Understanding fitness and weight control

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By James D. Lomax

Due to the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, people are resuming their normal daily activities. During these months of confinement, working from home with restricted physical activity, many people gained weight and became less physically fit. People go back to the gym to start the exercise programs again. Others have started to walk more now that the weather is warmer.
It is important to understand the research on maintaining fitness, its influence on weight control, and its relationship to improved health. Definitions are helpful in highlighting each area.

Excellent physical fitness is defined as:

  • The ability of your heart and lungs to supply oxygen during sustained physical activity.
  • Muscle endurance and strength to perform activities without fatigue and with the strength needed to do the job.
  • Healthy body composition, which is determined by the relative amount of body fat, muscle, bone mass, and flexibility.

To describe normal weight, the term body mass index (BMI) is often used. It is the weight of a person in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters. A high BMI can indicate possibly high body fat. BMI defines the weight categories that can lead to health problems, but it does not diagnose an individual’s body fat or health, nor does it predict whether the person is in good physical shape. You can find your BMI by finding an online BMI calculator and entering your height, weight, and age.
There is a large body of medical research that describes the benefits of regular exercise and weight control. These benefits can include the prevention and amelioration of certain chronic health conditions that can shorten lifespan as well as the prevention of certain types of cancers, not to mention the strong correlation between obesity and the severity of COVID-19. .

How do you determine if you are in good shape?
The most common way for your doctor to determine if your cardiovascular system is in good shape is to order a fitness test or a stress test. You would be asked to walk, jog, or run on a treadmill. Your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing are monitored. Irregular heart rhythms can be detected with this test as well as possible narrowing of the coronary arteries. This type of test can also be performed on a stationary exercise bike.
Regular exercise helps prevent or manage many health problems, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, and some types of cancer; it can also improve the symptoms of arthritis. Other benefits of regular physical activity are a reduced risk of heart attack; management of weight loss; improved cholesterol profile; lower blood pressure; stronger bones, muscles and joints; and a lower risk of osteoporosis and a lower risk of falls.

What type of exercise program is right for you?
If your goal is to lose weight, reduce your waistline, improve some aspect of your health, or gain strength or endurance, you need to set realistic goals. People often set goals that are impossible to achieve, potentially dangerous, or inappropriate for what they seek.
There are many exercise programs listed on the internet, as well as gyms that advertise their workout routines. Before investing in a program, here are some suggestions on how to logically find an approach that is right for you:

  1. Before embarking on an intense exercise program, make an appointment with your private doctor.
    A comprehensive assessment helps establish guidelines for cardiovascular, pulmonary / breathing and orthopedic limits. In collaboration with your doctor, initial goals can be established. As you progress, new objectives may be added.
  2. Choose several activities that you have enjoyed in the past. Doing the same routine every day can get boring and uninteresting. Mix up the routine.
  3. At first, “go low (intensity) and slow down” and increase the duration of the exercise and the amount of weight or resistance. People become more motivated when they notice an improvement or loss in weight. For older people, the time to reach goals may take longer. It is important not to try so hard that you sustain physical injury.
  4. Individuals can start by walking and participate in resistance exercises such as swimming pool walking. A trainer can help you decide which exercise equipment and how much weight to use for resistance training.
  5. There are many diets. The bottom line is that losing weight from a diet requires a reduced calorie intake. Reading labels and measuring the volume or weight of food helps determine the calories you eat. More frequent and smaller meals are better than waiting to get hungry. Your doctor can determine the number of calories you need to absorb so that you can lose weight at a rate of one to two pounds per week. Crash diets don’t work in the long run.

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