Fitness is a multi-billion-dollar industry and a common buzzword on the internet. But what is fitness, really? Is it big muscles? Running a marathon? Holding difficult yoga poses for hours on end? Simply put, fitness is your ability to do things, both physical and mental. Maintaining and increasing your fitness takes effort and mindfulness but is crucial to good health. Is it only about exercise?
The Importance of Fitness
It takes considerable effort to maintain a healthy level of fitness, especially in stressful or abnormal situations (like the quarantine associated with a worldwide pandemic, for example). While a Netflix binge with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s may help you cope for an evening with your anxiety and cabin fever, a steady diet of junk for your brain and your body will erode your fitness levels over time. As the old saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Despite the difficulties brought on by COVID 19 and all its complications, it’s worth taking the time and energy to maintain your fitness while you are stuck at home.
Mental and physical fitness
Can you still run the mile at the same speed you did in high school? Can you lift the same amount of weight? Do you still know how to do algebra?
If you can’t now, but you could before, you know that the mile didn’t get longer, and algebra hasn’t changed; your fitness decreased because you stopped practicing these things. Muscles grow bigger and stronger with resistance, or a force working against them. Your mind grows in much the same way. Solving challenging problems or puzzles increases your ability to think in new ways and gain new perspectives. Without that uphill battle of new forces to resist or things to conquer, your brain and body will grow weak, unable to perform the tasks they once could.
Mental exercise comes in many forms. Some people enjoy mentally challenging games, such as crossword puzzles or Sudoku. Nowadays, many of these games conveniently come as mobile apps.
Learning new things (whether it’s a musical instrument, another language, car repair, or how to line dance) stimulates your mind. New experiences also give you the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment brought by developing a new skill.
Meditating (focusing your attention and awareness to clear your mind) is another great mental exercise with benefits like increased attention span, healthier sleeping patterns, and even pain reduction. If you’ve never tried meditation before consider using an app like Headspace or a guided meditation recording to walk you through it.
Just because the gyms are closed doesn’t give you a free pass to skip your physical exercise. In fact, given the added stressors of the pandemic, exercise is more needful now than ever before. Cardiovascular exercise increases your lung capacity and overall health. By increasing your physical fitness, you are more able to perform everyday tasks with ease and recover from diseases (like COVID 19).
Exercising your body is also beneficial to your mind. Whether you enjoy kickboxing, walking, basketball, or dance, physical exercise decreases stress. When you exercise, you decrease your risk for mental health problems (depression, anxiety, etc.) as well, thanks to the endorphins it releases. If your typical exercise regimen has been interrupted by the pandemic, YouTube has hundreds of free workout videos for every fitness level. Even places with stay-at-home orders usually allow for outdoor exercises like jogging or cycling.
Even if your situation is less than ideal, do what you can to keep up your physical fitness.
Challenge Yourself Everyday (Physically and Mentally)
Physical and mental fitness should be challenging, but not impossible or intimidating. You don’t need to run a marathon tomorrow or join MENSA in order to prove your fitness. Strive to do one thing each day to improve yourself mentally and physically. Consistency is more important than intensity. Cultivate the habit of physical and mental exercise each day. Once you do that consistently, ramp up the intensity of these exercises as your health permits.
Rather than overhauling your fitness routines all at once, make small changes to your mental and physical health that you can sustain for a lifetime. Increasing your fitness is a marathon, not a sprint (pun intended). Remember the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.”
Do something to maintain or increase your health daily, then make each day better than the day before.