"AND the LORD God took the man (Adam], and put him into the garden of
Eden to dress it and to keep it." Genesis 2:15. God's original plan was for
people to be active. Physical activity is necessary to maintain all our
functional body units and to keep a reserve physical capacity to handle
Today, in many parts of the world people are forced to be physically active
just to survive. They must obtain food and clothing, build shelters, travel
great distances on foot, and work with their hands in a variety of
life-sustaining occupations. In our society, however, we have found ways to get
around most of these problems. Automobiles carry us where we want to go, and
machines do much of our work for us. Society has become specialized to the point
that most people are involved in occupations not requiring very much physical
Some vigorous physical activity on a regular basis is needed in order to
prevent our bodies from deteriorating. Syndromes of disuse include obesity, lack
of endurance, general muscle weakness, protruding abdomen, chronic low-hack
pain, muscle stiffness and soreness, low breathing capacity, intolerance to
stress, elevated resting pulse rate and blood pressure, increased blood-fat
levels, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Physical fitness comprises several components. Endurance is the ability to
perform work for sustained periods of time without undue fatigue. It is
dependent upon several factors. Chief among them is the ability of the
cardiovascular system to supply oxygen-rich blood to the muscle cells and for
these cells to utilize oxygen and fuel to produce energy.
Endurance is best improved by increasing systematically, but gradually, the
time one spends in regular periods of mild to moderate exercise. Mild to
moderate exercise might be, 15-60 minutes of walking, jogging, bicycling,
swimming, or doing manual labor at a pace that causes the heart rate to increase
and he maintained at from 55-85 per cent of its capacity for the duration of the
exercise period. A 37-year-old with a resting heart rate of 72 wanting to
exercise at 70 percent capacity would calculate his target heart rate with this
(220 - 37 - 72) x 70% +72 = 150
In this example 150 heats per minute would he the target heart rate. For
those less adept at math there is always the "talk test" to guide you.
It works like this, "If you can't carry on a conversation, you're
exercising too hard. If you can sing, you're exercising too easy." When you
exercise this way you are maintaining a "steady state." This
continuity is necessary to develop endurance and the "training
effect." Such endurance training must occur about every other day.
Another component of physical fitness is muscle strength. The bigger the
muscle the larger the muscle fibers are to do the work. This is comparable to a
wire cable-the larger the wires, the stronger the cable you have. However, a
muscle may look big on the outside, but may actually contain a great deal of
fat. Size can he deceptive when it comes to strength.
Physical strength also involves the bone-mineral density. Brittle bones could
give way simply from the stress of one's own muscles pulling hard on them.
Muscle mass is increased and strength developed by systematically and
gradually increasing the resistance against which a muscle is made to work.
Common methods include weights, isometrics, dynamic tension, and manual labor.
Flexibility involves the degree to which our muscles, joints, ligaments and
tendons allow us to move in our full range of motion. Common problem areas
include the low back, shoulders, and chest-muscle groups, and the back of the
legs. These muscles become tight, and we lose mobility because of prolonged
periods of sitting, improper body alignment or posture, and lack of exercise.
There are specific stretching exercises that can be done to correct and
maintain our full range of motion of all the muscle groups. Also the habit of
maintaining proper posture at all times needs to he learned.
Whichever stretches you are doing, it is always best to stretch slowly and
easily. Gradually allow the muscle to relax and reach a full stretch. Never
jerk, bounce, or force a stretch. You could do serious injury. In time the
muscle will lengthen to its full potential. Back pain or any persistent pain
could be serious and should be evaluated by a physician so that the cause may he
determined and appropriate treatment given.
Body composition can he considered as an element of physical fitness. This
term commonly refers to the percentage of body fat. Maximum levels for health
might be 15 per cent fat in men and 22 per cent fat in women. Many men are
averaging 24 per cent and women 35 per cent. Ideally, we should strive to
maintain a healthy percentage of body fat, as well as a good overall weight that
suits our occupation, height, and frame.
The amount of exercise necessary for most people to achieve metabolic body
fat changes exceeds that which would he required to simply get in shape. Take at
least one month to slowly work up to about an hour of continuous moderate
exercise five or six times per week. This should be enough time to burn the
recommended 500 calories' worth of exercise per day or 2,000-3,000 extra
calories per week that seems to he the average amount required for a weight-loss
Now that you know what physical fitness is and what exercise can do for you,
you're ready to blast off! Right? Just a minute. The conservative approach would
be to have medical clearance if any of these apply: past age 30 and have not
been exercising, overweight, have a history of high blood pressure or heart
trouble, or you have not had a checkup in the past year.
The liberal approach would he, if there are no obvious warning signs, to go
ahead and start exercising. Just make sure you start out easy and progress
gradually. learn how to exercise correctly and take care of yourself.
