Today we are going to talk about a subject that in the last two decades has been constant in the media: the physical conditioning. Currently in almost every newspaper written, TV programs, magazines and advertising campaigns are highlighted the benefits and the need for good physical conditioning. But to understand this theme well, we need to understand some terms correctly. Come on. what is the difference between physical activity and physical fitness?
As early as 1994, physical conditioning was defined as the act or effect of conditioning the body. Making it fit to perform specific motor tasks 1 . Physical fitness, in the view of this author, would be directed towards the balanced development of all capacities related to the physical condition: strength, cardio respiratory and muscular resistance and flexibility.
Physical fitness, in turn, could be defined as the ability to perform daily tasks with vigor and liveliness, without undue fatigue and with the energy to enjoy leisure activities and satisfy unforeseen emergencies 2 .
Considering these concepts, we can affirm that physical conditioning is the physiological state contrary to sedentarism, achieved through the training of the various physical valences such as strength, muscular and cardio respiratory endurance and flexibility.
A good physical conditioning, aimed at health or even sports, leads the individual to have a better physical fitness, because being well conditioned is able and perform the tasks of their day to day with less effort, higher income and lower risk of injuries.
Benefits of Good Fitness
People with physical fitness have better mood and more sense of well-being
If we do a random search by asking strangers if they recognize the importance of good physical conditioning, most of them will say yes. However, if we ask the reasons for this importance few of them will be able to explain. Knowing how physical conditioning can improve our lives is fundamental so that we can convince ourselves of their importance and thus, have discipline and dedication to physical training. Let us now present some of the main benefits of physical fitness in the life of those who practice physical exercise.
Body Weight Control
A good fitness program helps prevent weight gain and keep it at proper levels. Physical exercise increases energy expenditure and accelerates metabolism , the more intense the activity, the greater the caloric expenditure 3 . Gyms are perfect places for physical exercise, however, you have to remember that there are other excellent options like beaches or parks.
Besides the specific moment for regular physical exercise, it is also interesting that we can insert more physical exercises in our daily life, for example, climbing stairs instead of using the elevator, or getting off the bus just before your destination to take a walk. The importance of the role of physical exercises for the control of obesity was recognized, since the caloric expenditure from physical exercises helps a lot in the loss of body fat and improves physical fitness levels 4 .
Prevention and Treatment of Diseases
Regardless of your current body weight, having good physical fitness increases the levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as good cholesterol, and lowers the triglycerides associated with heart disease.
The effects of physical conditioning on coronary risk factors are multifactorial. Data obtained from meta-analyzes of randomized studies have shown that participation in regular exercise programs is a form of effective intervention in the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of the disease, aiming not only to interrupt the progression of atherosclerosis but also to regress it 5 .
We also know that physical exercises work in the prevention and treatment of hypertension and circulatory diseases. In middle-aged individuals, it was observed that a reduction of 2 mm Hg in blood pressure provides a direct 4% decrease in cardiovascular disease mortality.
Besides this benefit, good physical conditioning favors other protective mechanisms for the practitioner. Reduction of body weight, visceral adiposity, inflammation and improvement in the endothelial response play a preventive role in the development of diseases related to the circulatory system or heart disease 6 .
A good physical conditioning still acts to prevent diabetes and greatly benefiting people already carrying this disease. Regularly exercised diabetics have increased glucose uptake, decreased insulin resistance, reduced bad cholesterol (LDL-c), increased good cholesterol (HDL-c), and improved heart efficiency by resting bradycardia.
These benefits are due to modifications such as increased glucose transport in the muscle cell and increased sensitivity of the cell to the action of insulin. Recalling that the main factors that improve glucose uptake rate are increased blood supply during exercise, allowing the availability of glucose to the muscles, and increased glucose transporter expression (GLUT-4) in muscle 7 .
It is common to hear the report that after practicing physical exercises people feel lighter and happier. But, is this true? Much has been studied about the subject and some hypotheses are presented to explain the benefits of exercise on mood: exercise increases the level of neurotransmitters (noradrenaline and serotonin) promoting mood improvement and decreasing tension. In addition, there seems to be an increase in endorphin, which is a neurotransmitter directly related to the sensation of euphoria and reduction of anxiety, tension and anger 10 .
However, it is important to emphasize that excessive physical exercise can cause worsening of mood, a characteristic of over training syndrome, presenting high levels of Fatigue, Depression, Anger and Mental Confusion 11 . So watch out for factors like duration, intensity and rest.
In general, regular exercise is associated with a number of psychological benefits, such as improved mood, self-concept, and well-being, as well as decreased anxiety, depression, stress, and hostility in both healthy and in clinical patients 12 .
An interesting study presented a study in which initially sedentary women began to exercise for 17 months 13 . After the training period the averages of the evaluations show significant improvements of the levels of tension, depression, anger, vigor, fatigue and mental confusion from the first to the last evaluation. That is, having good physical conditioning seems to contribute positively by raising the mood and well-being levels of individuals.
