What is fitness?
If you think a man with 18 inch biceps and 6 pack abs and a woman with hourglass figure are fit, think again. Such appearances are often deceptive and can not be the parameters of judging one’s fitness level. An overall fitness and well-being is a far more complex subject than what meets the eyes.
For some, being fit is having a disease free general good health and some believe it is the ability to fulfill a particular role or task. It is commonly defined as the ability to effectively carry out the day’s routine activities, get involved in recreational activities, and still have the energy reserve to handle unforeseen emergency situations.
Though whatever be the definition, fitness can broadly be categorizes into 5 different types. The 5 components of physical fitness are -
- 1. Cardiovascular Fitness – Cardiovascular or cardio-respiratory fitness is the ability of the heart (and lungs) to ensure an uninterrupted supply of oxygen-rich blood to the working muscle group.
Why is it important? This is the most important but often the most neglected part of out fitness. A healthy cardiovascular system puts less stress on heart and lungs ensuring they function properly throughout the day. Not to scare you, but not having huge arms or a flat stomach will not kill you but having a week heart certainly can.
How to improve? Aerobic exercise, swimming, cycling, jogging etc. help improve cardiovascular endurance.
- 2. Muscular Strength – Muscular strength is the ability of a muscle group to exert force for a short span of time or to lift certain amount of weight.
Why is it important? Muscular strength helps us perform our day to day work smoothly and keeps us prepared for situations where sudden burst of power is needed like fixing a flat tier or carrying a heavy luggage etc.
How to improve? Squats, push-ups and pull-ups involving body weight for beginners to more intense training involving weights and machines help develop muscular strength.
- 3. Muscular Endurance – Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscle or a muscle group to perform a repetitive action without fatigue or to hold a position for an extended period of time.
Why is it important? Muscular endurance helps us perform our cardio exercises more efficiently ensuring a healthy heart.
How to improve? Step machines, running, push-ups, repetitiveweight training exercises etc. develop muscular endurance.
- 4. Flexibility – Also known as stretching, it is the ability of joints and muscles to reach its maximum range of motion.
Why is it important? This is another important component of fitness which is often neglected. A flexible body is lesser prone to various sports injuries. It also helps in better development of muscles by letting the muscle achieve its maximum range of motion.
How to improve? Doing some dynamic stretching before workout and static stretching after workout regularly improves flexibility. Yoga and Pilates also help improve flexibility.
- 5. Body Composition – Body composition is the amount of fat in the body compared to lean muscles, bones and organs.
Why is it important? A person may have well defined arm and chest muscles but excess fat on the rest of the body. This could lead to heart disease. A relatively slim person may have low density bones which could lead to osteoarthritis. Having a right body composition is extremely important for overall fitness.
How to improve? Improving the first four components of fitness will help improve the body composition. Experts advice to get the body composition analyzed every 6 months. It can be done from various gyms and hospitals.
Now that you know the 5 components of fitness, you can identify and focus on the problem areas. A balanced approach towards fitness keeping the above points in mind will surely help lead a healthy life.