Principles of Health Fitness

Principles of Health Fitness: What Is Fitness?

Fitness broadly describes the body’s capacity to cope with demands placed upon it. The more efficiently the body copes as these demands become greater and greater, the fitter the person is said to be. While this might mean that fitness refers to coping with stressful situations such as high altitude or continuous cardiovascular exertion, it also refers to the ability to cope with day to day conditions. For example, someone who is unfit may be able to run a mile, someone who is very unfit however might be in danger of a heart attack or stroke just from moving around their home.

Principles of Health Fitness: How to Improve Your Fitness

We aim to improve fitness fairly gradually through the incremental increasing of those demands placed on the body. For example, exerting yourself slightly more each time you go for a run or some form of exercise. This means that your body becomes used to coping with more extreme circumstances and adapts accordingly – it’s now prepared to be pushed. Meanwhile it will also find your ‘resting’ conditions to be incredibly easy to cope with compared to the conditions you’ve experienced while training etc.

Principles of Health Fitness: The Four Principles of Fitness Training

There are four basic principles in training health fitness. One is ‘overload’, which describes the process of increasing the conditions the body has to cope with in the way described above to the point where they are significantly greater than those the body can cope with easily. This can be achieved by increasing the intensity of a workout (i.e. running faster or lifting heavier weights), increasing frequency (i.e. training more regularly) or increasing duration (running or working out for longer). These are all ways in which you can tell your body to start adapting for greater stress, whether or not you’re currently utilising any kind of training routine. You should not overload your body during training on a daily basis however as rest is crucial in order that the body can heal the damage done to it during this training, particular the damage done to the muscle fibres. It’s during this healing process that the microfibrils in the muscles come back thicker and stronger, meaning that without rest your muscles cannot grow.

The second principle is the principle of progression. This focuses on the fact that you cannot instantly become fitter, but must do so incrementally. When you overload then you should not immediately overload your body as though you were already at your fitness targets, but instead must gradually increase overloading until you reach them. The fitter you become however the more work it takes to progress to the next level but the less likely you are to injure yourself through overloading.

Specificity is the third of the principles of health fitness training and refers to the fact that in many types of training you only train certain aspects of your fitness. For example, running will increase your cardiovascular fitness and VO2 max meaning you will be able to run for longer, but will have no impact on your arm strength. Similarly, weight lifting will increase arm strength but will have little impact on your cardiovascular fitness. Fat loss on the other hand however can not be specifically targeted and the body will use up fat stores in a random order based largely on genetics. Additionally, some exercises exist that train almost all aspects of fitness such as swimming which improves upper and lower body strength as well as cardiovascular fitness (though muscle growth is less than it would be for resistance training using weights).

The final of the principles of health fitness is ‘reversibility’, which refers to the fact that we can similarly become less fit through inactivity. Just as we adapt to more difficult conditions, so can we adapt to easier conditions, and the body will quickly do so as in order to save energy. This only generally takes a short amount of time and after just three to four weeks a trained athlete can become unfit, most noticeably in the area of aerobic fitness where the body loses its ability to supply muscles with oxidative energy so efficiently.

Principles of Health Fitness: Fitness Terms

Aerobic fitness, cardiovascular fitness, cardio respiratory fitness, stamina, endurance and vo2 max all refer to the same ability to utilise oxygen for energy and transport it around the body. This improves ability in long distance running. Other types of fitness such as strength and anaerobic fitness refer more to ability in the gym.

Principles of Health Fitness: Skill Specific Fitness

Everyone needs a basic level of fitness in order to live a healthy life and function normally without being out of breath, overweight or risking heart disease or diabetes. Beyond this however, if you’re training for a specific event or sport then we need to focus on specific types of fitness and train some areas more than others. For example, if you play darts you don’t need to have amazing aerobic fitness but you do need fine muscle control and hand eye coordination. Similarly a sprinter does not need to be able to lift large amounts in the gym with their upper body, and in fact doing so may actually make them unnecessarily slow (though strong shoulders can be useful for runners). The best way to train the correct elements in the right proportions is (no surprise) to practice the sport itself. If you wish to supplement that training however or improve individual elements, you can do so by training specifically those areas – specific muscles (which can be targeted) or aerobic fitness, flexibility, balance etc.

Principles of Health Fitness: Improving Aerobic Fitness

In order to improve aerobic fitness you simply need to exert yourself for increasing amounts of time. You also need to make sure you do this regularly – at least 3 times a week is a good guide for at least 20 to 30 minutes. During this period you also need to ensure intensity is fairly high by aiming to get your heart rate to 70% of your maximum recommended heart rate (to work out your maximum heart subject your age from 220). You can also improve this further by training in the cold or in high altitude where the oxygen is less abundant in the air and your body if forced to work harder as a result.

