You Don’t Have to be an Olympian


As athletes gather for the first ever Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, it’s hard not to be inspired by their dedication and commitment. Olympic athletes are at the pinnacle of their fitness, and they plan to reach their peak at the right time. But when it comes to fitness, Olympians are like the tip of an iceberg. There are many others who enjoy fitness at different levels.

how do you define fitness?

Fitness is not just about gold medals, having a chiselled physique, being thin or having big muscles. Physical fitness is the ability of the human body to function with vigour and alertness, without undue fatigue and with ample energy to engage in leisure activities and to meet physical stresses. Fitness involves the performance of your heart, lungs and muscles under stress. It’s a combination of qualities that allow you to reach your potential in performing vigorous physical activities. Knowing what you want to achieve as you develop your fitness can go a long way toward ensuring that you will achieve your objective. The most common categories of fitness are:

  • fat/weight loss
  • aerobic fitness/cardiovascular health
  • muscle toning/strengthening
  • flexibility/suppleness.
  • While these are popular goals and all make a contribution to getting fit, exercise offers many other benefits. These additional benefits include preventing injury and preventing conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. There is also a wide range of psychological benefits associated with increased fitness such as improved selfesteem, reduced anxiety and management of depression.

    what does fitness mean to you?

    There is no “one size fits all” definition of fitness, and different training strategies are needed to achieve varying fitness goals. It’s also important to match your chosen activity with any personal preferences, behavioural style and history of injury. Think about your answers to the following questions when evaluating the best kind of exercise to help achieve your goals:

  • Do you like exercising alone, with a friend or in a group?
  • Do you prefer exercising indoors, outdoors or a combination of both?
  • What is your current fitness level?
  • Are you a competitive person?
  • Are you reasonably coordinated?
  • How much of a factor is cost?
  • Are you more likely to exercise if the location is close to home or work?
  • Do you have a history of sports injuries?
  • being active at different ages and life stages

    While regular exercise is important all through life, there are ages and stages where some extra considerations should be taken into account.

    children Regular physical activity is a priority for children. Up to the age of 10, children should be encouraged to learn basic skills through small games and group activities without the pressure of competition. An emphasis on enjoyment rather than winning encourages children to participate and fosters a positive attitude toward sport and exercise that can last a lifetime.

    adolescents/teenagers If you’re a teen, this is a fun and social time, so be sure to include group activities and team sports in your fitness plan. Weight-bearing exercises such as running and walking will help to make your bones as dense as possible. It’s also wise to try a wide variety of activities to increase your chance of finding the exercises that you’ll enjoy for the rest of your life.

    adults The challenge for adults is to make time for exercise among work, family and social commitments. Try sticking to a structured plan with set days to exercise so that you remain active when life gets busy. It’s also good to combat any age-related muscle and bone loss by incorporating strength training into your routine.

    families A supportive family environment can make all the difference when it comes to staying active. Turn off the TV and look for activities where both parents and kids can all get involved together, such as visiting the beach, bushwalking, team sports and active picnics.

    65+ It’s thought that many of the symptoms of aging are also directly related to inactivity, so stick to a comfortable exercise regime. This can help to manage common problems such as arthritis, back pain and stress. Joint problems especially tend to be a problem for seniors. This is why exercising in water is particularly beneficial, as it can strengthen your muscles and elevate your heart rate with minimal impact on your joints.

    don’t try to become an athlete overnight

    While it’s great to dust off your exercise shoes and get active, many people want to instantly transform themselves into an Olympian, so they start off like a bull at a gate. Unfortunately, this leaves you open to exercise burnout and injury.

    Exercise burnout often happens when newcomers begin training vigorously and then struggle to maintain their motivation. For example, it’s very common for people to sign up for a gym membership and start off with great gusto, only to drop out after the first couple of weeks. Burnout can also occur with people who attempt weight loss but are fatigued from a lack of nutrients because of an unbalanced fad diet. And it’s common for people whose expectations of miracle results have not been met to develop burnout fairly quickly.

    Some of the common symptoms of exercise burnout include lack of energy, reduced enthusiasm for training and disappointment at the lack of results. Be wary of these symptoms, especially during the first two-to-four weeks of a new exercise program. Listen to your body, and if you start to feel tired or lacking in motivation, take a few days off. Here are some helpful tips on how to ease yourself into exercise.

    Start off slowly. Begin training at a level where you feel comfortable. Train at a low intensity for two-to-four weeks. This will give your muscles and ligaments time to adjust to your increased level of activity. Make sure you include rest days. This will help your body to recover and keep your mind fresh.

    Look at the big picture. Over the longer term, you will get the best results by sticking with a program that gradually pushes you a little further from week to week. Focus on where you will be in three months, not in three weeks.

    Have fun. To make health and fitness a regular part of your life, you must enjoy it. You’ll be far more likely to stay motivated if you choose activities that you enjoy. A great way to do this is to take up a team sport like volleyball or football, which will combine exercise with your social life.

    Vary your intensity Another way to add interest and boost your results is to vary the level of effort during your workouts. By alternating short, hard bursts of intense exercise with slow, moderate exertion, you can increase the intensity of your training without suffering from burnout.

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