Fitness is a concept that is vastly misunderstood and each individual has his/her own way of defining it.
What most people do not know is that there are 10 components/elements/facets that make up the state of “Fitness”. All these 10 components need to be improved in an individual for him/her to be deemed as physically it.
Now, it doesn’t matter if you are young or old, man or woman; or whether you belong to a certain category of people (bodybuilder, athlete, corporate executive, couch potato, housewife etc). Your fitness program must aim to improve all 10 aspects of fitness.
All human beings are built the same way physiologically. Therefore, we all need each of the components of fitness to enhance the quality of our physical fitness and thereby enhance life.
So….What exactly are the 10 components of fitness?
The 10 Components of Fitness:
1 ) Cardiovascular Endurance: The ability of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to transport oxygenated blood to the working skeletal muscles for an extended period of time without fatigue.
2 ) Muscular Endurance: The ability of skeletal muscles to continuously contract for an extended length of time without experiencing fatigue.
3 ) Musculoskeletal Strength: The combined strength of muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons.
4 ) Flexibility: The ability of the body to sustain a full and complete range of motion around the joints.
5 ) Ideal Body Composition: Maintaining an ideal ratio of adipose tissue(body fat) to lean body mass.A male is said to have an ideal body composition when no more than 15% of his body weight is made up of body fat. A female is said to have an ideal body composition if no more than 20% of her body weight is made up of body fat.
6 ) Power: It is the ability of the skeletal muscles to maximize the force exerted by them in a minimum amount of time.
7 ) Speed: The ability to minimize the time taken to complete a particular movement or task
8 ) Coordination: Coordination is the combination of body movements created with the kinematic and kinetic parameters that result in intended actions.This involves combining several movements into a single distinct movement.
9 ) Agility: The ability to change the direction of the body in an efficient and effective manner.
10 ) Balance: Ability to maintain the center of gravity of a body within the base of support with minimal postural sway.
For one to be deemed as physically fit, they need to develop all of these aspects of fitness.
The importance and interdependence of the 10 components of fitness in overall performance:
Each of the aforementioned components plays a crucial role in our lives. Whether it is for someone who is a competitive sportsman or just a regular human being, each of these components drastically impacts overall performance. It must also be noted that each of these components is interdependent on the other and therefore a compromise in one will definitely lead to short-changing another.
- Cardiovascular endurance: A decrease in this element makes just about every task very difficult. Performing activities like climbing stairs, walking, jogging, running, swimming, any and all kinds of sports and even strength training becomes extensively difficult with poor cardiovascular endurance. Therefore, a lack of this component makes it difficult to utilize muscular endurance or musculoskeletal strength. For example, even if a runner has great muscular endurance, he will not be able to run for long without cardiovascular endurance. Similarly, a power lifter cannot maximally use his strength once cardiovascular fatigue sets in. Besides these, one’s speed, balance, coordination, agility, and power drastically reduce as one reaches cardiovascular fatigue. It must also be noted that very poor cardiovascular endurance can even cause cardiac arrest in the aforementioned activities.
- Muscular endurance: This is very similar to cardiovascular endurance except that it occurs in the musculoskeletal system and not the cardio respiratory system. A person with poor muscular endurance will experience difficulty in the activities mentioned for cardiovascular endurance. However, this will be due to a high build up of lactic acid in the muscles being used for the particular activity. Without muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance cannot be utilized. For eg, even if a kickboxer is not cardiovascularly tired, he will not be able to punch or kick if the muscles in his arms and legs are fatigued. Also, as in cardiovascular endurance, one’s speed, balance, coordination, agility, and power are also compromised if one has poor muscular endurance.
- Musculoskeletal strength: Lack of this component leads to early degeneration of the body. Lack of musculoskeletal strength also exposes the body to a high risk of injuries while performing any task against resistance. It must, therefore, be noted that athletes belonging to any sport or discipline needs to work on his musculoskeletal strength otherwise he cannot be successful and risks injuring himself. When this component is compromised, activities that require cardiovascular and muscular endurance is not possible as the body will not be able to handle the stress associated with that activity. For example, the body of a marathon runner, cannot handle the stress on his/her joints due to poor musculoskeletal strength even though he has a good amount of endurance.
- Flexibility: This is one area that is seriously ignored by many sportsmen especially bodybuilders and strength athletes. Flexibility is necessary to prevent the occurrence of injuries. A stiff muscle is likely to tear when it is required to go through full range of motion. Since lack of this component results in injuries, it invariably affects each and every other component of fitness.
- Ideal body composition: An increase in lean muscle mass increases the strength of the musculoskeletal system whereas an increase in body fat increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. When the ideal body composition is lost, all aspects of performance are affected. Excess fat serves as additional luggage for the body to carry and serves as a limiting factor to all other components.Even flexibility is affected by excess body fat as it limits the range of motion of muscles.
- Power, Speed, Coordination, and Agility: These components are especially important for athletes as they need them for their respective disciplines. A reduction of either can drastically limit their performance in their sports. Even the generic population needs to maintain a certain degree of each of these components as they aid in the better performance of day to day activities and also contribute to a more lively and healthy feeling.For eg: Power while lifting heavy objects around the house, Speed when running to catch a bus/train to work, Coordination when trying to play games or do basic repair work and agility when performing fun activities like skiing.
Now that you know what the various facets of fitness are, let’s take a look at how to develop them.
Developing the components of fitness:
- Cardiovascular endurance: Performing aerobic activities like walking, jogging, running, cycling, skipping, swimming etc with low intensity over a long duration without stopping. The intensity should be low enough for a person to do the activity continuously for at least 20 mins. Once the person can do the same activity for 60 mins comfortably, the intensity must be increased either by increasing speed or resistance.
- Muscular endurance: Contrary to popular belief, it is not achieved by doing resistance training with light weights for high repetitions. Muscular endurance develops along with cardiovascular endurance by doing aerobic exercises.However, unlike cardiovascular endurance which is general to the whole body, muscular endurance is only achieved in those muscles that are used in the aerobic activity. For eg: Running improves cardiovascular endurance in general but muscular endurance only in the lower body. So, to achieve muscular endurance throughout the body, one can perform “Cross training”. The description of cross training is out of the scope of this article and can be found by a mere internet search.
- Musculoskeletal strength: High-intensity weight training (mostly compound and power movements) with heavy weights that induce positive muscular failure between 6-8 reps. This 6-8 rep range must be used only by advanced trainers who have weight training experience of at least 2-3 years. If one is new to weight training, they must first learn correct form using extremely light weights for about 2-3 weeks. After that, they must lift in the 10-12 rep range before they are ready to lift in the 6-8 rep range.
- Flexibility: Static stretching with at least 10 second holds in mild discomfort while aiming to take the muscle to the greater range is the best way to increase flexibility. Stretching must be done at the end of every workout. Avoid stretching cold muscles as there is a risk of a tear.
- Power, Speed, Coordination, and Agility: These are relative to particular activities to be performed and can be improved through practice and repetition.
So there you have it
“The 10 components of fitness”
Make sure you strive to develop each and every one of them to maximize the utility of the others and thereby become in the true sense of the word……“Physically Fit”