WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE "FIT"?According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical fitness is defined as 'the ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies.' A lot of people today huff and puff after walking from the car into their workplace, or walking around the grocery store. Our lives are no longer designed to maintain physical fitness. In years past just living promoted fitness, working to grow or gather our own food, hunting, building our dwellings, carrying water, were all physical tasks. Humans didn't have time to sit around and become unfit. If they did, it was because they were dying! In their book, Younger Next Year, Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge, MD, cover this evolutionary phenomenon in detail.
WHY IS FITNESS IMPORTANT?With most Americans today leading sedentary lifestyles the importance of getting regular exercise to stay fit has become even more important than in the recent past. Exercising regularly and increasing your cardio fitness works to decrease your risk of many diseases. This includes heart disease which is the leading cause of death in the United States. Other diseases that are reduced include diabetes, stroke, and colon cancer. Exercise also helps to increase lung capacity, getting more oxygen to your brain more easily. It also helps to improve joint health and flexibility as well. One of the other main reasons people begin to exercise is to control their weight. All these effects combine to help to reduce the effects of aging on our bodies, and add years to your life.
In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, there are many mental benefits as well. Exercise is shown to release endorphins into the blood stream which help reduce stress and elevate moods. Studies show that it can even have a positive impact on mild depression. People who exercise on a regular basis have generally better self esteem and attitude toward life. They sleep better at nights and have more energy throughout the day. Studies also show that they have better memories.
Another, rather unexpected, benefit of exercise is that, because many people workout in groups, it satisfies another basic need... human connection. Even if exercise only takes place once in a while with other people, this very necessary social interaction has mental health benefits. A great example of this is Mom & Baby exercise classes. New mothers often feel isolated and overwhelmed. Many yearn for an adult to talk to throughout the day. Mom & Baby classes provide an important outlet for new moms to get exercise, adult conversation, and connection. It's a great place to get babies socialized as well!