Let’s talk health and fitness! What do these words mean to you? So often they are molded together to form some magical phrase that so many people strive to understand and master, but do people truly understand what they mean – individually and as a unit? I think this is a hard answer because when it comes down to it, health and/or fitness means something different for everyone, and that is OK! But for our sake let’s try to define this mystical creature.
First, health…according to Webster’s there are two distinct definitions:
- The state of being hale, sound, or whole, in body, mind, or soul; especially, the state of being free from physical disease or pain.
- A wish of health and happiness, as in pledging a person in a toast.
Honestly, I think we could tie both of these into what we are looking for. The state of being whole…what a great perspective, not just in body, but also mind and soul. I don’t know about you, but when I think of my health as so much more than my physical state. You could eat perfectly, have perfect habits and exercise everyday, but if you are not addressing your emotional and psychological health you will not feel whole – guaranteed. This brings me to the second definition, a wish of happiness. Although not quite as pertinent, this brings full circle the idea of health being more than just physical.
Okay, on to fitness, the official Webster’s definition, “good physical condition; being in shape or in condition”. This seems pretty clear cut, but let me ask you to think a little deeper. Fitness is not just a workout program or an exercise routine. It isn’t just going to the gym or training for a marathon. I may be bold in saying this, but your fitness can ultimately define you! This doesn’t mean that all fit people are good or vice versa, mainly because fitness is defined in so many different ways, but I do believe and have seen that those who find some type of fitness as part of their regular routine are generally more successful and live happier lives. No, you don’t have spend hours in the gym to achieve this, but you do have to MOVE! When your body is active, your mind is also more active. Maybe fitness for you is being able to play at the playground with your children or it being able to not end the day so dog tired that all you can think of is sleeping or being able to do your yard work/other hobbies without pain at the end. Or maybe it is to complete a marathon – all of these options are completely valid!
Let’s come back to physical health, we know as a nation we are not very “healthy”. The American Heart Association has laid out some pretty basic guidelines for people to follow in order to improve cardiovascular and physical health. They recommend:
- At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes OR
- At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity AND
- Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.
So if you are reading this and you have no idea where to start, here are some simple ways to get moving. I am sure you have heard most of these before (it isn’t rocket science) but when performed regularly, you begin to develop a routine and you will notice your body starting to crave more movement.
For aerobic activity there are several things you can do that require NO EQUIPMENT and NO GYM! The most obvious – walking! Find a nice trail, lake or neighborhood where you can walk briskly for at least 30 minutes. If weather is an issue, the mall is a great place to get a walk in (plus you can do some window shopping!) and it is FREE! The faster you walk, to more intense your workout will be and eventually you can turn this into jogging/running.
If running/jogging is too much on your joints, one of my favorite activities, that you may not think of as aerobic is yoga. You can get such an amazing workout from a yoga practice and it addresses cardio, strength and flexibility. Plus, it helps your mind, body and soul all in one!
For a more vigorous workout consider HIIT (high intensity interval training). All this means is you do a move at a high intensity for a very short interval and repeat in a circuit fashion. I love these because you can get such a great workout in a very short period of time. Again you could do this at home without any equipment. Here is an example of 20 minute HIIT workout that will address both aerobics and muscle strengthening
- Jumping Jacks
- Front Kicks
- Mountain Climbers
- Squats/Squat Jumps
- Reverse Lunges
- High Knees
- Push ups
If you are a beginner perform each exercise for 30 seconds; rest up to 30 seconds between each exercise; repeat each set 1-2 times
If you are an intermediate perform each exercise for 30 seconds, rest 15 seconds; repeat each set 2-3 times
If you are advanced perform each exercise for 30 seconds, rest up to 10 seconds (or less); repeat each set 3 times
Let’s talk core for just a minute. This is my soap box area and as a physical therapist that treats core instabilities and orthopedic issues day in and day out, I have a lot of hands on experience with core weaknesses. I DO NOT recommend sit ups or crunches to any of my patients. There may be a few of you out there who perform them properly, but the majority of people don’t, simple as that. Additionally, I truly believe there are so many other core exercises that have more bang for the buck than a sit up or a crunch. My two favorites are planks and bridges. With both of these moves the variations are endless and you are working so many muscle groups with one move it is crazy!!! I challenge you to look up programs with just planks and I bet you will be amazed on the variety and how challenging they are! OK, end soap box 🙂
Finally, I want to discuss form, for many of you that will start a workout program at home (please make sure to consult your medical provider before starting), I want your focus to be on form, not reps or weight. If you can do a hundred push ups but have terrible form you are asking for an injury. Use mirrors, have someone watch you and do your research on what good form looks like for any move you may attempt.
So there you have it! I challenge you to ask yourself, what does health and fitness mean to me? Once, you figure that out, ask a second question – am I living that definition? If not, why? Get up and get moving!! You only have one life and your body is a gift, treasure it and treat it right!
If you would like more information on developing a program or finding what works for you, feel free to contact me email@example.com
Susan Facemire, PT, DPT is a physical therapist that specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction, women’s health and orthopedics as well as an online health and fitness coach that is passionate about fitness, health and well-being.