There are 2 main forms of cardiovascular fitness: aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic fitness typically involves longer durations with less than maximal effort. For instance, a long hike or cycle where your heart rate is raised but you are still able to hold a conversation. Anaerobic on the other hand, is the shorter type of intense activity, where you are working at or very near your maximum capacity. Think of a 400-metre sprint or 1 minute going as fast as you can on a bike. Aerobic fitness develops heart and lung capacity, providing us with a good base level of fitness to progress to more intense activity as our fitness levels improve. Anaerobic fitness is a great way to take our fitness to the next level after our aerobic capacity has been developed.
Muscle Strength and Endurance
Muscle strength refers to how much force you can produce (or how much weight you can lift!). For instance, if you can lift more weight this week than you could last week, you have increased your muscle strength. Muscle endurance, on the other hand, is the ability to sustain exerted force over a period (think long distance running or being able to carry heavy shopping bags for a long distance). It is important to build both muscular strength and endurance to help support our bones and joints and reduce the risk of injury when doing everyday tasks such as moving heavy furniture or gardening, for example.
Flexibility can be thought of as our muscle’s ability to lengthen passively (such as being able to bend down and touch your toes). Flexibility can help us reduce tension, improve posture, and increase our ability to endure physical stress. To become more flexible, we can practice static stretches regularly (holding a stretched muscle for a period without feeling pain). It is important to be flexible and strong through the full range of a muscle to help reduce the risk of injury and general aches and pains, particularly if we are sitting down for long periods of the day. Yoga is an excellent example of an activity to improve flexibility through the full range of a muscle.
While flexibility and mobility are often confused, mobility refers to the ability to move our joints through a full range of motion (without pain). We can think of mobility as being able to control a movement. To improve our mobility, we can regularly practice dynamic stretches (stretches involving movement, rather than holding a position). Mobility training can increase our joint health and performance, as well as reducing risk of injury. It’s important to develop both our flexibility and our mobility for us to achieve the results we want and combat the aches and pains brought on by modern sedentary lifestyles.
So how can we improve our physical wellbeing?
1.Taking part in regular strength training to build strong and durable muscles that can support our joints and help us stay pain free. The NHS currently recommends we all strengthen the major muscle groups in the body at least 2 times per week.
2. Using a variety of both static and dynamic stretches to improve flexibility and increase our range of motion in different positions. This is vital for injury prevention and will help you to perform better in any physical activity.
3. Regular cardiovascular activity to develop our aerobic and anaerobic fitness. The NHS currently recommends we all do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week (brisk walking, dancing, riding a bike etc) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week (running, swimming, walking upstairs etc).
By developing these 4 components, we will not only improve our physical health, but we will also improve our confidence, self-esteem, and general mental health.