There are 5 key health related components of fitness, and it’s important to understand what “fitness” is and how to go about achieving it.
The five components of fitness are:
- Cardiovascular Endurance
- Muscular Endurance
- Muscular Strength
- Body Composition
It is essential to create a fitness plan that incorporates each of these elements to ensure that you get the greatest health benefits from your exercise. Let’s look at each element individually.
Cardiovascular endurance, also known as cardiorespiratory endurance or aerobic fitness, relates to your body’s ability to efficiently and effectively intake oxygen and deliver it to your body’s tissues by way of the heart, lungs, arteries, vessels, and veins. By engaging in regular exercise that challenges your heart and lungs, you can:
- Maintain, or even improve, the efficient delivery and uptake of oxygen to your body’s systems
- Enhance cellular metabolism
- Ease the physical challenges of everyday life
Running, walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, circuit training, and boxing are just a few of the many ways of getting the benefits of a cardio workout.
Muscular endurance is one of two factors that contribute to overall muscular health and relates to a particular muscle group’s ability to continuously contract against a given resistance.
An example of muscular endurance is a long-distance cyclist covering undulating, sometimes steep, terrain. Fatigue-resistant muscles in the legs and glutes is therefore a requirement.
Likewise, holding a plank to develop core strength is another 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.
The extent to which you choose to focus on muscular endurance should be directly related to your own health or fitness goals. It’s important to realize that muscular endurance is muscle group specific.
This means you can develop high levels of endurance in some muscle groups, for example, cyclists building endurance in their legs, without necessarily developing the same level of endurance in other muscle groups.
For general health purposes, you may want to develop enough endurance to be able to climb the stairs or to lift and carry groceries from your car to your house. Low-intensity weight-bearing or strength-training workouts will help to build up that endurance.
But if you want to become an endurance athlete capable of competing in sports that require continual muscle contraction, such as obstacle course races, long distance running or cycling, it will be necessary to focus training on high-repetitions and sport-specific activity to make you a better athlete.
While muscular endurance refers to how fatigue resistant a particular muscle group is, muscular strength refers to the amount of force a muscle group can produce in one, all-out effort. In strength training terms, it is referred to as the one rep max.
Like muscular endurance, muscular strength is muscle group specific. In other words, you may have incredibly strong glutes, but comparatively weak deltoids, or incredibly strong pectoral muscles, but comparatively weak hamstrings. It is, therefore, essential for a well-balanced strength training programme to target all of the major muscle groups.
The extent to which you train for strength is determined by your own health and fitness goals. For instance, if your focus is on health, you know you should be strong enough to lift a heavy box or to easily stand up from a chair. In this circumstance, enhanced muscular strength may be a byproduct of a workout routine focused more on developing muscular endurance.
However, if you want to develop muscle mass or to be able to lift heavier weights, then your training should focus on lifting heavier weights.
It is possible to improve muscular strength and endurance at the same time, and it can also be done in conjunction with cardiovascular training. For example, circuit training programmes are great for combining strength exercises and cardio within a single session, and target all of the major muscle groups, so lots of ‘bang for your buck’.
So, in this article we have looked at the cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and muscular strength health components of fitness. In part 2, I will detail the importance of flexibility and body composition.