The language of exercise and fitness – understanding commonly used fitness terms - Part 1

As our understanding of the body has grown, so to have the number of terms associated with exercise and fitness. When discussing any topic and particularly fitness related topics, it is important for everyone to use the same terminology. Otherwise, using terms in different ways can easily lead to a miscommunication or misinterpretation of the information.   The fitness world is awash with acronyms, abbreviations and slang, which can seem like a whole new language in itself. Some individuals can go for years never really knowing what terms like aerobic, BMI or core strength actually mean because, when they first got involved in fitness it was assumed that they knew what they were and now it’s too late to ask.   If this describes you, fear not. What follows is one of the most comprehensive lists of commonly used terms in exercise and fitness. Whilst some of them are technical, almost medical descriptions, there are also explanations of common gym lingo, which can help those new to the formal exercise scene feel more comfortable and fit right in.   What follows is Part 1 of a comprehensive A-Z, which has been serialised over the next 3 months. The terms have been listed alphabetically for ease of reference, therefore, Part 1 covers A-D, Part 2, E-M and finally Part 3, O-Z.   A-Z of Commonly Used fitness terms A Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) - These are the every day tasks that individuals do (like brushing their teeth, showering and walking up the stairs) that use up calories, but at a slower rate than formal exercise. ADLs are usually factored in to a person's basal metabolic rate (see below), so tracking calories burned for these types of movement isn't recommended when trying to lose weight, although increasing these movements adds to your Wellness lifestyle and helps counter the negatives of a sedentary lifestyle. As such, they do count towards MOVERGY – Technogym’s daily movement index, which can be monitored automatically via the new Technogym app. Adrenaline - Also called epinephrine, a hormone that stimulates body systems in response to stress and helps people perform with more energy. Aerobic exercise - The term aerobic means “with oxygen.” Rhythmic activity that uses the large muscle groups continuously for at least 10 minutes, thus increasing the body's need for oxygen is an aerobic exercise. Aerobic endurance - A term used to describe an individual’s ability to do prolonged exercise without feeling fatigue, i.e. their aerobic fitness capacity. Agonist muscle - A muscle which is the prime mover in a joint movement. For example, during bicep curls, the bicep is the agonist muscle that flexes the elbow joint. Amino acids - are the chemical units or "building blocks," that make up proteins. Proteins are essential for the growth, repair and healing of bones, muscle tissues and cells. Amino acids occur naturally in food but can also be taken in supplement form, such as tablets or powder, and are commonly used to enhance recovery post-exercise. Anaerobic exercise - Short in duration, it is high intensity activity performed without sufficient oxygen to supply the body’s need for it at that moment. Anaerobic Threshold - The point at which exercise intensity causes lactic acid to accumulate in the muscles faster than it can be cleared away. Antagonist muscle - A muscle that causes movement at a joint in a direction opposite to that of the joint’s agonist (prime mover). In a biceps curl the antagonist muscle is the triceps.   B Balance training - Static and dynamic exercises that are designed to improve an individual’s balance and stability during everyday movements and exercise. Baseline activity - Baseline activities are similar to ADLs being of a light-intensity and mainly consisting of the activities of daily life. If an individual does no other activity than that classed as baseline activity, they are considered to be inactive in fitness terms. Bone-strengthening activity - Bone-strengthening activities are designed to promote bone strength by creating an impact or tension force on the bones that promote bone growth and strength. For example, running, jumping, skipping, and lifting weights are bone-strengthening activities. Bioelectrical impedance - A way of determining body composition that uses a small electrical current. It is based on the fact that the lean body tissue is more conductive than fat tissue due to its higher water content. The more lean tissue present in the body, the greater the conductive potential, which can be measured in Ohms using special equipment. Body composition - The make up of the body in terms of the amount of fat versus lean muscle tissue. Body Mass Index (BMI) - Measure of the relationship between height and weight; calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in centimetres squared. The BMI gives an indication of total body fat content. A high BMI scores usually indicating higher levels of body fat. BMI is often used as a general population measure to determine the level of health risk associated with obesity. However, in certain populations BMI can be inaccurate as a measure of body fatness, for example large and muscular, though lean, athletes may score high BMI levels, which incorrectly rates them as obese. Beats per minute (bpm) - The number of heart beats each minute. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) - This represents the minimum amount of energy required to keep the body functioning, including keeping the heart beating, and breathing. It is an estimate of how many calories an individual would burn if they did nothing at all for 24 hours.   C Cardiorespiratory fitness - Also called cardiovascular or aerobic fitness, this measures the heart’s ability to pump oxygen-rich blood to the muscles. Calisthenics - Exercising using one’s own body weight, which helps develop muscular tone. For example doing push-ups, squats or tricep dips. Cardiovascular system - Also known as the circulatory system, it is an organ system consisting of the heart and blood vessels, which transports nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide and enzymes throughout the body and regulates the water levels of cells, temperature and acidity levels of body components. Circuit training - A series of exercise stations of aerobic and strength training, with relatively brief rest intervals between each station. The number of stations may range from 6 to 10. Circuit training is an excellent way to improve mobility, strength and stamina. Common names for muscles - the names of the major muscles are frequently abbreviated as follows: Abs - Abdominals - stomach Delts - Deltoids - shoulders Glutes - Gluteus Maximus - buttocks Guns - Biceps - upper arms Lats - Latissimus Dorsi - side of trunk Pecs - Pectorals Major - chest Quads - Quadriceps - thigh front Six pack - very well defined abdominal muscles Traps - Trapezius - top of shoulders Concentric muscle action - Force produced while the muscle is shortening in length. Continuous training - Involves working for a sustained period of time without rest. It improves cardio-vascular fitness. This is the most common type of sustained aerobic exercise for fitness improvement. Cool down - Lowering of body temperature and heart rate following vigorous exercise. This is achieved by gradually slowing down the level of activity. Cortisol - A hormone secreted by the adrenal gland that makes stored nutrients more readily available to meet energy demands. Cortisol levels are susceptible to stress, which causes them to increase. High levels can stimulate your appetite, leading to weight gain or difficulty losing weight. Core - A muscle group comprised of the abdominals, lower back, obliques, and hips. Maintaining a strong core is important for good posture and helps reduce the risk of back problems. Technogym’s Wellness Ball promotes core strength through Active Sitting. Cross-training - involves using another sport or activity to improve your fitness for your main sport. For example using long distance running to build up endurance for tennis.   D Detraining Principle - This is the ‘use it or lose it’ principle. If an individual stops exercising regularly they will eventually lose the strength and aerobic fitness they acquired: muscles will weaken in two weeks or less. DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) - Muscle soreness or discomfort that appears 12 to 48 hours after unaccustomed or strenuous exercise. The soreness is felt most strongly 24 to 72 hours after the exercise. It is most likely due to microscopic tears in the muscle tissue, and it usually takes a couple of days for the repair and rebuilding process to be complete. After the experience, the muscle adapts rapidly to prevent muscle damage, and thereby soreness, if the exercise is repeated.   Soon, Part 2 will continue with commonly used health and fitness terms starting with the letter “E” and running through to “M”.