Summer is almost here and it’s time to get outside and get in shape! We all hear the term physical fitness. We know it means to exercise, but have you ever stopped to consider the components of physical fitness? Since May is “National Physical Fitness and Sports Month”, now is a good time to review.
Technically, there are 11 components of physical fitness. That’s because total fitness is measured by how well your body performs in each one of the components of physical fitness as a whole. It is not enough to be able to bench press your bodyweight. You also need to determine how well you can handle other things like, running, stretching, and coordination.
The good news is you use all 11 components daily, but you may not realize it. They include:
- Reaction Time
According to ThePhysicalEducator.com, 5 of the 11 components of physical fitness are often used in our school systems, health clubs and fitness centers to determine what kind of shape you are truly in. These 5 components are:
- Cardiovascular Endurance
- Muscular Endurance
- Muscular Strength
- Body Composition
So if you can’t work on all 11 components of physical fitness during your workouts, let’s zero in on the ones that matter most.
Components of Physical Fitness: Cardiovascular Endurance
One of the most important components of physical fitness is cardiovascular endurance. Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of the heart and lungs to work together to provide your body with the oxygen it needs when you’re overexerting yourself. It also refers to how well nutrients are being delivered to tissues like muscles and organs and to remove wastes.
Examples would be jogging, cycling and swimming. The Cooper Run Test is used most often to test cardiovascular endurance. It was developed by Kenneth Cooper in 1968 for the United States military. Those who take it are simply asked to run as far as possible in 12 minutes. Walking is allowed, but you’re encouraged to push yourself as hard as you can. Doctors then measure your VO2max, which is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen you can use during intense, or maximal, exercise.
Components of Physical Fitness: Muscular Endurance
Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscles to perform continuously without fatiguing. It’s essentially how many times your muscles can generate force over a period of time.
Examples would be cycling, step machines and elliptical machines. The sit up test is most often used to test muscular endurance, but some studies show that it is not a good measure of overall muscle endurance. It is, however, a great core exercise.
The push up test is also used to test muscular endurance. You do as many push ups as you can for 60 seconds, or until failure, without any break in proper form. Your total number is recorded as your score.
Components of Physical Fitness: Muscular Strength
This might be the component of physical fitness men will relate to. Muscular strength is the amount of force a muscle can produce—in other words, how well your muscles work in a short period of time.
Examples would be the bench press, leg press or bicep curl.
Components of Physical Fitness: Body Composition
A healthy body composition is one that includes a lower percentage of body fat and a higher percentage of fat-free mass, which includes your muscle, bones, and organs. This can be measured using tests like:
- Underwater Weighing
- Skinfold Readings
- Bioelectrical Impedance
Underwater weighing is considered the “gold standard” for body fat measurement, however because of the size and expense of the equipment needed very few places are set up to do this kind of measurement.
Components of Physical Fitness: Flexibility
Flexibility is the ability of each joint to move through the available range of motion for that specific type of joint.
Examples would be stretching individual muscles or the ability to perform certain functional movements such as the lunge. The sit and reach test is most often used to test flexibility. Essentially, you sit on the floor and reach out in front of you to measure the flexibility of your lower back and hamstrings.
Exercise is a very important part of our lives. It helps keep our body in tip-top shape, starting at a very young age. The updated physical activity guidelines for Americans state any movement that gets your heart rate up, even just a little bit, is beneficial.
By understanding the components of physical fitness, you can also understand how it applies to your daily living. From lifting boxes, to stretching for that cup on the top shelf, being physically fit makes it easier to perform even the simplest tasks throughout the day.
For more information on the updated physical activity guidelines for Americans, check out our guide “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.” Inside you’ll find more ways to ease yourself into an exercise routine and how hard you should be working out to see results.