5 components to fitness

Are you one of the many people who have undertaken to “get fitter in 2011”?

Congratulations – that is a fantastic goal to have, but what does that really mean?

Fitness is made up of 5 key components:

  1. Cardiovascular endurance
  2. Muscular strength
  3. Muscular endurance
  4. Flexibility
  5. Body composition

1. Cardiovascular endurance

The term cardiopulmonary relates to three parts of the body: cardio (heart), vascular (blood vessels) and pulmonary (lungs).

Cardiopulmonary exercise, or more commonly “cardio” exercise, is physical activity lasting longer than 90 seconds and cardiovascular endurance is your body’s ability to maintain aerobic exercise for longer than 90 seconds.

Simply: the fitter you are, the longer you can keep going.  This helps makes your heart, lungs and vascular system healthier and stronger which in turn leaves you less prone to illness and infection.

2. Muscular strength

Muscular strength is how much weight you can lift; pull or push over a short time period eg weight lifting in the gym.

The stronger you are, the better you can carry out daily activities such as carrying children and groceries, putting away storage boxes in the top of your cupboard and putting your bike on the back of the car.

This does not mean you need to bulk up – women don’t have the hormone make up needed to bulk up quickly.  Rather, building your muscular strength boosts your metabolism giving you a leaner, more toned result.

3. Muscular endurance

Muscular endurance relates to your ability to maintain muscle contractions (lifting; pulling; pushing) during activities lasting up to 90 seconds.

In order to increase your cardiovascular fitness, you need to have muscular endurance – think of the strength you need in your legs to run or cycle for  any period of time or the arm power needed by rowers and tennis players.

4. Flexibility

This is the range of motion in our joints eg touching your toes, clasping your hands behind your back.

We all have varying degrees of flexibility and it’s important to include time for stretching at the end of your workout as your muscles contract during exercise.

You don’t need to be able to tie yourself in knots, but spending time developing your flexibility will increase your range of motion.

In fact, people who are extremely flexible may need to stretch less and concentrate on strengthening and stabilising their joints to prevent injuries such as dislocated shoulders.

Flexibility is increasingly important as we age.  Think of the upright gait of a young person compared to the often hunched over shuffle of the elderly.   The term “use it or loose it” applies here – maintain your mobility to help prevent stiffness in your joints which can in turn lead to falls and breaks.

5. Body composition

This refers to the amount of body fat compared to lead body mass (including muscle, bone, water and organs).

Too much fat and you put yourself at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression and other diseases, whilst decrease bone mass puts you at risk of osteoporosis and bone breakages.

Your doctor can help you determine a healthy weight range for your age and height.

The easiest way to address these five fitness components is to ensure that your exercise routine includes a variety of exercises.  For example:

  • cardio – running, cycling or swimming
  • muscular strength – weight training
  • muscular endurance –  tennis, rowing or boxing
  • flexibility – yoga
  • watch what you eat and cut back on refined sugars to control your weight

Good luck with your fitness goals in 2011 and most importantly, have fun!

sportstar.com fitness trainer Anja