It Matters!

Your physical fitness is one of the best indicators of your long term health status and quality of life. The ability to go about your day without undue fatigue and maintain functional independence aswell as performing exercise is highly correlated with a strong score on daily mood profile, mental wellbeing and low risk of developing chronic disease and dying prematurely.. unless you get a bang of a bus of course.

But what exactly is ‘physical fitness’?

Physical fitness can be characterised by your level of cardiovascular fitness and muscular fitness, (including ‘strength’) combined.  Traditionally speaking cardiovascular fitness was the gold measurement for an individual’s long term health, however as I will go on to explain muscular strength is now recognized as being at least as important (if not more) than  cardiovascular fitness.

Our levels of strength dictate how we interact with our environment every day. It underpins our confidence to take part in all activities of daily living; including rising from a chair, getting dressed, getting around your kitchen, walking up/downstairs, and even eating food all come from our well of maximum strength, the deficit of which is called your functional reserve: the stronger you are the bigger your functional reserve, the bigger your reserve the easier your day is; at least from a physical standpoint.  All of these activities we take for granted, however when compromised due to weakness, represent the onset of loss of independence and will eventually necessitate some sort of care from family or institutions.

The ability to go about your day without undue fatigue and maintain functional independence aswell as performing exercise, is highly correlated with a strong score on daily mood profile and mental wellbeing.

Luke Woods

Why is this important?

With loss of muscle and strength we see an increase in the likelihood of many hazards, including falling, hence many older people using walking sticks or canes. Your balance doesn’t go as you age, your strength does. The danger doesn’t stop there though,. when we fall, our fast twitch fibres will be recruited almost instantly, either putting a leg or arm out to absorb the impact. Every now and again I will miss a step or trip and it never ceases to amaze me how fast and hard you can hit the ground. As we age however, untrained individuals lose the ability to recruit these muscle fibres and aswell as the loss of protective muscle our bones take the brunt of the fall, usually ending up with a trip to the physio if you are lucky: a bad fall has the potential to land you in hospital for an operation which bring with it a host of other possible complications if you are the wrong side of 50.

On the contrary when we are sick or ill our body’s demand more protein turnover to help with recovery. An already frail individual will be in trouble here as muscle usually takes up the slack here by providing necessary amino acids during times of recovery.

Our muscles act as reservoir for uptake of fuel substrates from our blood such as fat, or glucose. Age related decreases in muscle, sees a decrease in the size of these reservoirs and accumulation of fat, as these substrates have nowhere to go. This accumulation of fat particularly around the muscle sites further interrupts signalling to the muscles aswell as causing an increase in fat levels and eventually dyslipidaemia and development of atherosclerosis. These are two form part of a health condition known as the metabolic syndrome, another post for another day.  Trust me when I tell you you, do NOT want anything to do with the metabolic syndrome.. all because you sat and let your muscles waste away.