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Components of fitness

Intro

Why be fit? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) links regular physical activity to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, improved bone health, enhanced mental health, and improved quality of life with age.

What exactly is fitness and how do you achieve it? The American College of Sports Medicine's (ACSM) has developed a list of five physical fitness components in which a fit person should excel. These components are used in many school systems, health clubs, and fitness centers to help gauge how physically fit we are. Total fitness can be defined by how well you perform in each component as well as in all the components taken as a whole. Creating a fitness plan that incorporates each of these elements can help ensure that you get the most health benefits from your routine.

Five components of fitness

The five components that make up total fitness are:
  • Cardiovascular endurance. Cardiovascular endurance, also known as cardiorespiratory endurance or aerobic fitness, is the ability of your heart and lungs to work together to provide the needed oxygen and fuel to the body during sustained workloads. Examples would be jogging, cycling, and swimming. The Cooper Run is used most often to test cardiovascular endurance.
  • Muscular strength. This is the amount of force your muscles can produce; how much can they lift or move something to produce work. While muscular endurance refers to how fatigue-resistant a muscle group is, muscular strength refers to the amount of force a muscle group can produce in one, all-out effort. There are many ways to test muscular strength, such as performing benches press, leg presses, or bicep curls. The pushup is most often used to test muscular strength.
  • Muscular endurance. This is the ability of your muscles to perform work continuously without fatigue. Holding a plank to develop core strength is an example of muscular endurance. The longer you're able to contract your abdominals and hold your body in a steady position, the greater endurance you have through your hips, abdominals, and shoulders. Muscular endurance is muscle group-specific, which means you can develop high levels of endurance in some muscle groups without necessarily developing the same level of endurance in other muscle groups. Some ways to measure muscular endurance is to use cycle, step, and elliptical machines. The sit-up is most often used to test muscular endurance.
  • Flexibility. This is the ability of each joint to move through its available range of motion. Like muscular strength and endurance, flexibility is joint-specific; you can have flexible legs but a stiff spine.  Flexibility can be measured by using stretching poses or performing certain functional movements such as the lunge. The sit and reach is most often used to test flexibility.
  • Body composition. This is the amount of fat mass compared to the mass of lean muscle, bone, and organs. High levels of fat mass are associated with negative health outcomes, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Body fat percentage can be measured using underwater weighing, skinfold thickness, or bioelectrical impedance analysis. The most accurate way to measure body fat; however, because of the size and expense of the equipment needed, very few places can perform this type of measurement.
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