Fitness isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept but every body requires similar things for overall physical well-being. Your body needs to function properly and efficiently for both daily life activities and emergency situations. There are 5 components of fitness that you need to be aware of and focus on to ensure your fitness is well-rounded.
Being physically fit could be defined as simply performing daily activities with ease and minimal fatigue. To define it more in depth, it’s “one’s ability to execute daily activities with optimal performance, endurance, and strength with the management of disease, fatigue, and stress and reduced sedentary behavior.” (1)
1 – Muscular Strength
Your strength is measured by the amount of weight your muscles can lift and the force they can produce against resistance. Can you carry that overflowing basket of laundry to the basement with ease? Are you able to pick up your grandson to sit him on the counter when they need a band-aid on his knee? That leather recliner – can you move it around without calling a friend?
We all need strength and though size isn’t always indicative of strength, muscle mass and integrity are both necessary. To increase your muscular strength you must consistently train the body with resistance so the muscle fibers become stronger, denser, and learn how to fire in unison.
Think of your muscles like toddlers. Put ten 3-year old kids in a room, tell them to put toys away and watch what happens. Two kids run off and dump a box of legos and one puts away a doll then eats paste. Four kids fight over the cool chair in the corner, two sit on the floor crying for no reason, and who knows where that last kid went! One-off sessions don’t work but consistent ‘clean up’ time does. They learn how to work together and get more done quicker. So do your muscles.
You should incorporate at least 2 days of calculated resistance training into a weekly exercise regimen. Work with loads you can lift for 8-12 repetitions before taking a short rest to let your muscles recover.
2 – Muscular Endurance
This can be defined as your body’s ability to perform movements repetitively without fatigue. We talked about carrying a heavy basket of laundry down the steps and endurance is being able to manage multiple trips on the stairs? Walking around Hershey Park carrying requires muscular endurance! Gardening, window-cleaning, and mowing the lawn all require muscular endurance just like cycling and swimming.
Train for muscular endurance by working for longer durations with lighter loads. You can incorporate endurance-geared weight training exercises with lighter loads that you can lift for 20 reps. Go hiking with a few water bottles in your backpack or push the weighted sled. Your body utilizes its efficient cardiovascular system (coming up at #3!) to ensure oxygen is continuously supplied to your muscles, enabling them to sustain movement for longer periods of time.
3 – Cardiovascular Endurance
Also known as aerobic capacity, it refers to how well your body can fuel itself during activity through its circulatory and respiratory systems. It is the “ability of the body to take in oxygen and distribute it to the body tissues through the heart, arteries, lungs, veins, and vessels effectively and efficiently.” (2). Cardio – some love it and some hate it but it’s important no matter your preference.
As the heart muscles are stronger, they can pump more blood throughout the body. You train for cardio endurance with two levels of exertion – moderate and vigorous. Both are important no matter your age or goals, but the key is consistency and progression.
Just 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week will get you the suggested 150 minutes of moderate cardio per week. Aim to keep a “talking pace” – meaning that you could talk the entire time but not much more or less. If you can sing a song you need to work a little harder. If you can barely get the words out you need to ease up a bit or your entering vigorous territory. Vigorous exercises taxes your anaerobic cardio system which means you don’t take in much oxygen. If you prefer more vigorous cardio like fast running, battle rope drills, etc., you only really need 75 minutes per week. Bench hops are an easy way to get a little extra anaerobic cardio in.
4 – Flexibility
Basically, the range of motion across joints. You want you body to be able to move within its naturally intended range of motion. Without flexibility, you increase your risk of injury, promote imbalances, and can just feel tight and “stuck”. Flexibility pertains to more than just your muscles and requires pliability from tendons and ligaments as well.
Dynamic stretching is where you move through different positions to enable the soft tissue to stretch through movement. Yoga and mobility flows are great examples as they require force to be produced in some muscles as others relax. Dynamic stretches like walking lunges or spinal rotations are great to include as a pre-workout routine.
Static stretching is positioning your body to where a stretch is felt in the desired area and holding for a few seconds before releasing. This type of stretching is great to incorporate as a post-workout cool-down.
5 – Body Composition
This isn’t the segment where we judge your waistline – but what your body size is made up of sure matters! In basic terms that most folks care about, it is fat to muscle. Body composition takes into consideration the ratio of muscle, fat, bone and water.
No, it’s not the same as BMI. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a height:weight calculation and does not factor in what the weight is made up of. It is a basic, non-invasive measurement to assess health risks but we advise you look deeper into what the weight is made up of. It’s very possible and pretty darn prevalent to find ‘overweight’ and even ‘obese’ by BMI standards individuals who have a ‘fitness’ or ‘athlete’ body fat percentage level.
Have you heard the term “skinny fat”? It’s essentially the opposite of the example I just gave. A person could show as ‘average’ or even ‘underweight’ and have an unhealthily high level of body fat. No good! The best way to improve your body composition is to first measure it, then incorporate all the physical components we already talked about along with a healthy, balanced diet.