Anatomy of Exercise

It is well documented that exercise contributes significantly to improved health and physical fitness. But does it mean that because you exercise that you are fit? Maybe, maybe not. Let us examine what is Physical fitness.

Physical fitness is defined as a level of health in which the body can perform life’s daily activities without undue difficulties. It means then that the body must have muscular power, muscular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, balance and coordination. To achieve this state of fitness, there must be regular movement of the muscles through a variety of exercises, rather than selective training where certain muscle groups are repeatedly targeted and ultimately overworked.

Considering that the majority of our active life is spent in the forward or anterior position during work, play and leisure, the muscles of the front of the body are usually more active. Yet many exercise programs places more focus on these muscles.

The human muscular movement takes place at a joint where the body performs movements in several directions. To this end exercise must be designed to mimic these movements. Unfortunately this is not always the norm. Very often exercise applications are designed to target the larger superficial muscles such as the legs, shoulders, back and arms while neglecting the core muscles, which provide stabilization. Interestingly, some fitness programs focus more on muscle development and less on flexibility, agility, coordination and balance. This predisposes the body to adverse conditions such as muscle imbalance, abnormal tension and instability at the joints, misalignment of the spine, abnormal posture, faulty movement pattern, muscle impingement and poor flexibility. While some of these conditions can be rectified with corrective exercises, some irreparable damages could have occurred, thus defeating the purpose of getting fit in the first place.

The increasing use of machines for exercise has also created some cause for concern. Some of these machines, including the leg extension, smith machine, back hyper-extension machine, peck deck and leg press machine, have been listed amongst the gym machines that should be avoided. It has been shown that these machines place undue strain on the ligaments and tendons of the knees, shoulders, back and spine.

The goal of exercise should be to improve general fitness and health, not to create injury or discomfort. Therefore, exercise safety should become a priority in planning any exercise program. As mentioned earlier, a holistic approach should be incorporated in the design of exercise programs to achieve strength, endurance, agility, flexibility,
balance and coordination. By adapting such an approach, the exercise program is functional while meeting individual needs.