Another benefit of good physical conditioning is undoubtedly the improvement of sleep quality. Researchers around the world have turned their attention to this topic and many works have been done with the goal of uncovering how exercises work in a person’s sleep pattern. Positive results of the exercises were found in the improvement of sleep and its possible disturbances. An epidemiological study carried out in the city of São Paulo confirms this idea, since it found that among sedentary patients there is a higher prevalence of sleep complaints when compared with physically active individuals.
The indication of most scholars for physical exercise as an insomnia treatment is that it should be performed in the morning, preferably, or with a minimum interval of 3 hours between the end of physical activity and bedtime 15. Practicing physical exercises close to bedtime can have an opposite effect to the desired one, hindering relaxation and a good quality of sleep 16 . Another recommendation would be to maintain the following exercise prescription plan: preferably aerobic exercises with an average duration of 30 minutes, moderate intensity and frequency of at least three times a week, respecting the morning or afternoon schedule, and never night.
In addition to what has been mentioned previously, other benefits can be obtained by improving physical fitness, through innumerable physical activities and different types of physical exercises and sports.
Swimming is one of the sports that lends itself well to training and improving the fitness of its practitioners. Swimming is one of the most complete physical activities, as it develops symmetrically throughout the body, works on strength, increases lung capacity and stimulates circulation 18 .
The practice of swimming combines the pleasure of a sport with the benefits to good form, better health, maintaining the elastic muscles, benefiting bones, improving lung capacity, and can be practiced in any age group.
Swimming is a great way to improve overall physical fitness.
Running is also a great way to get physical. Walking and jogging at moderate speed are examples of aerobic activities that in turn stimulate the lungs, heart, and circulation to bring oxygen to muscles. This category of exercise brings many benefits to the body, reducing the chance of cardiovascular diseases and improving quality and life expectancy, since these are the long-term aerobic exercises that use the body’s fat reserves as energy source.
Football, a sport that is the national passion, is an excellent means of social inclusion, especially when practiced by children and adolescents. Besides working the different physical valences such as strength, flexibility, cardiorespiratory capacity, motor coordination and agility, it is a very efficient means for the psychosocial improvement of its practitioners. In the work carried out with 102 adolescents aged 14 to 17 years, from Rio Grande do Sul and Mato Grosso, it was found that making new friends, exercising, belonging to a team, being cheerful and having fun are the factors most important to them within the practice of football 20 .
Also, fights can bring multiple gains when you think about fitness. The cardiorespiratory system is much required in submaximal struggles, in addition to muscle strength in general, motor coordination and agility. Martial arts enable your practitioner to optimize physical abilities. The authors add that martial arts such as Jiu Jitsu, Karate, Capoeira and Judo improve the strength, flexibility and cardiorespiratory endurance of their adepts 21 .
Why Is It So Hard to Gain Physical Fitness and So Easy to Lose?
Many ask themselves this question and the answer is simple. Our body has been programmed to always be as efficient as possible and sometimes it means spending the least amount of energy to survive. We are governed by the law of least effort.
Our body will not maintain any structure or condition that is not being requested. Therefore, in the absence of overload (neuromuscular or cardiorespiratory) the body quickly loses physical fitness. It is as if the body thought: “They are not demanding anything from me, so it is not necessary all this musculature and all this cardiorespiratory fitness.” Keeping a lot of muscles working spends a lot of energy, so the body quickly gets rid of them to return to a state of minimum conditioning that is sufficient just for everyday activities.
Gaining fitness is a slower and more gradual process. The body is required in activities with intensity higher than usual, and thus the amount of lean mass and cardiorespiratory fitness required for these activities are not sufficient. But if a little extra energy is offered to the body it strives and manages to “build” muscles and improve the efficiency of its functioning.
All of this is a direct consequence of the fact that our bodies still function as they were millions of years ago when food was scarce and hunger was a very real threat to anyone. At that time, the energy saved over the course of days and weeks keeping only minimal muscle mass could well be the difference between life and death. Currently, hunger is no longer a real threat to most of us in modern civilization, but our bodies have not had time to keep up with this change, since physiological evolution occurs over a much longer period of time.
10 Tips to Improve Physical Fitness
Now we’ll look at some tips that will help maintain or even improve physical fitness.
- Keep an active life. That’s it. Even if you are not enrolled in a health club, try to lead a more active life by walking to work or walking with the dog.
- Practice regular physical activity, even if it is at least twice a week. Choose a physical activity you like and start.
- Try to feed yourself properly. A balanced diet with fiber, carbohydrates and proteins, and low amounts of fats will help a lot to keep your body weight balanced and your energy levels adequate to practice some physical activity.
- Make sure there is adequate sleep, ensuring between 6 and 8 hours of sleep daily.
