Fitness for Health

Doctor NickThe question that who is fitter out of a marathon runner vs. a sumo wrestler cannot be answered so simply. When we talk about ‘fitness’ often people only think about aerobic fitness. Fitness is such a broad term and a complex subject which can include health and skill related fitness. These components of fitness include endurance, agility, speed, strength, power, flexibility, balance and skill.

Health related fitness is often divided into several other components which form our overall health status:

– Endurance: This is also sometimes known as stamina and is the ability of your body to continuously provide enough energy to sustain submaximal levels of exercise This type of fitness has enormous benefits to our lifestyle as it allows us to be active throughout the day, for example walking to the shops, climbing stairs or running to catch a bus. It also allows us to get involved in sports and leisure pursuits.

– Strength: vitally important, not only in sports but in day-to-day life. We need to be strong to perform certain tasks, such as lifting heavy bags or using our legs to stand up from a chair and maintaining posture. Strength is defined as the ability of a muscle to exert a force to overcome a resistance.

– Flexibility: the movement available at our joints, usually controlled by the length of our muscles. This is often thought to be less important than strength, or cardiovascular fitness. However, if we are not flexible our movement decreases and joints become stiff. Flexibility in sports allows us to perform certain skills more efficiently, for example a gymnast, dancer or diver must be highly flexible, but it is also important in other sports to aid performance and decrease the risk of injury. In daily activities we must be flexible to reach for something in a cupboard, or off the floor. It also helps to improve posture, reduce low back pain and improve balance during movement.

– Body Composition: the amount of muscle, fat, bone, cartilage etc that makes up our bodies. In terms of health, fat is the main point of interest and everything else is termed lean body tissue. The amount of fat we carry varies from person to person and healthy averages vary with gender and age. A healthy amount of fat for a man is between 15&18% and for women is higher at 20-25%. It is important to maintain a healthy percentage of body fat because excess body fat can contribute to developing a number of health problems such as heart disease and diabetes and places strain on the joints, muscles and bones, increasing the risk of injury.

In conclusion fitness cannot be defined as any one thing; it is broken up into many components. These components are all very important in activities of daily living. Most sports involve all of the fitness components however some may be more important than others. So the answer to the question, ‘who is fitter between a marathon runner and a sumo wrestler?’ The marathon runner would be fitter in terms of endurance and body composition however the sumo wrestler would be fitter in terms of strength and power.

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