Physical fitness is one of the most important factors in maintaining overall good health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes that endorsing any kind of physical activity for a regular period of time ensures that you suffer less from cardiovascular events, diabetes type I and II, skeletal issues, mental diseases, various cancers and even enjoy longevity. Not to forget these are just a few of health benefits a good physical exercise can provide. Scientists published research in 2014 where they emphasized that physical fitness is associated with enhanced mental and physical health, including a good cognition. Another research published in 2014 in the Journal of Sports Medicine instituted that a good muscular and physical fitness is associated with enhanced self-esteem, bone growth, and elimination of the risk of any cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
No doubt exercise makes sure that a healthy body is achieved. Many people know that prioritizing physical fitness can provide myriads of benefits. But the main questions that many people don’t get the answer to is: What exactly is fitness? And how can a person achieve maximum fitness? That is where the five main components of fitness come in. Five components of physical fitness:
- Muscular strength
- Muscular endurance
- Cardiorespiratory endurance
- Body composition
The American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM’s) physical activity guidelines considers these five components as the blueprints to a fit body. These health-related fitness components ensure you have a well-organized and well-balanced exercise routine.
When I teach the basics of physical education, I make sure that all of these five components are considered and their importance is taught to the people. In various health clubs and fitness facilities, these basics are considered as a measure to see how well a person is performing and whether or not he/she is fit.
Whenever I get a new client, I perform these fitness tests on my clients. This enables me to see which exercise routine would suit better. If you are not working with a personal trainer, make sure you assess these factors by yourself and see for yourself which level of fitness you are at.
Components of Physical Fitness
1, Cardiorespiratory Endurance
Famously known as cardiovascular endurance, this determines the capacity by which your body gets fueled with blood and oxygen. This ensures that your body is capable of doing activity continuously. Cardiovascular function test is one of the most important tests as it ensures that all of the processes in our body run smoothly. To increase your cardiorespiratory endurance, you have to remember that the heart is also a muscle. Therefore, like all the muscles you have to work harder to make your heart stronger. There are many means by which you can increase your heart rate. You can use any kind of treadmill, a stable bike, or any elliptical machine to increase the potential of our heart.
The key to increasing your heart’s endurance is consistency. Guidelines for physical activity from ACSM state that every person should undergo at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity workout every week, or at least 75 minutes of rigorous workout. The statistics may seem a lot, but these figures break down to 15-30 minutes of workout every day for five days a week. Obviously, you can push yourself further, but that’s the least you should do.
Nutrition is also vital. Taking too many processed foods can lead to poorer heart health and can precipitate various health issues like myocardial infarction, stroke, or angina.
2, Muscular Strength
Muscular strength can be considered as one of the two factors that ensure overall better muscles. You can think of muscular strength as the ability of muscles to contract continuously even in the presence of resistance. Cyclists doing longer distances are the perfect example. They continue pedaling long distances, even on inclined surfaces, and in the end, develop muscles that are resistant to fatigue. These muscles are the perfect example of high muscle strength.
In the same way, plank holding to increase core muscle strength is also a perfect example of increased muscular strength. The more you try to contract your abdominal muscles, the more you remain in a steady pose, and the more your muscles in hips, abdominals, and shoulder gain endurance.
On the contrary, it is important to note that muscular strength is specific to a single muscle group only. E.g., the cyclists only have increased strength in their leg muscles. They do not have the same muscular strength in their other muscle groups. So, it’s better you check your goals and focus on muscle group which you want to get increased in strength. These goals can be achieved through resistance training, weight lifting, elastic bands, or various other exercise machines.
3, Muscular Endurance
Muscular endurance combines cardiovascular strength and muscular strength. It is a measure of how much a muscle can bear a load until it becomes fatigued. Whereas the strength of a muscle defines how much a strength a muscle can produce, muscle endurance defines the duration of how long a muscle can keep on contracting.
The best way to check muscle endurance is to lift up a three-pound weight and check how many times you are able to pass that weight over your head, to the point where your arms become fatigued. Another way to check your muscle endurance is to see how much longer you can engage in a cardiovascular workout, or how many stairs you can go up.
Muscle endurance, and even stamina can be increased by taking proper food. Whole grains are considered one of the top ways to fuel the muscles and make them more endurable. Some other foods can include chia seeds, quinoa, oatmeal, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, and salmon. It is possible that you increase your muscle strength and endurance at the same time. But it is always better you select a scheme that suits your body and goals. If you are aiming to get stronger, you’ll have to lift up more weight and never stop until your muscles get fatigued. Usually, this can happen if you keep on repeating your sets without pausing. However, if your goal is to increase muscle endurance, you’ll have to lift light weights but do higher reps.
Irrespective of the age group, flexibility is important for everyone. It helps conduct uninterrupted movements and provide balance and coordination to your body. Acquiring flexibility helps you gain a full range of motion, decreasing the possibility of injury and enhancing the overall physical performance.
The significance of acquiring flexibility becomes clearer as you age. Take out a minute and observe all the elderly people moving around you. Notice they use a shuffle to walk and struggle greatly only to extend their arms above the level of their heads. This may seem insignificant to you but for them, these little things reduce the quality of life.
A decreased flexibility in such an old age makes it extremely hard to perform day-to-day activities such as picking up an object off the floor, grabbing a jar of cookies from a high shelf, or simply catching balance.
Aging is inevitable and no matter how hard we try, we cannot avoid it. What we can do is protect our joints and maintain mobility by acquiring high flexibility.
There are different types of flexibility training, static stretching being the commonest. In order to perform it, you have to elongate your muscle by extending it as much as you can and hold it in the exact same position for some time.
Another way to improve flexibility is through Self-myofascial Release, a type of training in which you put pressure on your tight muscles and work out the knots. Pilates and yoga are other common forms of exercises to enhance flexibility.
While exercise is a great way to increase flexibility, it is important to maintain it through diet. So while you are working on your muscles, remember to supplement your body with natural foods rich in minerals and vitamins.
5, Body Composition
There are different types of tissues in your body, muscles being a major part of them. In fact, your body is majorly comprised of fats, bone, and muscle tissues. The muscle tissues together with the bones constitute the lean mass.
Having a high level of body fat is linked with myriads of health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol. Fat percentage, or the total amount of body mass consisting of adipose tissues, is perhaps the most important variable of the body to determine health.
The total fat percentage of your body can be measured in different ways. You may use bioelectrical impedance, hydrostatic weighing, or callipers for this purpose. If you find it to be high, diet and exercise are the best ways to normalize it.
To achieve the body composition of your dreams, the best tip is to decrease your total consumption of fat and sugar. This combination has proven to be deadly and accounts for most of the surplus fat stored into the body. These fat stores, in turn, increase blood cholesterol which automatically predisposes you to a high risk of cancer, high blood pressure, and heart diseases.
While these facts have been acknowledged for centuries, people still refuse to quit eating fat and sugars. Reducing these two foods is the first and the most important way of improving your body composition. Combining this dietary tip with appropriate exercise, as described in the previous sections, can help you achieve a healthy state.
For most of us, fitness is a rather confusing topic. Most of the people determined to attain physical fitness seem to be unaware of how to achieve it. Such people often struggle to understand the true meaning of fitness and the components it comprises.
To clear the misconceptions and confusions, the five components of physical fitness discussed in this article may help. Use these components as a barometer to keep a track of your changes and you will start seeing improvements in no time.