- Proper hydration is critical to maintaining the physiological processes of a physical exercise practitioner. Depending on the type and intensity of exercise, up to 3 liters of water per day will be needed.
- If the problem that prevents you from following a physical training plan is lack of time, invest in more vigorous physical activities, since more intense exercise, even if practiced for short periods of time, increases caloric expenditure and contributes to improved fitness physicist.
- In your training routine include cardiorespiratory exercises (walking, running, swimming, water aerobics), muscle strength (bodybuilding, functional training) and work your flexibility.
- Avoid ingesting alcoholic beverages because alcohol in the body negatively influences metabolic and physiological functions, which are essential for physical performance. Alcohol intake interferes with the absorption and utilization of carbohydrates, heart rate, and muscle blood flow. In addition, the rate of injury in sports increases proportionally to the increase in the amount of alcohol ingested.
- After starting a physical exercise program control your anxiety to expect results only in the medium and long term. In the beginning, focus on good posture while performing the movements, on your concentration and enjoy yourself with your movements.
- Exercise preferably with the guidance of a good Physical Education professional. This will ensure greater effectiveness and safety for you during your workouts.
The Role of the Physical Education Professional
Faced with so much evidence in favor of the practice of an exercise program for the improvement of physical conditioning, what would be the role of the Physical Education professional? Firstly, the professional needs to update and study hard in order to be able to prescribe appropriate training plans for each specific situation of his students.
Another good strategy is to call the student to be co-responsible for the results of the training. This is possible when the professional explains to the student which training strategy he has chosen for him and how each phase of the training will be held. Rather than simply performing what is requested, being aware of what is being done the student takes responsibility for the training and dedicates more, ensuring better results.
It is up to the Physical Education professional to make a good anamnesis of his student to identify the personal tastes, affinities and natural aptitudes of his student, to, as far as possible, propose activities that he likes and with which he identifies himself. The professional should also guide his student about the correct rest and adequate nutrition to optimize the results of the training. If necessary, you should join other health professionals such as nutritionists and doctors to better serve your student.
Care and Restrictions physical fitness
After being convinced of the importance of good physical conditioning it is necessary that the individual take some care during his training to increase the safety and effectiveness of the exercises.
- Heating: Heating is essential before all physical activities and if the weather is cooler it should be done longer and with greater emphasis. The heating may be organic (light walk, light trot, bicycle) or joint (rotations of major joints). The stretching exercises light (not bending) may also be part of the heating. Every 10 minutes of organic heating increases between 10 and 13% the amount of synovial fluid in the joints. As the body becomes warm, flexible, the nervous system is prepared to receive a greater training load and the risk of injury drops significantly.
- Appropriate clothing and footwear: It is essential to wear elastic clothing that does not limit movements and whose tissue allows for body sweating. The shoes should be suitable for each type of activity, remembering that the sneakers should be non-slip, without loose shoelaces and with some anti-impact system on your soles.
- Respect for individual restrictions: Each individual carries a history, with limitations such as previous injuries, surgeries, congenital malformations, pains and effects of some medications. It’s no use copying a workout plan made for some celebrity on the internet being that it will not suit your reality. The training should be prescribed respecting the limitations and highlighting the potentialities of each one.
- Hydration and temperature control: Properly moisturizing before, during and after exercise will ensure the effectiveness of physiological processes, as well as prevent hyperthermia from the heat produced during exercise. With the hydrated body it is easier for the body to transpire and, with that, to regulate its internal temperature.
- Proper nutrition: The body needs energy to perform physical exercises. An individual who trains without proper energy intake may enter hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which will directly affect the functioning of the central nervous system (a system that feeds only on sugar), with a low yield and, in more severe cases, and may even lead to coma. Post exercise nutrition is also very important, since the body that exercises itself needs a lot to replenish its protein, essential nutrient for the formation of muscles and bones.
- Orientation of a good professional: It is always worth remembering that in order to perform a good physical training, adapted to its specificities and limitations, a good Physical Education professional will make all the difference. It will greatly increase your chances of getting better results with training, as well as providing safety while running the moves.
After everything that was presented it seems certain that having a good physical conditioning helps and much in our day to day. If you train to compete in a particular sport or even just to improve your aesthetics and health, this conditioning will reflect in other areas of your life.
People who have good physical fitness and workout the main components of health (strength and endurance, resistance and flexibility) have more physical fitness to pick up their children, shop at the supermarket, climb stairs, change a tire and clean at home.
Performing a good physical training plan will lead the individual to decrease the risk of injury, improve their performance in sports activities, tire less at the end of each activity and will not feel those muscle aches so unpleasant the next day. However, some care is needed such as getting a warm up, moisturizing and wearing appropriate clothes and shoes, as well as feeding and resting properly and ask the guidance of a Physical Education professional.
A well-conditioned person becomes more fit for life, sleeps better, improves mood, reduces the incidence of illness, better controls his body weight and has more energy for his day to day life.