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Why do you exercise – only to lose weight or for fitness

Why fitness is better than weight loss
Why fitness is better than weight loss (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)

If you’re slim and lean, you don’t have to pump iron – true or false? As long as I watch what I eat I am healthy, do you agree? Most people believe in these false and mythical ‘facts’.

Fitness is a product of healthy diet and exercise, sleep and well being. ‘Physical fitness is considered a measure of the body’s ability to function efficiently and effectively in work and leisure activities, to be healthy, to resist hypokinetic diseases, and to meet emergency situations’ as mentioned in  Wikipedia, Fitness. Here is why fitness is a far better goal than  weight loss in the long run.

Difference between Weight loss and Fitness

While all fitness does involve weight loss, all weight loss does not involve fitness. One can lose weight – the unhealthy way – through crash dieting, over-exercising, weight loss pills and several other, equally, harmful quack weight loss methods.

There is a finer point here: Unhealthy weight loss involves losing mostly muscle and a little bit of topical fat. Visceral fat, or fat that is stored internally around organs, does not budge with unhealthy weight loss practises. In fact, it increases manifold due to the starvation mode that you set off with unhealthy dieting.

Pursuing general fitness and well being, on the other hand, takes care of the harmful body fat, while giving you a healthier mind and body and,  yes, burning, calories. Weight loss is about losing weight rapidly. Fitness is about healthy living and longevity.

Fitness is a combination of exercise, diet and rest. Weight loss is a short term routine of exercise, diet and rest.

When weight loss is your only target, you tend to ignore the other benefits of living a healthy life.

Importance of Fitness: To the Respiratory and Circulatory system

The easiest way to understand the impact of fitness is to look at what your body needs to live a long, ailment-free, healthy life. This state of being depends entirely on your body’s systems, which in turn depend on organ, vessel and tissue health.

This brings us, first, to the respiratory and the circulatory systems.

You know the  heart is a muscle that pumps blood and oxygen to the body. Exercise helps the heart in circulation of blood and oxygen. That means healthy skin, alertness and a healthy system. Similarly, a healthy diet, aids your circulatory and respiratory system by preventing thickening arterial walls and better blood circulation.

Importance of Fitness: To the Digestive system

When we are constipated or feeling bloated we look for a change in diet to relieve us from our discomfort. Even exercise can help you avoid digestive problems. Breathing, walking, and other physical activities can improve your digestive system.

A poor digestive system leads to a poor state of being. Quick weight loss ignores this fact of life. The result of crash dieting is usually the Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and plenty of abdominal fat the minute you stop crash dieting.

Instead, focusing on general fitness through balanced eating and exercise will give you a smoother digestive function.

Importance of Fitness: To the Lymphatic system

‘The lymphatic system is a part of the circulatory system, comprising a network of conduits called lymphatic vessels that carry a clear fluid called lymph,’ as mentioned on Wikipedia, Lymphatic system. A healthy lymphatic system reduces swelling, improves circulation, metabolism and flexibility. Stretching, strength training and aerobic exercises improve the Lymphatic system.

Importance of Fitness: To the Cardiovascular system

Enough research has proved, time and again, that pursuing fitness is the best way to achieve better cardiovascular health. This means that your cardiovascular system is able to function a lot better when you’re fit, within your desired weight range, and live an active life with healthy eating.

The cardiovascular system is responsible for circulating oxygen to the body and important nutrients too. Opting for fitness, instead of quick weight loss, will help you avoid diseases related to the cardiovascular system like heart attack and stroke. Strength, stamina, agility also gets a boost with a well functioning cardiovascular system. Cardio exercises are the key to a functioning cardiovascular system.

However, many make the mistake of associating ‘cardio’ exercise with rapid weight loss. This usually leads to long hours of unnecessary cardio that cause fatigue and over-work your body, causing effects of over-training to come into play. What does this mean? Over-training leads to more fat storage in your body. So, if you walk/run/jog/swim more than you need to, your body will start craving more food and you will get simple carb cravings very frequently.

Importance of Fitness: To the Nervous system

The nervous system comprises the brain and the spinal cord. Physical activity makes the brain sharp and alert. It also makes you agile. Exercising the nervous system is also beneficial for over-weight individuals.

This is one area of diet and exercise that is often over-looked by quick weight loss solutions.  Mental health is crucial for a healthy life. By pursuing weight loss, without any thought toward fitness and the correct way to achieve it, your mind will experience fatigue and negativity. External motivation, such as weight loss only for vanity, is not a good motivator. Most who rely on this as motivation alone, tend to drop out of their ‘fitness’ routine.

Therefore, relying on a balanced diet and good exercise over a long period of time, because you want to be fit instead of a size zero, is a better solution.

Importance of Fitness: To the Musculoskeletal system

This is the easiest association to make. We use muscles everyday, consciously or subconsciously. Exercise improves the musculoskeletal system or overall health of the physical, weight bearing and tangibly active part of the human body. A healthy mealplan nourishes these actions by giving the body what it needs to function well.

All aspects of exercising, from resistance training to flexibility and cardio training, and eating right improve the musculoskeletal system.

When you focus on weight loss alone, and quick weight loss at that, you ignore your body’s actual needs. A common sign of rapid weight loss is weakness. This is because your body loses muscle a lot faster than fat. With muscle loss, your metabolism rate drops, causing imbalances and fat storage. The result: Short term weight loss, and long term weight gain.

Importance of Fitness: Overall Health

– Improves performance and stamina
– Healthy life – reduces your chance of experiencing lifestyle diseases
– Fitness  equals longevity
– Fitness prevent excess body fat
– Prevents body pain
– Improves your mood
– Improves confidence
– Induces sleep

For the over-weight and obese, fitness does involve weight loss. But this is sustainable weight loss that comes with a shift in lifestyle habits and definitely not quick weight loss for an event. If your only concern is to look good in that Diwali outfit or that wedding dress, then you will set yourself up for failure, as you would not have really evaluated long term fitness goals. Chasing the short dream always ends in disaster.

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