to combat poor posture and low back pain. It
also helps prevent falls, especially in older adults.

Components of Fitness

Depending on the source, the components of fitness vary considerably. Below are common components:

Cardiorespiratory endurance - typically measured by how long or fast a person can perform an activity and how this impacts measurements such as heart rate and oxygen consumption.

Muscular endurance - typically measured by how many repetitions of an exercise a person can perform. Common tests involve push-ups and sit ups.

Muscular strength - typically measured by how much weight can be moved in relation to repetitions. Exercises involving multiple joints and muscle groups such as squats or bench press are often used.

Muscular power - typically measured by how much force can be generated during a given activity. Advanced equipment used by biomechanists are often needed to measure muscular power.

Flexibility - typically measured by how far a muscle group can be stretched or joint can be moved. The most common tests involve the hamstrings and shoulders.

Balance - typically measured by how long a particular position can be held with or without some type of activity being performed. Simple tests such as standing on one leg can be used to assess balance. More advanced tests may involve standing on an unsteady object while trying to catch a ball.

Speed - typically measured by how quickly an individual can move from one point to another. The 40-yard dash is often used to assess speed.
Body composition - this is the amount of fat on the body versus other tissues such as muscle, bones and skin. Measured using a variety of tests and devices. Simple tests using mathematical equations or calipers are common and inexpensive. More advanced tests such as underwater weighing are far less common and much more expensive.

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