Principles of Health Fitness: Improving Endurance

There are other ways you can improve your endurance, for example by improving your bodies ability to store and use creatine phosphate. Creatine phosphate is used by the body to recycle ATP (andenosine triphosphate), which is the ‘universal energy currency’ of all life. Made up of three phosphates which are powerfully bonded together, it is the breaking of these bonds that then releases energy and powers muscles which leaves the biproducts of ADP and AMP (andenosine diphosphate and andenosine monophosphate) which are double and single phosphates respectively. The role of creatine phosphate then is to recombine these phosphates so they can be reused. To improve this ability, run or work out as flat-out as possible for fifteen seconds (perhaps by sprinting 100 metres) then rest for the following four to five minutes (by walking back for example), then repeat for several repetitions. Sometimes this is known as anabolic running.

Another thing that can lessen endurance is the build up of lactic acid which is a byproduct of metabolising glucose for energy. This then builds up in the muscles and causes them to ache and slow down. Fortunately the body is capable of disposing of lactic acid on its own and this is an ability that can be trained. To do so work flat out this time for one minute, then again rest for four to five minutes. This will both improve the body’s ability to dispose of lactic acid and increase levels of haemoglobin and myoglobin in the body which are responsible for transporting oxygen. As well as improving the body’s ability to dispose of lactic acid though, you can also improve its tolerance. To do this work flat out for 2 minutes, or to failure, then rest for two minutes.

To improve all these elements then you can use technique of ‘time division’ and do all three as one set. For example then you would run for 13 seconds, rest for four minutes, run for one minute, rest for four minutes, then run for two minutes and rest for two minutes – then repeat. This is type of running training will improve your general endurance more than any other.

Principles of Health Fitness: Other Training Methods

There are many other ways to improve aerobic and other forms of fitness however. For example, ‘resistance training’ is how we train to improve our muscle strength. To do this correctly you need to train with repetitions and sets and use either a resistance machine or weight to make basic movements more difficult. The heavier you make the weight, the more your muscles will grow but the fewer reps you will be able to perform whereas if it’s lighter you’ll do fewer reps for more definition but less strength gains.

Principles of Health Fitness: Other Training Methods Cont.

LSD (long slow distance training, not Lucy and the Sky with Diamonds) refers to any long period of exertion continued at a steady rate and the recommended 70% of maximum heart rate. The most common forms of this kind of training are running, swimming or cycling and marathon trainers often use this kind of training in the build up their fitness in preparation for the main event. This again should be performed for thirty minutes around three times a week, but you can increase this in order to further improve your gains.

An even more interestingly named form of aerobic fitness training which takes into consideration all the principles of health fitness training described above, is ‘Fartlek training’ (I told you it had a funny name… stop sniggering!). The reason for the funny name is that it translates as ‘speed play’ in which the athlete varies the speed of his running – alternating between running and walking (much like time division training). This program might look something like this: 15 minute jog, 30 second medium pace run, 30 second sprint, walk for 3 minutes, medium pace run for one mile, jog for five minutes etc etc (and be sure to get some kind of cool down in the form of a walk towards the end).

This is similar to ‘interval training’ which is like Fartlek training (hehe) but uses a more set pattern. This means you rotate between the ‘three intervals’ which are a jog, a sprint and a run. You can alternate the length of these intervals and tweak them to be more anaerobic or aerobic and you should do at least three reps of the whole cycle. Pick up sprint training is another type of aerobic training where you walk, jog, stride then run then sprint doing fifty metres of each then going back to the beginning meaning that in other words you just build up the speed in intervals.

Isometric training meanwhile takes the slow ends of the intervals to the extreme by getting you to simply hold a static position – either using weights or your own bodyweight to supply the resistance. This trains the slow twitch muscle fibres as well as core stability and the supporting muscles in the body used for balance.

Plyometric training on the other hand uses the same principles of health fitness training but turns them on the head, utilising the most explosive and rapid movements possible such as clapping press ups, jack in the boxes etc etc. This then trains the body’s fast twitch muscle fibres and burns fat at the same time.

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Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki is a full time writer who spends most of his time in the coffee shops of London. Adam has a BSc in psychology and is an amateur bodybuilder with a couple of competition wins to his name. His other interests are self improvement, general health, transhumanism and brain training. As well as writing for websites and magazines, he also runs his own sites and has published several books and apps on these topics.

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