The Six Pillars of Health and Fitness (part 2)
In our previous article, we introduced the six pillars of health and fitness and explained in detail the importance of each one. In this article, we will help you analyse your own training regime so you can reflect on whether your current regime is bulletproof, or if it is lacking in some/many of the important components. If the latter, then we will then help you make informed decisions on how to improve your regime so you can get the most out of your physical activities.
Below are examples of typical activities that many of us engage in as an attempt to keep fit and healthy (and keep disease at bay).
Walking is something we should all be aiming to do every single day. It’s a great weight-bearing activity and whilst it has many benefits, walking alone is not an effective health and fitness regime. It doesn’t build the strong muscles we need, improve our posture or overall cardiovascular fitness. Plus it only works half your body / the lower half! If your main goal is fat loss, walking for an hour or more on a daily basis can be a great tool to aid that objective (in addition to more vigorous exercise). However, as walking burns a low amount of calories per hour in comparison to other forms of activities, it is not viewed as an effective fat loss tool alone.
On the surface, running is a fantastic activity. It raises your heart rate and gets the blood pumping. It makes you feel alive by allowing you to reduce built up stress and improve your mental health. However, whilst running is amazing for cardiovascular fitness and building leg endurance, it can actually be quite detrimental to your overall health.
Running disproportionately works your body. If you only ever run, you will end up with muscular imbalances that can negatively impact your posture and mobility, leading to a whole host of injuries. For avid runners, it is critical to have other training tools in your regime - such as upper-body muscular strength training or mobility. For fat loss, running is great short term, but not so good long term (if running is your sole activity). In fact, if running is your main / only activity, it can be detrimental for long term fat loss (that is another whole article)!
Swimming is actually one of the better activities we can do, but it is probably one of the least popular. Swimming is really hard work, meaning it is great for the cardiovascular system and for building strong muscles throughout your whole body.
Similarly, the lack of weight-bearing means it is a safe sport to do when recovering from injuries. However, this also means that your bones are not getting strong whilst we are swimming. Furthermore, the repetitive movements of swimming can also cause your mobility to worsen and cause overuse injuries. It also teaches the body to be stronger in a prone position (lying down). Not much good when we want to be strong whilst standing upright or bending over to pick something heavy up! For fat loss, swimming is pretty good. But many of us tire well before we can keep going long enough to burn sufficient calories.
4. General Sports
Sports are a great way to exercise without necessary feeling like you are exercising. However, different sports will fair better than others at meeting the criteria essential for long term health and wellness. Some sports consist of very repetitive movements and therefore could be detrimental to posture / mobility, whereas other sports encourage you to move in lots of different planes of motion. Some sports are full body; others more lower or upper dominant. Some sports have a high risk of injury, which might put you out of all physical activity for significant time, if you or an opponent got a little carried away! For fat loss, again, this will vary greatly depending on the sport.
5. General Gym
Hundreds of thousands of us join the gym each year thinking we can face it alone. And, hundreds of thousands of us can’t stick to attending the gym long term, meaning our health and fitness journey is over before we know it!
Often, when we attend the gym, we go one way or the other: hammer out the cardio or smash out the weights. If we’re smashing out weights, we’re often doing it with poor body awareness and are not performing enough variety of exercises to take our body through all planes of motion. Similarly, if we just hit the treadmill for an hour, we’re not building strong muscles trhoughout our body or working on core strength / posture. Even more so, neither of these things allow us to improve our balance, mobility or coordination. On top of all this, inexperienced gym goers can sometimes sustain injuries! In principle, following a weights regime is a great long term fat loss tool…. if you know what you are doing (which is different to thinking you know what you are doing)!