Some general guidelines and precautions include not engaging in strenuous
exercise for an hour or two after eating. (Light exercise after eating is good,
though, as it aids digestion.) The same holds true when you are sick or not up
to par-vigorous exercise is out, but light exercise might be beneficial in some
cases. Aches and pains may be avoided by not attempting to do too much too soon,
using proper form, and having good shoes, clothing, and other equipment you
Serious warning signs during exercise may include unusual shortness of
breath, weakness, heart irregularities, or pressure or pain sensations that can
be anywhere from the wrists to the pit of the stomach to the jaws and between
the shoulder blades. In these instances you should discontinue exercising and
see a physician right away. Other signs such as dizziness, nausea, side aches,
prolonged recovery, and miscellaneous aches and pains may he attended to by
yourself first. If no relief is obtained or if in doubt see a physician.
A good, streamlined overall exercise routine might look something like this.
First, have a five-minute warm-up period consisting of stretching and a few
calisthenics. This will get the body prepared for what is to follow and help
prevent injuries. Then, do five minutes of some muscle-toning exercises. Work
the upper body and abdomen if your main endurance exercise is going to be mostly
using the leg muscles as in walking, jogging, or cycling. Now get into your
endurance-building phase. Start out easy for the first few minutes, and progress
up to your training level of intensity. Keep it up for 15-30 minutes.
Some exercises that are aimed only at working the muscles and not the
cardiovascular system do not qualify for fulfilling this phase of the exercise
program. Also, exercises that are too short, too intense, or too easy will not
allow you to reach your training heart-rate level in a reasonable length of time
and maintain it for the duration of the training phase.
Don't stop abruptly when you are done. Slow down and keep moving at an easy
pace. This cooling-off period should last five to ten minutes. Your pulse rate
should be below 100 heats per minute within three to five minutes after entering
the cool-down part. If it is not, you may be overdoing it. You can easily feel
your pulse at your wrist or side of the throat. You can count for ten seconds
and multiply by six to get your heart rate for one minute. An exercise program
like this should be done at least three to four times per week or every other
Each time we exercise we place a demand on the body. The body will adapt to
those demands. This is known as the "overload principle" and is the
basis for maintaining and improving fitness. In short, to get anything out of
it, you have to put something in-that spells work.
The idea of "work" turns many people away from exercise- Many
people feel that they are already overworked, so why go Out looking for more?
But, as has already been explained, few people's work is the kind of work that
will promote physical fitness. For these people especially, a fitness program
would give them more energy in the long run by helping their bodies to become
stronger and function more efficiently.
Still, there are others who do not think they have the time. But we simply
need to make time, because we need exercise for health. Cut down on other
things. If our own physical well-being is not a high enough priority, what is?
Many people are ready and willing to exercise, but they lack motivation. They
can't seem to start, or once they start, they don't stick with it. Fear of death
prevents some from exercising while it encourages others to exercise. If an
exercise program is properly entered into and carried out, we need not be
afraid. The vast majority have much more to fear from not exercising than from
exercising. But fear is really a poor source of motivation. Knowledge of the
benefits helps some, but it doesn't seem to work in motivating people who are
For most people the essential ingredients to get started on an exercise
program are that it needs to he fun, convenient, and not too difficult. Injuries
turn people off, so they should be avoided by taking necessary precautions.
Consider the exerciser, the environment, and the exercise. Strive for a happy
union of all three. Other motivating factors include having a regular routine
that you stick to, joining an organized program with trained leadership, or
having group participation. Obtaining positive feed-hack from other people,
getting results, and charting your progress so that you can see and keep track
of how you are doing are all helpful. The approval of your doctor and doing
better on your physical exam this year than last year are good incentives.
Self-disciplined individuals and people who lead well-regulated lives find
sticking to any program, including exercise, easier. These qualities are largely
picked up in childhood. People who don't acquire them early in life may have a
more difficult time, but nevertheless it can be done. After all, everything we
do in life is ultimately a daily decision. We are always making decisions.
Making the right ones can be made easier if we concentrate more on living one
day at a time. M we do this, we will find ourselves taking advantage of
opportunities more, and reacting to the consequences of our neglect less.
Many people have found a "fountain of youth" for themselves in
their exercise program, and that is enough to keep them motivated. But neither
exercise, diet, stress management, or anything else will keep us going forever.
Everyone knows that these bodies of ours are slowly wearing out. We can slow
down significantly the rate of decline, but someday the silver cord will break.
"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was." Ecclesiastes
12:7. This ending would be sad except that it is not the end. Soon, when Jesus
comes, all the righteous who have ever lived will come forth from the grave,
and, together with the living righteous, will receive perfect, immortal bodies.
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the
voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall
rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with
them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with
the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." 1 Thessalonians