Author: Jeffrey Cahoon
There are at least 2 great reasons for making fitness a priority. First, it improves the quality of your life. Second, it improves the quantity of your life. If we can convincingly argue that fitness actually achieves these goals, it seems obvious it should be a priority. Many articles and magazines discuss how physical activity can minimize health risks and describe other benefits of physical fitness. However, knowing exercise is good may not be enough for us to make the time we need.
Fitness can mean different things. In order to enumerate the benefits we need to be specific about the definition. Fitness is often defined to include strength, endurance, flexibility, and aerobic ability. Each of these has somewhat different effects on quality and quantity of life.
Besides making you strong, strength training can build and maintain bones, muscles, and joints. Strength exercises create muscle mass and that muscle mass pulls more calories making it easier for you to lose weight. Strength also makes it possible to participate in activities that are not possible otherwise especially performing physical tasks that require lifting (Football, basketball, picking up and swinging your children/grandchildren …). Another advantage of strength training for women is that it helps prevent osteoporosis. More choices mean more opportunities for enjoying your life.
Endurance allows you to participate in activities for an extended period of time. How about enjoying a walk along the beach or kicking a ball back and forth with your children or grandchildren. No one wants to worry about the long walk across the parking lot at the shopping mall during the holiday season. Like strength, endurance also extends your opportunities for enjoying your life.
Flexibility allows you to move your body comfortably within the normal range of movement. Without flexibility, many common activities become uncomfortable and un-enjoyable. Reasonable flexibility is required for, pulling a sweater over your head, washing your hair, wrestling with children, and tying your shoes. Pulling on a pair of pants requires flexibility. Without flexibility, many of the everyday tasks we take for granted become arduous.
Obviously, your heart and lungs are vital to both the quality of your life and the quantity. Heart attack is a leading killer in North America. Also, it is difficult to enjoy your life if walking up the stairs is a major ordeal. Everything about life is better if you are not constantly fighting for a good breath of air. It is well documented how exercise helps prevent heart attacks. It is also well documented how exercise helps with respiratory problems and obesity. Without a healthy heart and strong lungs, you are expected to have less life, not to mention less quality of life.
I think that most people would have no problem agreeing that all the components of fitness described here are important. The problem is whether they are important enough to do something about. At every moment of every day we all have competing priorities. "Do I walk to the corner store to get a paper in order to get a little exercise, or do I drive so that I can get back and help Junior with his homework?" Everyone one has to deal with the fire of the moment which stops us from achieving our longer term goals, but we should not have to decide between our children and exercise. The point here is that we need to remember that fitness is fundamental to our happiness and we need to integrate it into our lives. All this is intended to answer the question: "Why is physical fitness so important?"
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