Preventive Maintenance: Focus on fitness

by Karen Bowen

Fitness is a common discussion topic these days. When doctors recommend that we become more fit, what do they actually mean?

Fitness can be measured by the flexibility of your joints; the endurance and strength of your muscles (your heart muscle, too); and a healthy body composition. Fitness could also be defined as the ability to be able to accomplish your routine daily tasks with enough energy left over for emergency situations. Here’s another definition: the body’s ability to withstand physical and mental stresses.

With these three definitions in mind, how fit are you? How do you feel when you lift heavy boxes, fasten down your tarps, climb a few flights of stairs, or jump in and out of your cab? To be physically fit, you need to develop enough flexibility, muscle strength, and cardio-respiratory endurance to meet the everyday demands of life, while at the same time keeping a reasonable body weight and fat-to-lean tissue ratio. You want to be flexible because flexibility allows your joints to move without being injured.

Muscle strength and endurance lets your muscles work harder and longer without getting tired. Cardio-respiratory strength keeps the heart and lungs working well together. Each time you’re physically active, each of these areas improves, making you more flexible, strong and enduring for the next activity.

Getting fit is good for you! It is common knowledge that regular physical exercise promotes good health and prevents diseases, like heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure. Yet, over 60% of North Americans are too inactive to become or keep fit. So, should we all start training for a marathon? Certainly not! We just need to be a little more active than we already are.

In fact, adding some moderate physical activity will stimulate your immune system, helping you fight disease, while intense, prolonged physical activity like marathon running actually stresses your immune system, making it less effective.

To improve your fitness, find something physical that you enjoy doing and do it more often. If you do it, here are some important benefits you can expect:

You will get a more restful sleep. During rest, your body carries out a number of functions, such as: repairing injuries, flushing wastes out of your system, building stronger internal structures. Your nutritional health should improve. Because you burn more calories when you’re active, you will be free to eat more and maintain the same weight. As long as you choose nutritious foods, you will be sure to get a good balance of a variety of nutrients.

Your ratio of fat-to-lean tissue will improve. Active people maintain a leaner body mass. You will develop strong, dense bones. If you practice some weight-bearing activities, you will build your bones and become less prone to osteoporosis.You won’t likely get some kinds of cancers, especially colon and breast cancer.You will improve the function of your heart and lungs. Physical activity challenges the heart and lungs while slowing the aging of the circulatory system. You probably won’t develop a cardiovascular disease. Because physical activity lowers your blood pressure, slows your resting heart rate, and lowers your bad cholesterol, it lowers your chances of having heart disease or a stroke.

You have a lower chance of developing diabetes, too. Being physically active normalizes your glucose tolerance and regulates the way your body secretes insulin.

You won’t likely become severely anxious or depressed, either. Compared with people who are sedentary, active people deal better with stress.

You’ll feel better about yourself. Each time you challenge yourself physically and meet that challenge, you will improve your sense of achievement and become more confident.

Being physically active doesn’t just help you now, but the benefits of today’s activities will be felt for years. Active people live longer than sedentary people. Not only do they live longer, but they enjoy life more. Maintaining a good level of fitness allows older people to maintain their independence. As fit people age, they are less likely to fall. However, if they do fall, they are less likely to suffer a severe injury.

Unfortunately, those labour-saving devices that we love today, such as: escalators, golf carts, tow motors, jacks, winches, and conveyors all reduce our fitness level (while saving us from pulled muscles and back-strain). So, we need to find other ways of staying active.

If you’re thinking about starting a fitness program, get the okay from your doctor to make sure you have no hidden risks factors. Fortunately, most people can start moderate exercise programs (walking or increasing current activities) without any problems. With so many benefits to getting fit, it just makes sense to take that walk around the block, climb that flight of stairs, and choose that vegetable or fruit for a snack. Then, stay fit as a fiddle and ready to play for years down the road.

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.