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How is your physical fitness? There are seven areas of consideration to help achieve and maintain your peak physical readiness. Physical fitness is a critical element for long term survival in the outdoors. Survival and preparedness experts agree that staying healthy and in shape will give you an edge in a survival situation. The physical fitness movement that began in the 1980s is an extension of the organic lifestyle movement of the 1960s. Thus, health, wellness, and being fit physically have characterized much of American culture over the last fifty years. The military is no stranger to maintaining good health. There are seven areas of concern when implementing your physical fitness program.

1. Nutrition

The first area to consider is nutrition. Proper eating habits are a key element to any physical fitness program. Many people like diet programs such as Weight Watchers®, The Atkins Diet®, or The Paleo Diet. However, for some people, the short-term gains from engaging in diet programs never seem to translate into long-term and permanent weight loss. Some studies suggest that those who lose weight will gain over 10% more than their original weight when they stop dieting. Therefore, eating properly over your lifespan is central to maintaining proper weight and nutrition.

Healthy eating means eating balanced meals and in the proper proportions every day. Remembering the five food groups for daily nutrition will help to achieve your nutrition goals. The five food groups are meat, vegetables, fruits, grains, and dairy. Portion size also is an element of proper nutrition. Those who engage in vegan or vegetarian diets will substitute the meat and dairy for other items. Healthy eating will give you the vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that your body requires.

Additionally, as you consider proper nutrition and dieting, it is advisable to consult a professional, licensed nutritionist recommended by your personal or family doctor. Do not attempt a diet or nutrition regimen on your own solely based on articles or books that you read. Those sources speak to the general human condition, not your specific health concerns or needs. For example, many health experts discuss taking chondroitin glucosamine for joint health. I am not able to take it because it comes from shellfish. I have been forbidden by my doctor to eat seafood or products from seafood because of my iodine allergy. Therefore, consult your physician before engaging in a nutrition program.

2. Sleep

Sleep often is overlooked as a component of good health. However, most medical experts agree that getting an adequate amount of sleep every night is part of being a healthy person. An adult person needs around eight hours of sleep every night, according to the experts. A famous general once stated that any soldier who could not stay awake for three straight days was lazy.

By contrast, medical science and research relate that sleep deprivation reduces mental alertness, affects decision-making, aggravates the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Some of the survival programs on television demonstrate that after a period of low food intake and lack of sleep, many contestants begin to faint or make critical mental errors. Therefore, when appropriate, do not be afraid to sleep when your body is telling you to get some rest.

3. Activity

The more obvious part and easiest to understand about physical fitness is activity. Generally speaking, an active person is a healthy person. An active lifestyle is more than just going for a jog every day or a day-hike on the weekend. An active lifestyle is one in which your mind and body are continually exercised in a positive manner. Getting outdoors is just one way to accomplish that reality.

However, as it relates to survival tasks, your body needs a balanced training routine to achieve functional physical fitness. Functional physical fitness helps you accomplish the tasks necessary to enable survival in any environment, such as climbing or hand-to-hand self-defense. A balanced physical fitness training program involves three key areas: strength, endurance, and mobility.

4. Strength

Strength training is a vital part of a physical conditioning program. It usually involves weight training to increase strength, power, and endurance in the major muscle groups. Strength training is an anaerobic exercise. An example of anaerobic exercise is lifting weights, push-ups, sit-ups, or grip strengthening exercises. Anaerobic exercises are those characterized by the use of resistance to build muscle mass in the body.

Additionally, it is best to get your doctor’s recommendation or approval before participating in a strength training workout. It is also advisable to get a training partner if possible. Lifting weights can be fun but also dangerous. I have heard about several accidents over the years in which an overconfident individual got killed or maimed for life because of doing something irresponsible in the weight room and without a partner. Don’t be that person. Be safe, go slow, start light, and get help if you want to get the most out of a weight training program.

5. Endurance

The fifth area of consideration in building your functional physical fitness is endurance. Endurance training also is known as aerobic exercise. These kinds of activities involve the intake of oxygen through the respiratory system. Thus, aerobic training exercises the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Some examples of aerobic training are running, jogging, interval running, skipping rope, bicycling, rowing, aerobic dancing, or spinning.

Consequently, endurance training helps with both muscle endurance and respiratory efficiency. For example, ultramarathon runners have to have bodies that have muscle endurance and can effectively get oxygen to those muscles during their runs. Moreover, an efficient cardiovascular and respiratory system helps reduce the time needed for muscle recovery.

6. Flexibility

Flexibility training is the secret to success in your training program. Stretching out your body before working out addresses your body’s ability to bend and stretch. There is some debate in professional circles about the viability of stretching before or after a workout. Some believe it is needful and others discourage it. However, my personal experience is that stretching out before and after a period of exercise helps to prevent joint, muscle, and ligament damage. When I was in the military, stretching out before and after a workout in the weight room, road march, or a run enabled me to stay fit-to-fight when others were succumbing to injury.

7. Consistency

Consistency is the ultimate secret to success next to flexibility training in your physical fitness program. Your fit-to-survive program should center on consistency. Inconsistency in your training routine is a sure way to injury. An inconsistent workout tears the body down rather than builds it up. If you are going to start a physical fitness program, be dedicated to it enough to be consistent. An example of a consistent workout schedule would exercising or working out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. There are many great workout schedules by reputable organizations on the internet. Therefore, you should be consistent with your training if you want to reduce the possibility of long-term problems like tendonitis, pulled muscles, torn rotator cuffs, or similar injuries.

Final Thoughts

Physical fitness is an individual matter between yourself and your doctor. As stated earlier, do not engage in a program without your doctor’s approval. My doctor has approved walking, hiking, and backpacking for my physical fitness program. Running, obstacle courses, climbing Mount Everest, or adventure sports are off the table due to my knees and back. I could do them should I have a mind to; however, is the risk worth the reward? Therefore, be safe and keep fit and enjoy yourself as you get in shape or maintain your level of physical fitness.

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