In a discussion on physical conditioning the question is often raised: "Fit for what? I don't need to be an athlete, weight lifter, runner, or ball player. I don't lift anything heavier than a pencil. I just need to be able to do my work each day. Why should I be interested in improving my physical fitness?"
As mentioned earlier, each activity requires its own special conditioning. Each individual has his own special goal in the field of conditioning. Surely the one who wishes to excel in a sport or recreational activity recognizes the need for special attention to its requirements, so he participates in those activities.
The golf enthusiast plays golf and practices the strokes he needs to improve. The swimmer follows his training program. The mountain climber, the weight lifter, all sports enthusiasts, apply the procedures necessary for him to improve. Unless he conditions himself for his activity, he knows he cannot expect to excel.
Many of us are not interested in becoming physically fit for athletics or sports, but all of us are interested in our capacity to be alive today and tomorrow and our capacity to enjoy this life that is ours.
The body must be made strong and adequate for its own sake first, then it will be more than reasonably able to meet any demands that living may make upon it, whether it be work, recreation, or emergencies.
The many benefits of good physical condition are of interest to everyone, regardless of how he might express himself on the subject. Among those benefits most apparent are:
There never has been or never will be a person who wants to be ill. He might rather be ill than work, but he would rather be well and not have to work! Many people have said they were not interested in their physical condition, yet they are concerned enough to recognize and follow some health factors.
They pay some attention to their diet, they get enough sleep, they have medical check ups occasionally; but they are not interested in doing something specific to guard and maintain this "good health" they enjoy. Evidently they consider it a condition they have a right to expect, with no effort required on their part.
The ability to finish a day's work and still have enough energy to enjoy other activities is a wonderful asset and one within the reach of all who care to have it. Life has little attraction for most of us if we are only able to barely get through the demands of the day.
The number of men who go home after the day's work completely "bushed," who eat dinner and head for the easy chair is legion. When he has improved his condition he commonly remarks that now that fatigue is gone, and he feels like resuming activities again.
To barely have the energy required to finish each task as it is required is a most difficult way to live. Under such conditions each task is more difficult than it needs to be.
With adequate energy, the tasks and responsibilities of living or business assume their proper proportions and become an interesting challenge instead of an impending catastrophe! Adequate and more than adequate energy to meet daily requirements is certainly desired by everyone.
By margins of safety, we mean the relative assurance that we will be free from illness, discomfort, and major physical problems. Unfortunately there is no way of life that can guarantee to one that he will live to be 100 years old and never have a day of illness in his life.
Yet, some years ago, the writer was shown completely through one of the large hospitals of Portland, Oregon by Dr. Herbert Henton, a prominent eye surgeon, and as we stood outside the hospital afterwards, he said: "Jack, of all those people we saw in the hospital, 80 per cent of them would not be there if they had taken the proper regular exercise."
The margin of safety we possess is in direct proportion to the capacity for effort the special tissues and organs in the body have to do their work. When anything interferes with these capacities, whether it be mechanics or disease, the body is in trouble. When we increase the capacity of the vital organs to do their work, we increase our margins of safety in the same degree.
This depends more on the physical condition than any other factor. Even the miser cannot enjoy counting his gold if he is ill. Have you ever tried to enjoy yourself while having a severe headache? A slight amount of discomfort can be tolerated, but as the discomfort mounts, and turns to pain, all attention is given to getting free of the trouble, no matter what inconvenience or cost is involved.
Everything that we have that is important to us gets some attention, at least to the basic requirements so that it will give us no trouble; everything that is, except the human body. Because the body has the ability to repair itself and make automatic adjustments to environment, it is given very little help or consideration.
Some attention to the basic requirements of good health yields the best return possible in freedom from discomfort and pure enjoyment of living. This attention can be called physical conditioning or the development and maintenance of a good level of physical fitness.
There are many other reasons that could be listed for maintaining a high level of fitness. Choose whichever reason you like best, but do not tell yourself that you are not interested in or that you do not need any degree of physical fitness!
No one is perfect, nor can he be perfect, but he can and must maintain an adequate level of physical condition so that he may live a life reasonably free of discomforts and limitations.
Such a level of fitness is quite easy to obtain and keep. It requires just a little attention to the physical requirements as we live. These requirements are given little consideration by our people today!