Are You In Shape?

Marine of the United States Marine Corps runs ...Image via Wikipedia

I asked this question on twitter this week, “What is the definition of ‘being in shape’?”

Here are a few of the answers, well actually, they were the only answers:

@twistedxtian: Not getting out of breath walking up the stairs. 🙂
@CarlSeier:  Awesome question. I think that varies with the individual. I always use my 10 km running time as a measure and point of reference

and from my brother:

@notleyquebbq: having a full belly, because round is a shape

So what exactly does it mean to “be in shape”?

I have to agree with @CarlSeier. Being in shape is a personal thing.  An avid cyclist may feel that they are in great shape because they can ride 26 miles in a certain amount of time. A weekend cyclist may feel they are in shape because they can ride 5 miles in a certain amount of time.  A high end athlete will define being in shape as being able some level of fitness while a recreational athlete will have another definition of being in shape.

As a Chiropractor, Athletic Therapist and Strength an Conditioning specialist I look at “being in shape” as being well rounded in all aspects of physical fitness.  These aspects are, flexibility/mobility, muscular endurance, muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance, and anaerobic endurance.  This means that we can handle many of the physical challenges our body has to endur over the day.  Sadly, our life is pretty cushy compared to a cave men or the early settlers so when I look at being in shape I look at being able to accomplish the hard challenges our forefathers and early man had to experience to survive.

@Twistedxtian gave a great example of challenging daily activities that we should be able to accomplish without having troubles (going up several flights of stairs). Here are some other examples.

Flexibility/mobility – Being able to bend over to touch the floor with minimal strain and with appropriate movement (no cheating) or being able to rotate the head left and right so you can shoulder check while driving.

Muscular endurance – Our forefathers had to move rocks to prepare the land for farming.  Now a days the equivalent may be packing a moving van full of boxes.

Muscular strength – For early man we may have needed to be strong enough to pull ourself up into a tree to get away from a wild animal. Now a days being able to lift a couch to move it or to perform a chin up would be an example of muscular strength.

Cardiovascular endurance – Early man would need cardiovascular endurance to run several miles to hunt prey while man now, would need it to run after our kids or a jog in the park.

Anearobic endurance  – Now a days man may need to be able to sprint a few blocks to catch a bus while our forefathers and early man needed to be able to run away from wild animals.

My advice is to get in shape by improving yourself in all aspects of fitness, listed above. This is similar to the approach you see in CrossFit training.  If you need to get in shape start by making an achievable goal and work towards it. When you achieve that goal, you will be more in shape than you were before you started. When you achieve that goal make a new one.  As you become more confident in your abilities then work at achieving goals that others have achieved.  You define how in shape you are.
Get up, get moving, and get in shape..
Dr Notley

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