If you’re reading this blog, you have at least a passing interest in physical fitness and healthy lifestyles. But what does it really mean to be “physically fit”? To be sure, a professional athlete will have a different standard than a somewhat sedentary office worker. So, to a certain extent, physical fitness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. There is general agreement however, among experts that there are 5 components of fitness that pertain to all individuals.
As outlined by the United States Coast Guard and many other authorities, these are:
- Body composition
- Muscular strength
- Muscular endurance
- Cardiorespiratory endurance
A well-balanced, healthy lifestyle program should include activities that address all five of these health-related fitness components. Here is a brief description of each, along with the basic process for making gains in that particular area. For a much deeper dive into any facet discussed below, please contact one of the certified professionals at Premier Fitness Source.
The first aspect, Body Composition, refers to the relative percentages of muscle, bone, and fat in the body. The most important factor that contributes to fitness in this area is maintaining a healthy diet. But the appropriate percentage of body fat can vary widely among individuals – even among athletes. A Sumo wrestler, for example, requires far more body fat than does an Olympic sprinter. If your desire is to shed some “non-productive” weight, start by eating as healthfully as you can, and incorporate consistent exercise to burn off some of those unwanted calories and pounds.
The next two aspects, Muscle Strength and Muscle Endurance are of course related, but different enough to merit individual discussion. Having sufficient muscle strength means that you can accomplish a one-time task – perhaps putting a box of books on a high shelf in the closet or lifting a grandchild on to your lap. Improving your fitness in this area is most quickly accomplished by lifting what are for you, relatively heavy weights. Remember that exercises which incorporate several muscle groups are more effective than ones which isolate a single muscle.
Muscle Endurance, on the other hand, refers to the ability to perform a given task for an extended period of time. If you want to run a 10K race, you’ll need endurance in your quads and other leg muscles. But painting the living room wall with the roller over your head or raking leaves are also tasks that can stress muscle endurance. Using lighter weight and more repetitions per set is the best prescription for making gains here.
Cardiorespiratory Endurance is likely the aspect most commonly thought of when we consider what it means to be “physically fit”. Most people know that increasing stamina has tremendous benefits for heart health as well as positive effects on things like disease prevention and daily energy levels. The recipe here is any activity that is (unsurprisingly called) “cardio” – walking at a rapid enough pace to get your heart into its training zone, swimming, biking, and even activities like gardening or leaf raking can lead to improvement.
The final component of fitness, Flexibility, is likely the LEASt commonly thought of aspect, but it’s no less important than the others. If someone has lost much of their flexibility, whether through age or injury, their quality of life will certainly suffer. Imagine being unable to tie your shoes because your back is too stiff, or being unable to take a pleasant stroll around the neighborhood because your knees are too “locked”. It is crucial to address this key component of physical fitness as part of any exercise routine. Hold stretches for 15-20 seconds and remember that your muscles and connective tissues will stretch more easily and safely, AFTER you warm up for 10 minutes or so.
At Premier Fitness Source, we have the knowledge and products to help guide you through any facet of your journey toward physical fitness. Come to us with detailed questions on any of the aspects discussed above and how you want to change them – we have the answers! We’ve helped professional athletes reach their potential, as well as everyday folks who just want to see improvement. Contact us or stop in to one of our GA or TN locations. We’re eager to assist in any way we can.
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