Health-related fitness is achieved through regular physical activity. It consists of five components: muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, body composition and cardiorespiratory endurance.
Cardiovascular endurance is the ability to exercise at moderate to vigorous intensity for longer periods of time. It enables the muscles to deliver oxygen efficiently and helps you maintain a healthy weight.
Perhaps the most important component of fitness, cardio endurance helps you perform strenuous exercises for longer periods of time. Whether you’re training for a marathon, hiking up a mountain or just trying to make it upstairs without losing your breath, cardiovascular endurance is essential to achieving your fitness goals.
Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of your heart, blood vessels and lungs to deliver oxygen to your working muscles for prolonged physical activity. It’s also commonly referred to as aerobic or cardiorespiratory fitness. The better your cardiovascular endurance, the more intense your whole-body workouts can be and the faster you will recover afterward.
People who work with a personal trainer or coach often focus on improving their cardiovascular endurance, as it’s one of the most effective ways to increase your overall fitness. However, anyone can improve their endurance with regular exercise and a healthy diet. You just need to start slow and gradually increase your pace and intensity over time. Eventually you’ll be able to run that marathon, hike that mountain or even just go for that long 60-minute Peloton ride!
Muscular strength is the ability of muscles to contract and exert force against resistance, such as weights, natural gravity, or elastic exercise bands. It also involves the ability of nerves to fire muscle fibers in a coordinated manner. This is called muscular definition or synchronization. Having strong muscles makes daily activities easier and helps to prevent injuries. Opening those pesky pickle jars becomes much easier when your muscles are stronger.
While muscular endurance is about the length of time a muscle can make repeated contractions, muscular strength is how hard the muscles can work. It’s a common misconception that improving your maximum strength will lead to an improvement in your power, but that’s not always the case. Improvements in your muscular endurance will improve your explosive strength, but not necessarily your maximum strength. This is because improvements in your maximal strength and your power come from different muscle fiber types – fast twitch fibers being used during explosive movements versus slow twitch fibers for more sustained efforts. The best way to increase both is by incorporating an exercise program that targets all the major muscle groups.
The ability of muscles to perform repetitive motions for a longer period of time is known as muscular endurance. It’s important for anyone who enjoys long-distance exercise, like running or cycling. It also plays a role in sports like football (repeated kicking and sprinting), basketball (swinging the arm repeatedly), boxing, swimming, and rowing.
This quality is also needed when you’re tackling a tough task at home, such as carrying heavy grocery bags up or down the stairs or chopping wood. You can measure your muscle endurance by determining how many reps of a certain movement you can perform before fatigue sets in, says Brooks.
For strength athletes, increasing muscular endurance allows you to perform a higher volume of repetitions per set, which increases the effectiveness and efficiency of your training sessions. For example, if you’re working out with barbell squats, try to limit rest between sets to help build muscular endurance. The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends limiting rest to about 30 seconds or less. This will allow you to complete more repetitions with the same amount of rest time, which is a key element for building muscular endurance.
The ability to move a joint through its full range of motion without discomfort or stiffness is called flexibility. Flexibility training is essential for maintaining a healthy body. Many everyday activities require a degree of flexibility, from getting out of bed or turning on a faucet to reaching for an overhead shelf. Flexibility also helps reduce the risk of injury.
In general, people who exercise regularly have more flexibility than those who don’t exercise. However, flexibility declines with age. Flexibility is also influenced by gender, body size and level of physical activity. In some sports, flexibility is especially important, for example, gymnasts and hurdlers need exceptional flexibility.
Although some flexibility tests have been associated with health outcomes, such as lower back pain or improved posture, the relationship is complex and requires further study. The physiology underlying the flexibility/health outcome association is not as well understood as that relating to cardiorespiratory endurance or muscle strength. This makes it difficult to develop national normative data for flexibility tests or establish cut-points. This chapter provides guidance on interpreting results from flexibility testing.
Body composition is a measurement of the percentages of fat, bone, water, and muscle in your body. Achieving the ideal body composition can reduce health risks such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It can also contribute to increased energy levels and improved physical performance.
Although some fat is essential to maintain proper bodily functions, too much body fat can lead to health issues such as cancer, heart disease, and fatigue. It is important to monitor your body fat level and aim for a lower fatty body composition.
To achieve a healthier body composition, you should focus on building skeletal muscle mass and reducing your body fat percentage. A healthy skeletal muscle mass is crucial for mobility, posture, and a strong immune system. Additionally, it is important to keep your body hydrated by focusing on consuming more water. By monitoring your body composition over time, you can see the impact of changes to your diet and exercise routine. This will allow you to make more informed decisions about your fitness and overall health.