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Concepts of Fitness and Wellness Cover Image
Concepts of Fitness and Wellness: A Comprehensive Lifestyle Approach, 4/e
Chuck Corbin, Arizona State University
Ruth Lindsey
Gregory Welk, Iowa State University
William Corbin, University of Texas at Austin

The Health Benefits of Physical Activity

Concept Summary

Concept Statement

Physical activity and good physical fitness can reduce risk of illness and contribute to optimal health and wellness.

Concept Objectives

After completing this concept the student should be able to:

  • Describe the ways in which activity and fitness contribute to health and wellness.
  • Identify and define important hypokinetic diseases.
  • Identify and define terms related to cardiovascular diseases and its corresponding risk factors.
  • Explain the relationship of activity and fitness to cardiovascular health.
  • Describe the theories for the beneficial effects of activity on the heart.
  • Describe the theories for the beneficial effects of activity on preventing atherosclerosis.
  • Explain the relationship of activity and fitness to other hypokinetic conditions.
  • Explain the effects of activity and fitness on non-hypokinetic conditions.

Concept Terms

Angina Pectoris  Chest or arm pain resulting from reduced oxygen supply to the heart muscle.

Arteriosclerosis  Hardening of the arteries due to conditions that causes the arterial walls to become thick, hard, and non-elastic.

Atherosclerosis  The deposition of materials along the arterial walls--a type of arteriosclerosis.

Chronic Disease  A disease or illness that is associated with lifestyle or environmental factors as opposed to infectious diseases (hypokinetic diseases are considered to be chronic diseases).

Congestive Heart Failure  The inability of the heart muscle to pump the blood at a life-sustaining rate. Coronary Collateral Circulation  Circulation of blood to the heart muscle associated with the blood-carrying capacity of a specific vessel or development of collateral vessels (extra blood vessels).

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)  Diseases of the heart muscle and the blood vessels that supply it with oxygen, including heart attack.

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) A broad classification of diseases of the heart and blood vessels that include CHD as well has high blood pressure, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.

Coronary Occlusion  The blocking of the coronary blood vessels.

Diastolic Blood Pressure The second blood pressure often called "resting pressure". It is the pressure in the arteries at its lowest level occurring just before the next beat of the heart.

Emotional Storm  A traumatic emotional experience that is likely to affect the human organism physiologically.

Fibrin  The substance that in combination with blood cells forms blood clots.

High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)  A blood substance that picks up cholesterol and helps remove it from the body; often called "good cholesterol."

Hyperkinetic Condition  A disease/illness or health condition caused by or contributed to by too much physical activity.

Hypertension  High blood pressure.

Hypokinetic Diseases or Conditions  Hypo means "under" or "too little," and kinetic means movement or activity. Thus, hypokinetic means "too little activity." A hypokinetic disease or condition is associated with lack of physical activity or too little regular exercise. Examples of such conditions include heart disease, low back pain, adult-onset diabetes, and obesity.

Insulin A hormone secreted by the pancreas that regulates levels of sugar in the blood.

Insulin Sensitivity A condition that occurs when insulin becomes ineffective or less effective than is necessary to regulate sugar levels in the blood.

Insulin Resistance A person with insulin resistance has decreased insulin sensitivity-the body's cells are not sensitive to insulin so they resist it and sugar levels are not regulated as they should be.

Lipids  All fats and fatty substances.

Lipoprotein  Fat-carrying protein in the blood.

Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)  A core of cholesterol surrounded by protein; the core is often called "bad cholesterol."

Osteoporosis A condition associated with low bone density and subsequent bone fragility leading to high risk of fracture.

Parasympathetic Nervous System  Branch of the autonomic nervous system that slows the heart rate.

Peripheral Vascular Disease  Lack of oxygen supply to the working muscles and tissues of the arms and legs resulting from decreased blood supply.

Stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident or CVA)  A condition in which the brain, or part of the brain, receives insufficient oxygen as a result of diminished blood supply; sometimes called apoplexy.

Sympathetic Nervous System  Branch of the autonomic nervous system that prepares the body for activity by speeding up the heart rate.

Systolic Blood Pressure The upper blood pressure number often called working blood pressure. It represents the pressure in the arteries at its highest level just after the heart beats.

Triglyceride A type of blood fat associated with increased risk of heart disease.

Concept Outline

Facts about Physical Activity, Fitness, and Disease Prevention/Treatment

  • There are three major ways in which regular physical activity and good fitness contribute to optimal health and wellness.
  • Too many adults suffer from hypokinetic diseases.
  • The link between regular physical activity and good health is now well documented.
  • Regular physical activity may overcome the effects of heredity over a lifetime.
  • Hypokinetic diseases and conditions have many causes.

The Facts about Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Diseases

  • There are many types of cardiovascular diseases.
  • The various forms of cardiovascular disease are the leading killers in automated societies.
  • A wealth of statistical evidence led to the conclusion that physical inactivity is a primary risk factor for CHD.

The Facts about Physical Activity and the Healthy Heart

  • There is evidence that regular physical activity will increase the ability of the heart muscle to pump blood as well as oxygen.

