The definition of physical fitness is, “Physical Fitness- learning to use your body in many different ways”.
There are six elements of fitness: aerobic capacity, muscle strength, body structure, body composition, balance, and muscular flexibility.
• Aerobic Capacity- This is your cardiovascular systems ability to transport oxygen to the working muscles to serve as fuel for energy. This can be improved by performing cardiovascular exercises such as: running, cycling, swimming, hiking, skipping, dancing etc. Performing any of these types of activities at an intensity of 60-80% of your maximum heart rate for 30-60 minutes regularly will provide you with the first element of fitness.
• Muscular Strength- Your muscles should be able to exert force and control movements. Strength is improved with weight resistance training. Strengthening programs can include a variety of body weight, machines, free weights, kettlebells, TRX, resistance bands etc. In general, strengthening muscles appropriately uses resistance heavy enough to allow 8-15 slow and controlled repetitions with good form and repeated 1-4 times.
• Body Structure- This is your overall posture and any misalignments. Even a small imbalance in the way you regularly sit, or stand could lead to pain or even injury. Ideal posture aligns your ears over your shoulders, shoulders over your hips, equal length legs, pelvic symmetry and neutral joints throughout the body, creating equal pressure on both feet. Any deviations need to be corrected with proper stretching, strengthening and muscle release exercises.
• Body Composition- This is the ratio of body fat to lean body mass (bones and muscle). Body composition measurements are taken with calipers at specific parts of the body to determine the percent of total body fat. There are also scales and devices that measure our body fat. In general, the ideal range of body fat is 10-15 percent for males and 15-22 percent for females.
• Balance- There are simple balance tests that can be done to determine your balance level. Our current challenge of the month requires you to stand on one leg on a wobble board for as long as you can. Between 25-30 seconds is average and over 50 seconds is excellent. Even minor balance problems place you at risk for injuries like ankle sprains, muscle strains, falls and fractures.
• Muscular Flexibility- Your muscles should be flexible enough to allow for the full range of motion required for everyday activities. Muscles can become shortened is not properly stretched. Inactivity also causes muscles to shorten, become inflexible and more likely to cause stress or injury. Muscle imbalances lead to many common injuries where people have strong but tight muscles in some areas and weaker, unstable muscles/ joints in others.
All of these elements of fitness are just as important as each other, meaning it’s important not to just focus on a handful of elements and to step out of your comfort zone to better yourself in all areas of fitness.