Pilates is a fantastic tool for improving core strength and posture - in our opinion, one of the best out there. As a Pilates instructor myself, and having owned and sold a Pilates studio, I am a big fan of the practice and have incorporated it into every gym session I teach. However, Pilates alone as a fitness activity is seriously lacking in some vital components for a well-rounded fitness regime. It is ineffective for cardiovascular fitness. Pilates also involves mostly using the weight of your own limbs - or at the very most, a light resistance which means it is ineffective at building strength (albeit better at building muscular endurance which is different). Pilates sessions vary, so if your Pilates session is predominantly mat based, it is teaching you to be ‘stronger’ in a lying down position, which does not translate as well to being stronger in an upright position (where we spend most our time.) It can however be good at injury prevention or helping to recover from an injury. We often incorporate Pilates into our group and PT sessions, so our members can experience the benefits of Pilates whilst also experiencing the benefits of our strength and cardiovascular exercises all in one session. Pilates, as your only activity will mean you are missing out on some vital components to long term health. For fat loss, it is one of the worst activities on the list, due to the fact body movements are generally small.
Yoga is actually a pretty good activity. It focuses heavily on muscular endurance and in some parts strength. It is also designed to increase our range of motion and aid our balance and coordination. However, just like Pilates, it is not great for cardiovascular fitness. Again, we incorporate elements of Yoga in our sessions but add in other tools to make sure all six pillars are covered. For fat loss, this varies greatly depending on the style of Yoga and session by session. Generally speaking, it is ok but not one of the best on the list.
Often, when it comes to our fitness regime, we think we’re doing enough but, as the above list clearly shows, not a single one of these activities incorporates all six pillars of health and fitness. If you are sticking to just one of these activities, you will be missing out on some or many of the vital ingredients to long term health.
How can I create an effective health and fitness regime?
You’re probably reading this feeling pretty guilty and wondering how on earth you’re supposed to play football, swim twice a week, run each day, attend yoga AND Pilates and make sure you’re getting in a daily walk.
Well, luckily for you, that’s not what we’re getting at. You don’t need to be doing every single one of these activities in order to get a well-rounded training programme that includes all of the six pillars of health and fitness. In fact, what we are saying is that you should keep up the activities you enjoy, whether that’s running, swimming or yoga, but turn some attention to the other pillars of health by keeping your activities varied.
So if I was to choose just one, what is the single best activity out there?
In two words, functional training. Functional training is training designed to help us get better at every day activities. It is a practical form of training that prepares our body for the most important type of fitness: the real-life one in which we must bend, twist, lift, load, push, pull or squat. It’s about our performance both inside and outside the gym. This is why adding in functional training to your health and fitness regime is so effective. When you train functionally, you’re targeting most of the six pillars of health in one activity. It’s an effective way to train and saves us a huge deal of time in our busy lives. It is also the single best tool for long term fat loss (in conjunction with the right nutrition).
At Gymbo’s, we want each and every one of our members to make positive, safe and lifelong changes. We pride ourselves on being functional training specialists. Our gym is kitted out with one of the biggest functional training areas in Cambridgeshire. We have every bit of equipment / tools you need to create an effective functional training regime so that each time you leave our gym, you can be sure you have worked on each of the 6 pillars of health and fitness.
Need help creating a functional training regime?
At Gymbo’s, we carefully design our small group and PT programmes to have exercises that cover all of the above six pillars. We know all too well that people gravitate towards doing what their best at (what they find easiest). However, we are here to push you outside of your comfort zone and help you benefit from all six pillars of health and fitness and enjoy yourself at the same time.
Our small group sessions offer a wide range of different activities, from fast-paced and intense strength-based training; to slow and relaxing mobility and balance work. Our small group sizes also mean that our passionate instructors can carefully monitor your movements and correct your form. This will increase your body awareness, your posture and reduce your likelihood of injury!
Our varied selection of cardio equipment means you can get that 150 minutes of activity, recommended by the NHS to improve your life.
Our small, but experienced, team of personal trainers have your best interests at heart. They will challenge you to be the best version of yourself, by designing you a bespoke programme that incorporates all of these six pillars. With each PT session they will coach you on how to move safely, give you exercises to improve your balance and coordination -as well as encouraging you to be the fittest, strongest and healthiest version of yourself. Sessions are always tweaked to ensure they are tailor-made for you; ensuring that every exercise you perform with us has the sole purpose of guiding you towards long term, sustainable strength, fitness and wellbeing, as quickly as possible.