By Andrea D’Amore
While maybe the timing would have been better if had we posted this at the beginning of June (oops!), I didn’t want June to sneak totally past us without mentioning National Health and Fitness Month. The spirit of which, maintaining physical fitness, can be practiced all year round. Physical fitness consists of several components such as proper body composition, muscular strength and endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance and flexibility, and it is achieved through an active lifestyle and healthy, nutrient dense diet.
Proper body composition consists of having a healthy fat to lean mass ratio and is very indicative of your diet. Too much body fat is hard on the joints, the heart and other organs with abdominal belly fat being, by far, the most dangerous. Central obesity, as it is called when the waist measurement exceeds 35 inches for women and 38 inches for men, raises your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers. It is ideal for men to maintain a total body fat under 20% and women under 30%, otherwise you are putting a lot of extra stress on the body and predisposing yourself to different lifestyle related diseases.
Another component of physical fitness is having muscular strength and endurance. Strength refers to the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to exert a maximal effort, while endurance refers to the ability to perform a motion continuously without fatiguing. Building muscle, or lean mass, is achieved through resistance training and is essential for the stability of our spine and other joints, maintaining good posture and the ability to remain active as we age and for helping us maintain the proper body composition values mentioned above. That’s right! Lifting weights, working with resistance bands, kettlebells or dumbbells, or doing body weight routines like Yoga and Pilates, will help you maintain a healthy weight. Because our metabolism is determined by the amount of muscle that we have, the more you have the more fuel you burn through. Not only that, but many common aches and pains are eradicated with resistance training and maintaining a strong body.
Cardiorespiratory endurance refers to the efficiency of our heart and lungs to deliver freshly oxygenated blood to the various tissues within the body. This value is fairly malleable and improves quickly with regular walking, running, biking, hiking, or cardiovascular activity of choice. Generally speaking, the lower your resting heart rate, the more efficient your heart is and the higher the resting heart rate, the lower the efficiency of your cardio respiratory system. If you are healthy and not on medications your resting heart rate should be between 60 and 100 depending on your activity level and body size. While some well trained endurance athletes have resting heart rates below 60 BPM, anything else outside of these values should be considered abnormal.
The final component of fitness is flexibility, defined has having proper range of motion around a joint. This is often times the most overlooked component of fitness, but certainly should not be! People with less than ideal levels of flexibility oftentimes experience pain in the back and other joints due to uneven wear and tear of the joints and arthritis. People with sedentary jobs and hobbies often suffer from a lack of flexibility and this fitness component does decrease with age. However, maintaining a consistent yoga practice or daily stretching routine can greatly improve this.
So, there you have it, you don’t have to be a marathon runner or body builder to be considered fit. All it really takes is sourcing good healthy nutritious foods, like the ones found here at the farmers market, and performing some kind of daily exercise to maintain the strength and flexibility of your muscles, the integrity of the cardiovascular system and balance your fat to lean mass ratio. So come on down to the park for our weekly yoga class, buy some of the great produce here and then go for a walk or jog and be well on your way to fitness before its even 11:00 am on Saturday. Here’s to a Healthy National Health and Fitness Month, or year! 🙂
(Visit Andrea during our Yoga sessions each Saturday, 9am-10am!)