How fast can fitness change your life?
American athlete Mat Fraser was crowned the fittest man on earth when he won the CrossFit Games for the fifth time in 2020.
The Crossfit Games see competitors from around the world take part in a variety of events which they are not told about beforehand.
Some of these events in the past included distance swimming, obstacle courses, 1-rep-max lifts, handstand walking, sled pushes, rope climb and the carrying of odd objects.
How is fitness measured?
Does reading about someone like Mat Fraser make you feel guilty about being out of breath when you climb a set of stairs? Perhaps it’s time to take a look at your own fitness levels.
No, you don’t have to be like Mat. But you do have to get moving if you want to function at your best. Reaching the point where you can consider yourself fit comes with life-changing benefits.
What does it really mean to be fit? According to Medical News Today fitness is about more than being able to run fast or lift heavy objects.
In fact, we can divide fitness into five components:
- Cardiorespiratory fitness. This refers to the body’s ability to handle the type of activities that cause an elevation in your heart rate, such as jogging.
- Muscular strength is the ability of the muscles to apply force, or in layman’s terms, being a bit like Superman.
- Muscular endurance refers to the muscles’ ability to exert force for a considerable amount of time without getting tired.
- Body composition looks at the amounts of muscle, bone, water, and fat in your body. This will differ between fit and unfit people.
- Flexibility is the range of movement around a joint.
A person who performs well in each of these components can be considered physically fit.
Why you should get fit?
It’s no secret: exercise is good for you. Some of the benefits include:
- Active people lead more productive lives, thanks to improved levels of energy and mental clarity. According to Todd Astorino, assistant professor of kinesiology at California State University-San Marcos, fit employees perform better. “Companies with less wasted work hours and less sick time end up with lower healthcare costs, and an improved bottom line,” he said.
- This one we all know: exercise plays a crucial role in both losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight. The more you exercise the more calories you burn. Also, certain types of exercise improve your resting metabolic rate. This is the number of calories your body will burn while in a resting state. Basically, the more you exercise, the more calories you can burn while you are not exercising.
- Exercise helps your body to combat disease. Regular exercise can help you to prevent or manage a large variety of medical conditions. These include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, some types of cancer, stroke, arthritis, recovery from and prevention of falls, depression and anxiety.
- Linked to the relief of depression and anxiety, exercise reduces your stress levels. A good workout stimulates various chemicals in your brain that make you feel happier and more relaxed.
- According to a 2009 study by the University of California even a little bit of exercise can improve your body image. Exercise will make you feel better about yourself and more attractive long before you even reach peak fitness levels.
- Fit people enjoy better sleep.
Why is it so hard to get started?
You could be forgiven if you roll your eyes at the notion of exercise reducing anxiety. It can very well be a cause of anxiety when you know you must, but you really don’t want to.
We all know what starting an exercise programme feels like. Your chest burns, you become drenched in sweat, you gasp for air and develop aches in places you didn’t know exist.
Why is it so hard when you know the benefits are endless? Are you simply lazy or is there more to it?
Exercise needs to be hard in order to be effective. Exercise is work, and if you do not push yourself out of your comfort zone you won’t see drastic results. What makes it even more of a challenge is that you have to go back for more. How many of us take a peek in the mirror after our gym session?
Surely, after working that hard, I should be looking skinnier? And then – nothing.
Fact is, many high-calorie junk food and sweet treats contain more calories than you will burn in one average workout. Exercise is hard work that goes as far as causing physical discomfort, without much noticeable, short term rewards. It’s no wonder we give up.
But what if you push through? After some time you will most likely grow to enjoy your sessions – and even miss them desperately if, for some reason, you have to quit.
Have you ever wondered what happens inside your body when you start working out? Things change significantly, and all for the better.
4 ways your body changes when you start exercising
Apart from the health benefits, your body starts functioning completely differently when you start to exercise. These facts might be just what you need to motivate you to finally get up from the couch.
- When you start exercising, your muscles will be sore afterwards. Your every move will likely be agony. But change the way you think about this. It’s not pain, it’s your muscles growing. The exercise is causing little tears in your muscles. When these heal, the body rebuilds them, and so the growth happens. The good news is that in time the pain will dissipate. As your body gets used to building muscle, less damage will occur during workouts.
- Regular exercise makes your heart bigger – literally. When you work out your heart starts beating faster. This helps your body to circulate more oxygen to keep you going. All this vigorous pumping causes your heart to grow, which will also strengthen it and more efficient. This leads to a lower heart rate and blood pressure. In the end, this lowers your risk of having a heart attack.
- After about a year of exercise, your bone density will increase. This reduces your risk of suffering a fracture.
- A fit person’s body uses oxygen more effectively by encouraging the body to optimally distribute and use oxygen.
How long does it take to get fit?
Some benefits of exercise appear the immediately when you start, and gradually become more. But at what point can you consider yourself physically fit? The answer to this question will depend on how much effort you put in, and of course how fit you are when you start. An extreme couch potato will have to work harder for longer to get fit.
In terms of the earlier mentioned five components of fitness, a different timeline is attached to each component.
Depending on the kind of exercise you do, your muscular fitness, for example, could improve faster than your flexibility.
These factors can also influence the time it takes you to get fit:
- Your own body. No two people are the same and while one person might get fit in no time, the next person might struggle.
- There are different levels of fitness. You might want to get fit, but not quite as fit as Mat Fraser, the fittest man in the world. In that case, you will reach your goals in less time.
The good news is that you don’t have to be as fit as Mat. Any kind of movement is good for you. Bobby Maximus is another person who knows his stuff when it comes to fitness. He created The Maximus Gym and is the director of the American Project Maximus, one of the country’s most hardcore training programmes. And he is very, very fit.
Bobby has guided many people, both men and women, on their path to fitness. In an article for Men’s Health he makes an interesting observation. “For the majority of people, it takes roughly 130 quality hours to get fit.”
You need to work these hours into six months. One hour per month for 130 months, for example, won’t cut it. “It is the equivalent of training hard, an hour a day, five days a week, for six months,” says Bobby. “You need to spend your hours doing genuinely hard work. Each hour should be uncomfortable – but that is what’s required for real change,” he continues.
“If you’re able to log those 130 hard hours while also paying attention to your behaviour outside the gym with good nutrition, you’ll be successful.”
Apart from the mentioned health benefits, a whole new world will open up to you once you become physically fit. You will be able to do so much more.
Imagine being able to run with your children, to carry things and move furniture without needing help, and even going on adventurous outings that you wouldn’t consider before.
Being fit truly allows you to get the most out of your time on this planet.