The Facts about Physical Activity and Atherosclerosis

  • Atherosclerosis is implicated in many cardiovascular diseases.
  • Atherosclerosis, which begins early in life, is the result of a systematic build-up of deposits in an arterial wall.
  • There is evidence that regular physical activity can help prevent atherosclerosis.
  • Lipid Deposit Theory
  • Protective Protein Theory
  • Blood Coagulant (Fibrin and Platelet) Theory

The Facts about Physical Activity and Heart Attack

  • Heart attack is the most prevalent and serious of all cardiovascular diseases.
  • Regular physical activity reduces the risk of heart attack (coronary occlusion).
  • There is evidence that regular exercise can improve coronary circulation and thus reduce the chances of a heart attack or dying from one.
  • The heart of the inactive person is less able to resist stress and is more susceptible to an emotional storm that may precipitate a heart attack.
  • Regular physical activity is one effective means of rehabilitation for a person who has coronary heart disease or who has had a heart attack.

Physical Activity and Other Cardiovascular Diseases

  • Regular physical activity and accompanying good physical fitness are associated with a reduced risk of high blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of stroke.
  • Regular physical activity is helpful in the prevention of peripheral vascular diseases.

The Facts about Physical Activity and Other Hypokinetic Conditions

  • Physical activity reduces the risk of some forms of cancer.
  • Physical activity plays an important role in the management and treatment of Type II diabetes.
  • Regular physical activity is important to maintaining bone density and decreasing risk of osteoporosis.
  • Active people who possess good muscle fitness are less likely to have back and other musculoskeletal problems than inactive, unfit people.
  • Physical activity is important in maintaining a healthy body weight and avoiding the numerous health conditions associated with obesity.
  • Physical activity reduces the risk and severity of a variety of common mental (emotional) health disorders Common mental (emotional) health disorders can be considered hypokinetic conditions.
  • Regular physical activity can have positive effects on some non-hypokinetic conditions:
    • Arthritis.
    • Asthma.
    • Chronic Pain.
    • Infections.
    • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).

Facts about Physical Activity and Aging

  • Regular physical activity can improve fitness and improve functioning among older adults.
  • Regular physical activity can compress illness and limited functioning into a shorter period of life.

Facts about Health, Fitness, and Wellness Promotion

  • Physical activity enhances metabolic fitness that can reduce risk of a variety of health problems.
  • Good health-related physical fitness and regular physical activity are important to health promotion and feeling well.
  • Good physical fitness can help an individual enjoy his or her leisure time.
  • Good physical fitness can help an individual work effectively and efficiently.
  • Good physical fitness is essential to effective living.
  • Good physical fitness may help you function safely and assist you in meeting unexpected emergencies.
  • Physical fitness is the basis for dynamic and creative activity.
  • There are many economic benefits associated with employee physical activity.

The Facts about Risk Factors

  • There are many different positive lifestyles that can reduce the risk of disease.
  • Not all risk factors are under your personal control.
  • Altering risk factors can help reduce the risk of more than one condition at the same time.
  • Risk reduction does not guarantee freedom from disease.
  • Reducing risk alters the probability of disease, but does not assure disease immunity.
  • Too much physical activity can lead to hyperkinetic diseases or conditions.

Strategies for Action: The Facts

  • A self-assessment of risk factors can help you modify your lifestyle to reduce risk of heart disease.
  • A general health and medical history completed now can provide a basis for making health decisions in the future.

Discussion Questions:

What are hypokinetic diseases? Give examples.

How does activity help prevent cardiovascular diseases?

How does activity help prevent cancer?

How does activity help to prevent back problems?

How does activity help to promote long-term weight control?

How does activity help to prevent or reduce risk of diabetes?

How does activity help to prevent osteoporosis?

How does activity benefit you as you grow older?

Lab 6a: Assessing Heart Disease Risk Factors


  1. Instruct students to complete the Heart Disease Risk Factor Questionnaire
  2. Have students record their unalterable, alterable, and total heart disease risk scores in the Results sections using the ratings from the chart.
  3. Have students answer questions in the Conclusions and Implications section of the lab report.

Comments / Suggestions:

  1. If students do not know their blood pressure or cholesterol, you may want to take them to a clinic or invite an expert to take these measurements. Many hospitals are willing to help set up small student-run health fairs on local campuses to help serve the community and the student population.
  2. Many individuals have unalterable risk factors due to their family history / genetics. This is important information to students since they need to be aware of their own risks. Mention, however, that it is not worth worrying about things they can't change; Instead, they should take active efforts to focus on the risk factors that are within their control.
  3. Most of the alterable risk factors are related to lifestyle behaviors. By adopting healthy lifestyles, students can decrease their scores on the alterable risk factors for various diseases. Have students discuss the steps they could take to reduce their personal risks.


Supplemental Activities

  • Have students interview parents or grandparents about their current health and produce a brief report. This project could be facilitated by providing students with a checklist of common hypokinetic diseases that adults are susceptible to and health behaviors that may relate to them. Encourage the students to provide help and motivation to relatives and friends that have these lifestyle conditions.