Health and fitness.

What is health?

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being; not merely the absence of sickness. It means you feel good all round.
Physical activity will help you in those aspects:
1- Physical well-being. Your heart, lungs and the other body systems grow strong and healthy and your body shape improves, (if you look good, you feel good).

2- Mental well-being. You learn how to cope with stress and difficult situations in sport and you can use this in real life (exam pressures), you learn how to control emotions (a penalty for breaking the rules) and also you can live emotions and positive experiences like skilfulness, success, and those aspects improve your self-esteem.

3-Social well-being. Humans live in groups and must learn social behaviour to fit in, sport helps us with this (cooperation, communication and teamwork), also we meet people and learn friendship, support and our value in society.

What is fitness?

Fitness is the ability to meet the demands of the environment and not just being able to do sit-ups or run fast. Your environment is everything around you (home, school, family, friends, weather, etc), all of them make demands on you, if you are able to carry out these tasks and activities without getting too tired and still have energy left over for emergencies, then you are fit. It means that you probably have good general fitness.

Factors affecting fitness.

There are a lot of factors that affect your potencial fitness, here you have some of them:

1- Age:

A person is usually at his/her fittest in her/his twenties. The graph below shows fitness in terms of oxygen used per kilogram of body weight. The more you use, the more physically fit you are.
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2- Gender:

Up to about age 11, males and females are equal in terms of general fitness, but soon things change from then on....
- Strength. Males grow about 50% stronger than females because they have more muscle due to the hormone, testosterone. It is released at puberty.
- Cardivascular endurance. Males are better than females at transporting oxygen. They have larger hearts and lungs and more hemoglobin in their red blood cells,which is the oxygen carrier.
- Bone structure. Males are usually larger and heavier than females because they have bigger bones. They also have a narrowed pelvis. This makes it easier to transmit power between legs and trunk, and it is an advantage in most sports.
- Speed. Because they have longer bones and bigger muscles, males can move faster.
- Flexibility. Females score higher for flexibility. They have smaller muscles so their joints have more mobility.
- Menstruation (periods). This can affect the performance for some.
- Pregnancy. Breaks from trainning would have to be taken during pregnancy which can result in a reverse in the level of fitness.
- Body composition. Females have more body fat than males and this can really affect fitness.

3-Physique:

Your build and shape make you fitter for some sports than others. A tall person is probably more suited to play basketball than football. People with physical disabilities could be top athletes too.
There are three types of somatotypes. Somatotyping is a way to describe build. It looks at how fat, how muscular and how linear you are. Here you have the extreme examples:

somatotypes.jpg

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4-Diet:

Your body needs certain substances for energy, growth and repair. You get them from food. If you don´t eat a healthy diet your body won´t function properly.
Your body needs water, fiber,vitamins, minerals and nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats).

- Carbohydrates. They are used for energy. They are broken down into glucose and are used as a fuel for cell repiration. Some glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles to be used later when needed. You can find carbohydrates in fruits, bread, biscuits, breakfast cereals, rice, potatoes and pasta. People training every day should have a high intake with 60% carbohydrate.
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- Fats. Fats are also used for energy, but our body needs about 20 minutes of exercise to use fats. In the first 20 minutes of exercise, our body uses carbohydrates. Butter, margarine and cooking oils are fats. Hamburgers, red meats, sausages, bacon, cheese and cream also contain a lot of fat.
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- Protein. Your body needs protein to build cells, to make blood and to restore and repair muscle and other tissues. We can find proteins in meat, liver, chicken, eggs, fish. Your body can use proteins for energy but it will do this only if it has run out carbohydrites and fats, i.e. to run a marathon.
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- Vitamins and minerals. Your body needs tiny amounts of vitamins. Some vitamins like A and D can be stored in the liver, but others like C can´t be stored so you have to eat it regulary.
Minerals are just as important as vitamins. For example, your blood couldn´t carry oxygen witout iron, and without calcium you´d have no bones, teeth or muscle contractions.

- Water. Around half your weight is water. You should drink at least eight glasses of water a day. If you play sports or do some physical activity you should drink much more. If you do not drink enough water, you could become dehydrated, and in severe cases you could die.

- Fiber. It is a substance called cellulose from the cell walls of plants. You find it in fruits, vegetables, brown bread, bran and other cereals. You can not digest fiber but is important because makes a bulky mass which your gut muscles can grip and push along quickly and it absorbs poisonous wastes from digested food. It makes you feel full, so you eat less.
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A balanced diet.
How much should you eat? You have to balance your energy in and your energy out. The energy is measured in kilocalories, you will need different amounts of kilocalories depending on your age, sex and lifestyle. If your energy in is 2500 kilocalories and your energy out is only 2000 the extra food is stored as fat and if you repeat this daily you could became obese. But if your energy out is higher than your energy in, you will grow slimmer, even you´ll become anorexic.
To be healthy you need a balanced diet. You need the right misture of nutrients, minerals, vitamins, water and fiber. You should have a look at the Food Pyramid and try to eat like it shows.
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5- Exercise:

No matter how unfit you are, regular exercise will make you fitter.

6-Illness and fatigue.

You are less fit for any activity or sport if you are tired or ill.

7- Drug-taking:

Alcohol, cigarretes and many other susbtances lower your fitness.

8- Stress:

Some factors like exams, overwork, money problems , etc, can lead to stress. Continual stress will afect your health, causing even a heart disease. Short-term stress can affect your performance in a sporting event. Your muscles are tense, you can not concentrate and you make mistakes. One good way to deal with stress is to practise relaxation.

9- The environment.

Fumes from traffic and factories over long periods of time could damage your lungs and cause breathing problems. Your performance in a sport could be affected on a hot, cold or humid day, it makes you weak and dizzy. High altitude can also be a problem, so first you need time to adapt.

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