Are YOU prepared? – The Need for Physical Fitness

Fitness HeaderOne thing that has me mystified as a prepper is that I see some individuals spend all kinds of time and resources on their preps when they simultaneously neglect the most important resource they have: themselves.

There should not be such a thing as a completely out-of-shape prepper…period.

Now, I know it takes time and effort to dedicate oneself to a personal fitness program. I am very aware that it’s just one more thing on the list of your “things-to-do,” and because of that, it often doesn’t get done. I know…I have been guilty of that too.

However, how can anyone count themselves as prepared if they lack the physical shape to be able to put their preps into action? In all honestly, they can’t. The truth is, you must not neglect the central part of your preparedness plans, and that’s you. YOU must be physically prepared.

Now, just so you don’t misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that every prepper be able to bench press 500 pounds, have perfect body mass measurements, or participate regularly in Ironman competitions. I’m also not suggesting that every prepper should have ninja-like reflexes (although that would be cool.) What I am suggesting is that you should do all that you can do to get your body into what would be your best shape, and that’s different for everyone. Face the facts, if you can’t walk a mile without tiring, how can you expect to “bug out” on foot if you had the need? If you can’t handle even one day of the physical labor preps often require, how do you expect to last through one year? How about a month, or even one week? True preparedness requires that you keep your body in the best condition that’s possible for you, and if it’s not in good condition now, you should do what is needed to get it there.

A large part of getting into shape is having a good understanding of what is required to be considered physically fit. There are five components to physical fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. A good exercise plan would address the first four components, and that, coupled with a good diet, would assist in addressing the fifth.

Cardiovascular endurance is the measure of how well one’s circulatory system is able to function properly.   Your circulatory system, as you may recall from school, consists of your heart, lungs, blood vessels, and so forth.   It is the system responsible for getting much needed oxygen to the cells in your body, and it removes the carbon dioxide and other things your body produces as a result. Good cardiovascular health is necessary to prevent one from becoming prematurely winded when performing any physical tasks. It is also the key to how long you can endure any activity you are pursuing. The type of exercises that are needed to improve and maintain cardiovascular health is aerobic exercise. The term aerobic literally means with oxygen.  Jogging, walking, cycling, swimming, and aerobic exercise routines are all examples of this type of exercise. One must be aware, however, that if they are exercising to a level where they are having difficulty breathing, they are no longer engaged in aerobic exercising. What they are then doing is called anaerobic exercise, which literally means without oxygen, and this type of exercise does not give you the same benefits to your cardiovascular system as does aerobic exercise.

Muscular strength is the measure of the amount of force your muscles can exert at one time. This measures how much weight you can lift, press, pull, etc. in one muscle movement. The type of exercising which improves your muscular strength is commonly known as strength training, (or resistance training.) These exercises often include the use of weights in certain repetitive motions which target specific muscular groups. Other exercises consist of applying force against something stationary, such as push-ups against the floor. All strength training is designed to maintain and increase the ability of your muscles to be able to flex and contract. Of course, along with these benefits will be your ability to lift, pull, or press more weight than you had previously.

Basic exercises such as jogging can do a lot to boost one’s cardiovascular health and muscular endurance.

Muscular endurance measures how long you are able to repeat certain muscle exercises before tiring. It also measures how long you can sustain a particular muscle contraction against some kind of force before needing to rest. Exercises which boost muscle endurance are often repetitive in nature such as sit-ups, pull-ups, or push-ups. Cardiovascular exercises which require stamina, such as running and cycling, also help to improve muscular endurance.

Flexibility is the measure of the full range of motion possible for your body’s joints. The more flexible you are, the more range of motion you would have, and the need for this component of fitness becomes more apparent with age. Flexibility exercises should not be overlooked when planning an exercise routine. Doing stretching exercises before and after any activity will help to maintain and increase your flexibility. It will also help to prevent potential injuries one can obtain from physical stress. In addition to stretching exercises, yoga and pilates are excellent examples of flexibility conditioning as well.

Body composition is the measure of the percentage of your body fat as compared to your lean muscle mass. Your age, height, weight, and individual bone structures play important roles as well. Your body does need a certain percentage of fat to stay healthy, (the ideal of which is about 8%-25% for men and about 19%-30% for women.) However, too much body fat leads to a whole host of undesirable health issues, and it is well recognized that one should maintain a healthy body mass composition for good physical fitness. To do so, one should also incorporate a healthy balanced diet, (lower in fats,) along with an exercise program as has been described above.

Of course, a good exercise regiment and a healthy diet are not the only factors in gaining and maintaining good health. In addition, one should also get enough rest and keep other good hygiene habits. There may be other individual health factors to consider as well, such as in the case of a diabetic who must properly monitor his/her blood sugar levels. Obviously, there are individuals who must make adaptations based on their unique circumstances. However, for those of you who claim age or some partial disability as an excuse to not exercise at all, I will not have any of it. I have taught many older senior citizens weight training and aerobics, including some who were chair-bound. There are many specialized programs out there for those with unique needs. I recommend doing a little research in your area to see what resources are offered. There are also many online resources available which could help you find some way to adapt an exercise routine to your individual circumstances.

In any case, the need to maintain the best physical condition possible is the same. If you do so, you will have prepared the most central part to any prepper’s plan, and that’s YOU! If you fail to do so, when a serious emergency comes, in all honesty, the rest of your preparations may not matter.

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