I remember back to my studies of year 12 physical education for my VCE (Victorian Certificate of Eduction).
One of the earliest topics we covered in the curriculum was around different forms of fitness an individual can possess.
Perhaps you too are studying these topics are want a clearer explanation of what they are.
So what are these health related fitness components?
The five health related fitness components are:
- Cardiovascular (Aerobic) Endurance
- Muscular Strength
- Muscular Endurance
- Body Composition
Today, we’ll be exploring these components in greater depth.
And giving you some examples, so you have a clearer understanding of how to design a program for them as well as test them.
Let’s dive in.
Health Related Fitness Components – A Background
Does being healthy and fit mean having more muscles?
Does being healthy and fit mean not being fat?
Or does being healthy and fit mean being able to run without loosing your breath?
The answer is, all of the above.
Being ‘healthy’ and ‘fit’ is an extremely broad concept and possessing these characteristics can be demonstrated in so many different ways.
When it comes to improving a client’s, athlete’s or even your own health and fitness, it can therefore be difficult to know where to start.
Fortunately, the five health related fitness components can help us to categorise fitness into areas that are easier to understand.
They can also help us start to map out a fitness plan that has greater specificity and relevance for our client and their individual fitness goals.
Cardiovascular (Aerobic) Endurance
Cardiovascular endurance refers to the ability of the heart, lungs and blood vessels to deliver oxygenated blood to the working muscles of the body, especially during exercise.
Of equal importance is for the body to be able to extract carbon dioxide from these same muscles and expel it via the veins, and eventually lungs and exhalation.
When we have good cardiovascular endurance, we are able to sustain high energy outputs for extended periods of time, such as during running, cycling, fast walking, playing sport, etc.
When we have poor cardiovascular endurance, we may become breathless during these activities, struggle to keep up and end up needing to slow down or stop to catch our breath.
Examples of tests you can use to measure cardiovascular endurance include the 20 meter shuttle run (beep test), the Cooper’s Run, or time trials of various distances.
Examples of training you can use to improve cardiovascular endurance include steady state training, interval training, or Fartlek training.
Muscular strength refers to the ability of our muscular system (which attach to our bones) to produce force in order to move the various joints in our body, creating bodily movement.
It’s important to note that whether we are ‘strong’ or not is a relative term, and really depends on what our goals are. Muscular strength is also specific to the area of the body that you test.
When we have high levels of strength, we are able to perform activities of daily living with relative ease. For some people, this might be bench pressing 100kg, but for others, it might be as simple as being able to get up off the couch with ease.
When we have low levels of strength, we may struggle with particular activities of daily living. For instance, an elderly person with very low strength may struggle to get down to tie their shoelace.
Examples of tests you can use to measure muscular strength include 3RM or 1RM maximal strength tests, or more simple tests such as the sit up test.
Examples of training you can use to improve muscular strength include resistance training and circuit training.
Flexibility refers to the ability of our muscles (and connected tendon) to move through a desired range of motion without hindrance or obstruction.
Flexibility is usually specific to a particular joint or muscle – for instance – hamstring flexibility could be referred to as one’s ability of being able touch their toes or not.
When we have high levels of flexibility (and mobility), we are able to get our body into a desirable position without resistance or (for the most part), pain.
When we have low levels of flexibility (and mobility), we may struggle to get our body into this desirable position. We may be limited by resistance or pain.
Examples of tests you can use to measure flexibility include the sit and reach or straight leg raise.
Examples of training you can use to improve flexibility include stretching, mobility exercises, or yoga.
Muscular endurance refers to our muscles’ ability to produce repeated or continuous contraction without fatiguing.
Similar to strength, muscular endurance is specific to the area of the body you are measuring. For instance, you may have good core endurance but poor leg endurance (keep this in mind when choosing an appropriate test).
When we have high levels of muscular endurance, we are able to continually produce high forces without dropping off or becoming susceptible to lactic acid buildup.
When we have low levels of muscular endurance, we may feel lactic acid build up quickly, and will struggle to drive the same amount of force for an extended period of time.
Examples of tests that are often used to measure muscular endurance include the sit up test.
Examples of training you can use to measure muscular endurance include cycling, stepper machines, or walking up a steep hill.
Body composition refers to the percentage of fat mass (adipose tissue) we have on our body compared to fat-free mass (muscle, bone, organs, etc.).
Having relatively low body fat levels can help limit the chances of developing chronic diseases such as:
- insulin resistance
- high blood pressure
- cardiovascular disease
- some cancers including breast, endometrial and colon cancer
- type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus)
- gall bladder disease
- polycystic ovarian syndrome
- and many more..
If you have a poor body composition and are overweight or obese, you place yourself at greater risk of these conditions.
Examples of tests you can use to measure body composition are skinfolds, bioelectric impotence, or other types of body scans.
Examples of strategies for weight loss include exercising more in general and managing your calorie intake.