Physical fitness plays a significant role in our overall health. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent or the CDC, our physical health and activities are directly linked to a reduced risk of many diseases, namely cancers, bone health, mental health, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and many more.
Physical fitness enhances the quality of our lives as we age. And these are just a few advantages. Research suggests that physical fitness activities improve our overall resilience, our mental health, and cognitive abilities. In fact, muscular fitness is known to enhance our self-esteem, our metabolism, cardiovascular health, and our bone health.
Five health-related fitness components
So, now that you are caught up with why physical fitness needs to be embraced in our lives, you also need to understand the top components of fitness.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s guidelines on physical activity, the following are the five health-related fitness components:
- Cardiovascular Endurance
- Muscular Strength
- Muscular Endurance
- Body Composition
Therefore, curating a fitness plan for yourself that encompasses these fitness components helps ensure you get the best exercise routine.
1. Cardiovascular Endurance
The first fitness component, cardiovascular endurance, also known as aerobic endurance, refers to the ability of our bodies to effectively and efficiently intaking oxygen and then delivering our body tissues with the same. This can be achieved through our lungs, our heart, vessels and arteries, and our veins.
To engage in regular physical activity that enhances your
- Improve and maintain the efficiency of your body’s intake and oxygen delivery to different parts and systems.
- Enhancing cellular metabolism
- Easing the various physical challenges in your day-to-day life.
Heart diseases account for at least 6,30,00 deaths every year in the United States. Therefore it is crucial to begin a workout schedule to enhance your cardiovascular fitness. We can do this by walking, running, swimming, cycling, even dancing and boxing. These are just a few ways by which you can improve your overall cardiovascular health.
Cardiovascular endurance, you can:
The American College of Sports Medicines guidelines recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity workout or at least 75 minutes of vigorous workout every week.
To maintain your cardiovascular health, consistency needs to be maintained. The 150 minutes or 75 minutes might sound extreme in a certain condition. However, if you break it down to 25-30 minutes every day, you can push yourself to success.
2. Muscular Endurance
Muscular endurance is the second factor that contributes to your physical health. It is the ability of your muscle groups to contract against some form of resistance on a continuous basis. Long-distance cycling is a clear example of this. When you are cycling on steep inclines and continuing on the set course for a long time, you develop fatigue-resistant muscles in your legs and glutes. These fatigue-resistant muscles are indicators of your muscular endurance.
Muscular endurance for everyday health
In the same way, if you are exercising and holding a plank, you are not only developing core strength, but you are also enhancing your muscular endurance. The longer you can hold that plank and keep your body steady, the greater your muscular endurance will be.
Muscular endurance for fitness-related goals
Muscular endurance is always specific to certain muscle groups. It means that you can develop higher muscular endurance in certain groups, like cyclists can do in their legs, without having this endurance developed in other muscle groups. The extent to which you choose to focus on muscular endurance is directly related to your fitness goals and health.
3. Muscular Strength
Compared to muscular endurance, muscular strength refers to the intensity of force a muscle group can produce in just one effort. In terms of strength training, muscular strength is your workout repetitions.
Now, just like muscular endurance, muscular strength is specific to certain muscle groups. In other words, you might have amazingly strong glute muscles, but at the same time, you can have weak deltoids. You can have strong hamstring muscles but have weaker pectoral muscles. This is why stressing the importance of a well-balanced diet while you are strength training is essential. Having a well-balanced diet during your strength training phase ensures all the major muscle groups are targeted equally.
The intensity of your strength training is determined by one’s health and fitness goals. For example, if you are trying to focus just on your health, you should easily lift a heavy box. In such circumstances, an enhanced muscular strength is a byproduct of your workout routines that stress more on developing your muscular endurance.
However, if you are looking forward to developing more muscle mass or weight lifting, your strength training regime should focus more on heavy weight lifting.
You can improve your muscular strength and muscular endurance together. However, selecting certain sets and repetition schemes depending on your personal goals is extremely important here. So, if you set your goal to gain more strength and be stronger, you will need to lift heavy weights in conjunction with the muscle fatigue with every set. This usually means you will need to perform more sets with fewer repetitions. But, if your goal is simply to improve your muscular endurance, you will require lighter weight lifting and more repetitions, which is more efficient.
As per the American College of Sports Medicine’s guidelines, an adult should perform strength training exercises at least 3 days every week with various exercise routines and equipment to target all major muscle groups. This can be either done with your cardiovascular workout alone.
Flexibility is all about the range of motions you have around your joints. Just like muscular endurance and strength, flexibility caters to joint mobility. For example, you can have extremely flexible joints around your shoulder but inflexible and tight hamstrings.
Being flexible is important at all stages of your life. It plays an essential role in the unhindered movement of a human body, directly affecting your coordination, balance, and agility. Maintaining a full range of motions through your major joints reduces the likelihood of injuries and enhances athletic performance.
With age, the importance of flexibility becomes more apparent. Elderly individuals usually can be seen walking with a shuffle and can have a hard time reaching their elbows over their heads. This affects the quality of life, making it challenging to perform routine tasks.
Yes, you cannot stop the aging process and the possible outcome of the same, but you can protect your joints and maintain your mobility in your later years.
The physical activity guidelines by the American College of Sports Medicine state that adults must engage in flexibility exercises at least two to three days every week.
Here are a few simple ways through which you can improve your flexibility:
- You can start by stretching your body, wherein you should be able to hold one stretch for at least 10-30 seconds.
- You can perform certain dynamic stretching workouts like Yoga, Tai Chi, and Pilates.
- You can also begin with active stretching, as simple as lifting your legs high and holding them there for 10-30 seconds. This will incorporate contraction of the opposing muscles that relax the muscles being stretched.
- Relaxed stretching or passive stretching can be incorporated into your exercise routine, where you can assume a stretching position and hold it up with the help of other parts of your body. You can also take the help of someone else, an apparatus, or straps.
- You can also consider isometric stretching exercises that use resistance bands to alternate between contracting and relaxing muscles.
5. Body composition
Body composition refers to your body’s ratio of fat-free mass to fatty mass. It is the final and most integral fitness component. Since high levels of fat mass are associated with negative health outcomes, like diabetes, heart diseases, etc., it becomes extremely important to maintain your healthy body composition with regular exercise.
Measuring your body composition
To improve your body composition, it is important to know where you are beginning with. People have this notion that weighing scales can tell you about your body composition, but it has nothing to do with your internal tissues and your health.
You should, instead, talk to a trainer about getting tested for your body-fat percentage. You can also purchase a BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) scale to measure your body fat percentage.
The current gold standard for your body composition measurement is hydrostatic testing. This involves you being weighed on dry land and then sitting on an underwater scale. The greater the fat composition, the lighter the indicator will be on an underwater scale.
Improving your body composition
You can improve your body composition by working out and improving your other four fitness components. If you are regularly working out, either at home or the gym, doing your cardio, improving your flexibility, and are strength training as well, you are going to eventually develop muscle mass, also known as the fat-free mass.
How can you be qualified as fit?
Body fat composition can be different for different people, even if they look alike. So, a 100-pound person can have a lean body pass of 75 pounds with a 25% body fat composition.
So, who is considered fit?
- Men who want to quality as “fit” must have a body composition less than 17%
- Women who want to qualify as “fit” must have a body composition of less than 24%.
An average male should have around 18-24% body fat, whereas an average female should have about 25-31% body fat.
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