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Physical fitness is an essential part of maintaining optimal health. A well-balanced training routine will improve your health in various ways. Physical health strengths include strengthening your bones & muscle, promoting weight loss, improving your lung & heart health, and preventing chronic diseases.
Unfortunately, there are increasing cases of health disparities across the globe. Yet this issue can be solved by ensuring people focus upon different mechanisms that improve overall physical fitness, including performance-based and health-related components.
However, although most people know what being fit looks like, very few know what is involved in physical fitness. So, before we get to the different areas of physical fitness, let's see what it's all about first!
What does physical fitness mean?
By definition, physical fitness refers to a specific set of attributes that allows an individual to perform a physical exercise with energy & without getting fatigued. It can also be defined as the energy to undertake leisure-time activities and meet unforeseen emergencies.
However, although physical fitness narrows down to having physical strength and adequate energy to complete tasks, it entails several factors.
HRF components (Health-Related Fitness) estimate the health status of an individual. For instance, maintaining physical fitness decreases the chances of getting chronic illnesses like heart disease or Type 2 diabetes and lowers blood pressure.
These areas of physical fitness can be viewed both from a health and sporting perspective. In sports, physical fitness is specific to the athlete's activities and focuses on certain components of fitness like strength and endurance. On the contrary, the health-related fitness definition views it as the ability to efficiently meet your daily living demands.
According to the ACSM (American College of Sports & Medicine), your fitness routine plan has to include all the components in the long term for you to be physically fit.
But, how many components of fitness are there in the first place? Well, read on to find out!
5 Physical fitness components
Physical fitness can be categorized into various parts that vary from one individual to another. You can exercise on certain parts of fitness to improve your performance or skill in specific activities. More importantly, this will bring out the desired changes in your lifestyle, mental health, and fitness levels.
However, your total fitness will be determined by how your body performs in all the aspects of physical fitness that include;
Flexibility refers to the ability of a certain joint to move freely through a range of motion. A good example of flexibility is performing functional workouts like lunges or stretching individual muscles. Higher flexibility enables you to move easily and perform various tasks like tying shoelaces.
Note this fitness component is joint-specific. Therefore, some joints tend to have more flexibility compared to others. For instance, you can have tight hips/ hamstrings but very flexible shoulders.
All in all, the lack of flexibility limits flexibility since the joints and muscles grow stiff. Luckily, performing flexibility training 2 to 3 times per week will help to eliminate this stiffness. Workouts that increase or improve flexibility include static stretches, active stretches, passive stretches, or dynamic stretches.
In addition, flexibility can affect your agility, balance, and coordination. At the same time, it is an important component of any workout routine and athletic training since it reduces the risk of injury. According to a study published in 2016, stretching regularly through yoga helped improve college athletes' performance.
Although flexibility is important at any age, it becomes more apparent as one gets older. For instance, performing daily activities like picking up objects off the floor or reaching objects on high shelves becomes more challenging. Interestingly, maintaining mobility and protecting your joints will help you hold up well later.
Muscular endurance refers to a certain muscle group's ability to perform contractions for an extended duration. It can also be defined as the ability of the muscles to sustain a certain level of muscle tension and resist fatigue.
An effective training program for muscle endurance includes a combination of workouts that engage one or two joints/ limbs. Such exercises include; push-ups, planks, lunges, sit-ups, squats, etc. Resistance training, weight training, and other activities like swimming, running, and cycling are also forms of muscular endurance. The ACSM claims that continuously working your way up to slightly heavier weight and more reps effectively boosts your muscular endurance.
This component of physical fitness plays an essential role in your routine life activities. Specifically, it allows your body to resist fatigue while performing those activities. Moreover, a 2017 review suggests that combining muscular strength and muscular endurance can help to reduce the likelihood of injury, both outside and inside the gym.
This refers to the measure of the maximum force a specific muscle group can produce to lift weight in one maximal effort. Simply put, it's the 'power' or 'strength' that helps you to carry and lift heavy objects.
The best way to increase muscle groups is to exercise with heavyweights. However, other workouts like climbing stairs, push-ups, and cycling can also improve muscular strength.
In most cases, muscular strength is measured by estimating the maximum weight an athlete can lift or move. Without muscular strength, the body cannot keep up with the lifting demands placed upon it since the body would be weak.
It's also worth mentioning that muscular strength, like muscular endurance, tends to be muscle group-specific. More notably, it focuses on certain muscle groups like abdominals, Back, arms or chest. As a result, one may have weak glutes but comparatively strong deltoids or weak pectoral muscles but strong hamstrings. For this reason, it's important to incorporate a balanced strength workout that engages all the major muscle groups.
Cardiovascular endurance or aerobic fitness/ cardiorespiratory endurance is the body's ability to efficiently and effectively distribute oxygen to various parts. Alternatively, it can be described as the ability of the lungs and heart to work together to fuel and give the body the needed oxygen during sustained workloads.
As the name suggests, this component of physical fitness forces the cardiovascular system (blood vessels, heart & lungs) to work for a prolonged period. This ensures that your muscles have the oxygen they need to handle their work.
Adding cardiovascular fitness to your workout routine will improve your heart health and condition. This is very important, especially seeing that heart disease causes over 600 thousand deaths in the USA every year. Some of the cardiovascular workouts that will improve your cardiovascular endurance include; cycling, dancing, swimming, walking, and running. These workouts will enhance your cellular metabolism, ease your physical exercises, and improve oxygen delivery throughout the body. Wear socks to avoid blisters when performing cardio workouts like walking or running.
Body fat composition is the final aspect you need to consider when dealing with overall physical fitness. It's the proportion of body fat mass to lean body mass, including the muscles, bones, and organs. Simply put, it is the amount of fat mass in your body.
This physical fitness component is usually measured at certain body parts with calipers to determine the amount of the total body fat. Also, some other devices and scales can be used to measure body fat. The BMI (Body Mass Index) has also been used to determine body fat composition for years. However, according to the CDC, BMI is not an accurate technique to determine body fat composition since it measures excess weight instead of excess fat.
Higher body fat composition increases the risk of health complications. For that, it's important to perform regular exercise routines to maintain a healthy body fat composition. The best way to improve your fat-mass to lean fat mass ratio is to work on the other 4 aspects of fitness. For instance, regular cardio exercises, stretching, and strength training workouts reduce fat mass while developing muscle mass, thus improving your body fat composition.
Knowing these 5 aspects of physical fitness will help trainers achieve the desired fitness goals. To be considered physically fit, you should have a properly aligned & balanced body, healthy lungs & an efficient heart, healthy body fat to lean mass ratio and flexible but strong muscles. This can only be achieved by creating a fitness routine plan that includes all these elements and working towards that goal continuously in your daily routines.