5 Components of Health Related Physical Fitness

Did you know there are 5 key components of health related physical fitness? Do you know what they are? How do you stack up within all 5? Many of us over develop one area, neglecting others. Here they are listed in order of my opinion of importance.

Body Composition - What percentage of fat mass is your body relative to your lean mass? Click on this link for a simple tool to gage how health your current body comp is. Human beings are fatter than ever before in the history of man. It is estimated that over 60% of Americans are overweight and or obese. Science has pinpointed a slew of chronic to lethal health problems associated with being overweight. Overweight being defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 24. Click here to get yours now. However, this does not take into consideration the density of lean mass. Many athletes and exercise enthusiasts may be deemed over weight according to their BMI. A better yardstick would be calculating your body composition. Click on this link to gage where you are at or seek out your local personal trainer to conduct a body fat analysis.

Muscular Strength - The ability to produce force. More importantly work = force x distance. If you cannot apply a given force, you may not even be able to move in extreme circumstances. In order to apply force and move, you need muscle mass. Your body develops that mass through resistance activities.  Very important concepts to grasp as you age, your muscle mass decreases, which may one day limit your ability to get out of a chair! And back to body composition, the more lean mass you have (muscle), the less fat mass you should have in theory. So why not kill two birds with one stone, but developing your strength and body composition at once with some resistance activities you enjoy.

Muscular Endurance - Your body's ability to apply force repeatedly for a prolonged amount of time. Forget about getting out of your chair, can you do that repeatedly throughout the day, climb a flight of stairs, or walk for an extended period of time? Muscular endurance is very important for activities you would like to do beyond brief bursts of energy. If you want to stay active, maintain your muscular endurance.

Cardiovascular Endurance - Your heart and lung's ability to delivery oxygen and nutrient rich blood to your working muscles for muscular strength and endurance (anaerobic (without oxygen) activity) and cardio (aerobic (with oxygen) activity). If the heart and lungs are working optimally, forget about everything above. But dont spend too much time doing cardio. The American Heart Association recommends 30 cumulative minutes or more per day of aerobic activity to sustain sufficient heart and lung capacities. 60 min or more per day to manage weight! That 60 min would be better spent with 3-4 days of resistance training to develop your lean mass, shed fat mass, and boost your resting metabolism with metabolically active muscle!

Flexibility - last but certainly not least, and arguably of greater hierarchy than my list here. Really, the ability to move at all. The elasticity of your soft tissue, ie, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. A tight muscle muscle is second only to a weak muscle. A tight muscle is unable to apply a force across its entire surface area, through a full range of motion(ROM). While there are perils to being hyper-flexible, on the scheme of things, most people never get close to that. Though your joints require some degree of stability, many of us have less than optimal ROM around these joints. More often than not chronic pain or injury can be relieved through regular flexibility and muscular development training.

So what areas have you been neglecting? Perhaps its time to back off on the cardio or strength training or give some of these other important aspects some work. Cross training is a great way to stimulate the body, allow it to recover, and avoid injury, Ideally, all 5 of these components should be apart of your regular fitness regimen.

Tapping into Muscle Mass - Type I and II Muscle Fibers

Many people make the mistake of only ever training one muscle fiber type. We are all born with different proportions of 3 muscle fiber types, which give us all different body shapes and abilities, notably important in athletics and whether your body is geared more towards endurance or power activities. For the exercise enthusiast and health conscious. Training the full spectrum of your muscle mass is important to developing your lean mass and warding off fat mass. Type 1 fibers are also referred to as slow twitch muscles. They have a high oxygen carrying capacity, which aids slow sustained contractions of moderate output, endurance. Training these fibers includes endurance activities such as steady state cardio, and resistance training programs above 20 repetitions at a lower weight and speed.

Type 2 fibers, also known as fast twitch, allow rapid contractions of high intensity for a short amount of time, power. Activities include explosive movements, such as strength and power lifting with repetitions below 6, anaerobic activities like sprinting, jumping, etc for intervals less than 60 seconds or so. These fibers have been categorized further into type 2a and type 2b, but we will not get into that in this blog.

Suffice to say we are all built to have a greater proportion of one fiber type than the other. Allowing us to be better at certain activities than others, with some over lap. For the average exerciser, its important to train and develop both of these fiber types to stimulate the full spectrum of your lean mass. The goal being to develop lean mass to increase metabolism, resting energy expenditure, burn more fat, and store less. Most of us today would like a lean athletic physique. However, alot of exercisers either do excessive amounts of muscle wasting cardio, which I discussed in my Cardio vs. Resistance Training blog, or they do too many repetitions of less than stimulating resistances. Nobody wants to "bulk up" these days. Bulking up, requires high calorie consumption, good genes, and great training. Conventional wisdom however, training light resistances to achieve slim lean looks, is not supported by science. High reps, low weight does not mean high reps, no weight. You need to stimulate your type one and two fibers by attacking their specific energy system. To do this, type 1 fibers need to be trained to fatigue with repetitions schemes of 15-25 repetitions or 20-60 seconds. Type 2 fibers should be trained at high loads appropriate to reach failure within 6 or less repetitions or 20 or less seconds. Stimulating both fibers and training within both energy systems is more stimulating to your body and your mind. For better muscle tone trying adding more resistance and fewer reps to your routine.