Get Fit: What Does It Mean to Be in Shape?
There is not a single definition for physical fitness.
Aerobic exercise seems to be the most important for improving health, followed by strength training and flexibility work.
New guidelines recommend two and a half hours a week of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise.
According to a growing body of research, you don’t need to get skinny or run an ultra to improve your health Click to enlarge this image.
With the onset of another year approaching, many people plan to renew their annual resolve to get in better shape. From there, the details get murky.
For some people, efforts to get fit involve eating fewer sweets. Others focus on adding more weight to the bench press, running further on the treadmill or getting to yoga class more often.
Science, it turns out, is equally undecided about what it actually means to be physical fit, with studies pointing to a variety of measures that can affect health outcomes in many ways.
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The good news, according to a growing body of research, is that you don’t need to get skinny or run an ultra to improve your health. Even if your BMI is on the high side, a simple walking program can drastically reduce your risk of heart disease and other ills. And people who exercise the least have the most to gain by simply getting off the couch.
“There is a huge return on a small investment when it comes to exercise and health,” said Tim Church, director of preventative medicine research at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.
“When someone goes from running 10Ks to running marathons, they haven’t improved their health,” he said. “But when you go from being a full-blown couch potato to being a regular walker, you have really reduced the risk of bad things happening to you — I would say on the order of 35 to 50 percent, maybe more.”
Researchers have been narrowing in on these five key areas to consider as you plan your yearly lifestyle makeover: