By Dr Duncan Jefferson, General Practitioner

Couple Running

In deepest, darkest Ridiculostan, Professor Iva Screwloose is working on a new miracle drug for instant fitness which he promises will be a real game changer. The final challenge, he says, is to produce the drug in tablet form. When asked how big the current tablet is he replies “about the size of an Olympic swimming pool!”

The benefits of fitness
When it comes to fitness, there are no short cuts. Fitness is not just having healthy, strong muscles. Fitness is a whole-of-body condition. And fitness is for all bodies whatever condition they may be in.

So why is focusing on fitness so important
For kids, fitness is essential because it lays the foundations for a healthy future. For the rest of us, getting and staying fit reduces our risk of developing a host of health conditions including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type II diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Mood disorders such as anxiety and depression
  • Certain cancers
  • Back pain
  • Osteoporosis
  • Respiratory disease

Whats involved in getting fit?
Firstly, let me tell you what fitness isn’t. Fitness isn’t just about huffing, puffing and sweating a lot. It isn’t even being able to run marathons or finish an Ironman competition. And it’s certainly not about going to the gym to pump your muscles up to comic-book proportions.

Fitness is about working on various elements of your body so that it operates optimally for YOU. The key elements of fitness are the following:

  • Aerobic fitness
  • Strength training
  • ‘Core’ muscle training
  • Balance training
  • Stretching

The effects of ageing and attitude.
A lot of older folk (and sadly some people are starting to look and feel old even in their 30s) will often say that “it’s too late for me to get fit”. WRONG. Becoming fitter at any age will help you prevent and manage cardiovascular disease and diabetes as well as help ease those aches and pains that all of us get.

Some people will say “what’s the big deal about getting fit?”. Well, let me take you to a coronary care unit, a stroke unit, or an amputee clinic where many of the patients are diabetes sufferers. I’m willing to bet that everyone you meet would love to wind the clock back 20 years and put themselves at the front of the queue for a fitness program.

So how do I begin?
When it comes to fitness, there’s no ‘one size fits all’. Our own needs will change as we grow older and professional guidance will ensure all elements of fitness are covered. There are excellent professionals in WA who can advise us as individuals or in groups. HBF’s own HBF Fitness program provides professionally run training for every fitness level at numerous locations. And if you’re an HBF member you won’t pay a cent.

If you don’t like crowds or gyms that’s OK but you still need to learn how to exercise correctly. Whatever your sport, you need a good technique or you’ll be in danger of damaging your joints in the longer term. It’s still vital that in the early days you get things right – so hook up with an expert.

As time goes on you can develop your own ‘home gym’ to keep you fit. Mine’s pretty basic with a Fit Ball, a Stretch-Band and some light hand weights which I use at home three days a week. On two other days I use the local steps to walk or jog up, mixed up with some interval sprints*. And one day a week I do an 8km run by the Swan and up Kokoda steps into Kings Park. That’s my ‘agony and ecstasy’ day.

Whatever you choose, do it right, do it often and do it as a gift of health for yourself.

*I use the term Sprint in relative terms. I merely push myself as hard as I can for about 20 seconds and then recover.


The content of this article is not tailored for any particular individual’s circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.