Do Canadians still have to rely on the Five Pillars of Fitness?

Aerobic conditioning, muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility and body composition should be considered in exercise programs, but not always to the same degree.

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At a time of year when many Canadians are reviewing their exercise commitments, it’s understandable that you’re not sure how best to get in shape. With title after title recommending everything from high-intensity interval training to walking, fitness is no longer so easy to define.

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Ask your family doctor, and they’ll likely prescribe you to get enough exercise to improve health, manage stress, and increase energy stores. Ask a trainer and they’ll tell you about the benefits of strength training and send you to the weight room. Then there’s the long list of personal goals including everything from losing weight to running a marathon to achieving a curling stone with ease. With such a diversity of goals, not to mention the diversity of Canadians, is there really an exercise routine that ticks all the boxes? Or is fitness more nuanced than just sweating a few days a week?

Traditional definitions of fitness list five distinct elements: aerobic conditioning, muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility and body composition, each of which should be considered when designing an exercise program. ‘exercises. But in recent years, experts have questioned whether flexibility and body composition (the percentage of lean mass in relation to body fat) are still relevant measures of fitness for the general population. After all, how important is it to be able to touch your toes when it comes to overall fitness? And do you really need to be slim to be in shape?

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Additionally, most people don’t have the time or the inclination to develop the five components of fitness to their fullest potential. Instead, they tend to focus primarily on those who match their goals or interests. Runners run, walkers walk, swimmers swim, cyclists cycle, group exercise addicts take fitness classes, and the weight room has lifts.

Make no mistake, there are benefits to improving all of the traditional elements of fitness. A fit body is strong and flexible with enough endurance to face the physical challenges of everyday life, whether it’s taking out the trash, chasing the kids, or throwing a curling stone across the board. the rink. But the reality is, most Canadians don’t stick to even the most basic fitness recommendations, which the World Health Organization says means getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. In fact, conversations with fitness and health professionals have shifted from developing the five components of fitness to simply reducing sedentary behaviors.

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ParticipACTION, the Canadian agency dedicated to promoting physical activity, has tried to clarify what it means to be in good shape by updating its exercise prescription. It recommends that “adults between the ages of 18 and 64 participate in a range of physical activities (eg land / water) and settings (eg recreation, transportation, occupation, household) through all seasons. The organization also suggests that “adults limit long periods of sedentary behavior and practice healthy sleep hygiene (routines, behaviors and environments conducive to sleeping well)”.

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Even with this more holistic approach to fitness, ParticipACTION has not abandoned the concept of the different components of fitness. He recommends that Canadians get 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week, weight training twice a week, and accumulate several hours of light physical activity, including standing, per week. To assess the fitness of Canadians, the group also uses parameters such as the time we spend in light physical activity, moderate to vigorous physical activity, muscle building activities, balance activities, active transportation, participation in sports and our daily step count.

You can’t go wrong following the ParticipACTION guidelines, which are designed to improve the overall physical and mental health of Canadians, including lower risk of death, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, weight gain and several cancers; improved bone health, cognition and quality of life; and a reduction in anxiety, depression and dementia. But for those with specific fitness goals – like running a marathon, improving speed and agility on the tennis court, or increasing strength by 10 percent – it’s likely your workouts will need a bit. more direction and specificity, which means reflecting on the original components of fitness.

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The most effective exercise programs are strategic by including the basic pillars of fitness – prioritizing those that best suit individual goals, without completely forgetting the rest. Ultimately, the best test of your overall fitness is not just being able to achieve your personal goals, but being able to take on any physical challenge thrown at you. This includes the only Canadian fitness test that really matters: having the muscle strength and endurance to lift shovelfuls of heavy, wet snow, cardiovascular conditioning to clear the entire aisle without a break, and the flexibility to put on. and take off your winter boots. with ease.

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