Fitness Matters!

Three weeks ago, I began talking about the importance of balance and fitness. I’d like to focus a little more on the fitness aspect now.

This semester, I decided to take the personal fitness class at Drury. In Personal Fitness, we spend our class period doing both cardio and weight lifting exercises. We do a 15-minute cardio workout of our choice and 45 minutes spent on toning or strength training (depending on our individual goals). There’s a lot to learn… proper form, machine uses, and how to tailor a workout to individual needs.

For cardio, there are treadmills, ellipticals, and bike machines available in class. Each have programs which maximize fat burning, build endurance, or just give your heart a good workout. Of the three machines, the exercise bike is my favorite one. I don’t care for treadmills because they feel unnatural to me as far as body mechanics goes. It feels like it stunts the natural, flowing movements that the human body takes on while walking. Plus, I tend to lose my balance on them for some odd reason. Likewise, I find the elliptical machine annoying simply because I have a long stride and the machine makes me feel like I have to mince my steps. If I’m going to go for a walk I prefer to do it out-of-doors in the fresh air and sunshine. But the bike, I love the exercise bicycle! In fact, I think I get a better workout on the bike machine than when I’m riding my bicycle around the Greenway Trails. So, if I cannot ride my bicycle outdoors, I will go for the machine version every time. I just set it to random programing and pedal to my heart’s content. Though, I don’t usually exceed 30 minutes.

For strength training, there are a variety of free-weights and lifting machines available in class. Each weight lifting machine has a system of levers and pins for setting the proper angles and desired weight amounts, while the pulleys on each machine makes lifting fluid and measurable. A design which helps to prevent over exertion or extension, thereby preventing some workout related injuries. This reason alone is why I prefer the machines over the free-weights. Proper body mechanics are essential to limiting injury. After a month of working out two or three times a week, I’ve really missed it this past week as I’ve been ill and haven’t gotten any of my workouts done. Once my bronchitis has cleared up, I’m getting right back into my routine.

There are so many benefits to exercise! Exercising improves lung and heart function, provides muscle tone and definition, and increases energy and sense of happiness. If that weren’t enough, exercising balances out hormones and blood pressure, encourages healthy body weight, and raises HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Because everybody’s body responds to exercise differently making individualized workout programs is a must, though if you have existing medical conditions it would be smart to go over any program you consider doing with your physician.

This quick little video provides a list of the top 21 known benefits of exercise.

I think part of the reason for the different responses has to do with the concentration of muscle fibers a person has. There are slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers, the proportion of which genetics determines and varies person by person. One simple test to gauge your concentration of muscle fibers is to do a vertical jump test. All you do is stand up straight and jump as high as you can (legs straight) into the air while someone measures your jump. If you jump higher than 25 inches then you have a greater concentration of fast-twitch fibers, less than 25 inches means you have more slow-twitch. A person with more slow-twitch fibers has a greater ability to endure aerobic exercise, whereas a person with more fast-twitch fibers has a greater ability to endure anaerobic exercise and can offer more force behind their movements. Long distance runners are one example of someone who has a predominance of slow-twitch fibers, while sprinters are an example of someone who has a predominance of fast-twitch fibers. That’s not to say a person with more fast-twitch fibers cannot do a long distance run or a person with more slow-twitch fibers cannot sprint. With the help of weight training and other exercises to target certain muscle groups, a person can increase the ability of both types of fibers to use greater force. (Hoeger 217)

The workout facility at Drury is wonderful. They have a good mix of cardio and weight training options. Plus, they offer mini-workout classes which have sign up sheets due to limited space. If you aren’t already using the facility, give it a try. You’re already paying for its maintenance each year, so you might as well take advantage of it while you can. The workout room is attached to the old gym and you’ll need your student ID to access it. There are also open swim times (signs posted in the HPER building state the times), if you’re more interested in swimming.

Hoeger, Werner and Hoeger, Sharon, (2009). Lifetime Physical Fitness and Wellness. 10th Edition.  Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

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