Physical fitness, components and facts to know

Physical fitness is a state of health and well-being and, more specifically, the ability to perform aspects of sports, occupations and daily activities. Physical fitness is generally achieved through proper nutrition, moderate-vigorous physical exercise, and sufficient rest along with a formal recovery plan.

Physical fitness refers to the ability of your body systems to work together efficiently to allow you to be healthy and perform activities of daily living. Being efficient means doing daily activities with the least effort possible.

A fit person is able to perform schoolwork, meet home responsibilities, and still have enough energy to enjoy sport and other leisure activities. A fit person can respond effectively to normal life situations, such as raking leaves at home, stocking shelves at a part-time job, and marching in the band at school. A fit person can also respond to emergency situations – for example, by running to get help or aiding a friend in distress.


The five components of physical fitness are:

  • Cardiovascular endurance,
  • Muscular strength,
  • Muscular endurance,
  • Flexibility and;
  • Body composition,

There is unanimous agreement in the fitness community that these are the five components of physical fitness, though the definition of what level of fitness needs to be achieved is a personal one.

Muscular Strength

This is the “power” that helps you to lift and carry heavy objects. Without muscular strength, your body would be weak and unable to keep up with the demands placed upon it. The way to increase strength is to train with heavy weights, working in the 4 – 6 or 12 – 15 rep ranges. The heavier the weight, the fewer reps you should perform

Muscular Endurance

Endurance is the ability of your muscles to perform contractions for extended periods of time. Rather than just lifting or carrying something for a few seconds, the muscles are used for minutes. The way to increase strength is to train with light weights, working in the 20 – 25 rep range. Working with lighter weight will train the muscle fibers needed for muscular endurance, and the higher rep range leads to a longer period of exercise.

Cardiovascular Endurance

Cardiovascular endurance is your body’s ability to keep up with exercise like running, jogging, swimming, cycling, and anything that forces your cardiovascular system (lungs, heart, blood vessels) to work for extended periods of time. Together, the heart and lungs fuel your body with the oxygen needed by your muscles, ensuring that they have the oxygen needed for the work they are doing.

The Cooper Run (running as far as possible in 12 minutes) is a test commonly used to assess cardiovascular endurance, but many trainers use the Step Test (stepping onto a platform for 5 minutes). Both are accurate measures of a subject’s cardiovascular endurance.


Flexibility is one of the most important, yet often overlooked, components of physical fitness. Without flexibility, the muscles and joints would grow stiff and movement would be limited. Flexibility training ensures that your body can move through its entire range of motion without pain or stiffness.

To test your flexibility, lean forward and try to touch your toes. Those with good flexibility will usually be able to touch their toes, while those with limited flexibility will not. The sit and reach test (sitting on the floor and reaching toward your toes) is another good way to assess your flexibility. The more flexible you are, the closer you will come to touching your toes and beyond.

Body Fat Composition

Body fat composition refers to the amount of fat on your body. For example, a 100-pound person with a 25% body fat composition will have a lean body mass of 75 pounds.

To qualify as fit:

  • Men must have a body fat composition lower than 17 percent
  • Women must have a body fat composition lower than 24 percent
  • The average man tends to have about 18 to 24 percent body fat, while the average woman has 25 to 31 percent body fat.

Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. It has many benefits, including improving your overall health and fitness, and reducing your risk for many chronic diseases. There are many different types of exercise; it is important that you pick the right types for you. Most people benefit from a combination of them:

Endurance, or aerobic, activities increase your breathing and heart rate. They keep your heart, lungs, and circulatory system healthy and improve your overall fitness. Examples include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, and biking.

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Strength, or resistance training, exercises make your muscles stronger. Some examples are lifting weights and using a resistance band.

Balance exercises can make it easier to walk on uneven surfaces and help prevent falls. To improve your balance, try tai chi or exercises like standing on one leg.

Flexibility exercises stretch your muscles and can help your body stay limber. Yoga and doing various stretches can make you more flexible.

Fitting regular exercise into your daily schedule may seem difficult at first. But you can start slowly, and break your exercise time into chunks. Even doing ten minutes at a time is fine. You can work your way up to doing the recommended amount of exercise. How much exercise you need depends on your age and health.

Other things that you can do to make the most of your workouts include:

Choosing activities that work all the different parts of the body, including your core (muscles around your back, abdomen, and pelvis). Good core strength improves balance and stability and helps to prevent lower back injury.

Choosing activities that you enjoy. It’s easier to make exercise a regular part of your life if you have fun doing it.

Exercising safely, with proper equipment, to prevent injuries. Also, listen to your body and don’t overdo it.

Giving yourself goals. The goals should challenge you, but also be realistic. It’s also helpful to reward yourself when you reach your goals. The rewards could be something big, like new workout gear, or something smaller, such as movie tickets.

Maintaining a good level of physical fitness is important. However, it can be difficult to determine what fitness entails.

  • Fast facts on fitness:
  • Maintaining good physical fitness can help prevent some conditions.
  • With exercise, body composition can change without changing weight.
  • Athletes’ hearts show different changes depending on their chosen sport.
  • Muscle strength increases due to fiber hypertrophy and neural changes.
  • Stretching to increase flexibility can ease a number of medical complaints.

How does heart health change with exercise?

The heart’s efficiency changes and improves after persistent training. However, recent research suggests that different types of activity change the heart in subtly different ways.

All types of exercise increase the heart’s overall size, but there are significant differencesTrusted Source between endurance athletes such as rowers and strength athletes such as football players.

The hearts of endurance athletes show expanded left and right ventricles, whereas those of strength athletes show thickening of the heart wall, particularly the left ventricle.

How does lung health change with exercise?

Although the heart steadily strengthens over time, the respiratory system does not adjust to the same degree. Lung size does not change, but the lungs do use oxygen more effectivelyTrusted Source.

In general, exercise encourages the body to become more efficient at taking on, distributing, and using oxygen. Over time, this improvement increases endurance and overall health.

Health benefits of cardiorespiratory fitness

Cardiorespiratory fitness can help reduce the riskTrusted Source of conditions including:

  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • stroke

Muscular strength

There are a number of ways to measure muscular strength. Generally, lifting a set weight in a prescribed position and comparing the results against any given population is the best way.

In general, if a person works their muscles consistently and regularly, they will increase in strength.

There are various ways of putting the muscles through rigorous activity, but anything that works a muscle until it is tired will increase muscle strength over time.

How does muscle structure change with exercise?

Muscles consist of elongated muscle cells. Each muscle cell containsTrusted Source contractile proteins, called actin and myosin, that give the muscle its strength.

These fibers contract together, producing the so-called power stroke. The total force depends on the number of these units contracting in unison.

To build muscle, an individual must regularly exercise their muscles and take in enough protein.

Scientists do not fully understand the exact mechanism of muscle building, but the general principles are well known. Training causes the muscle cellsTrusted Source to expand, and there is an increase in actin and myosin production.

Also, in untrained muscles, fibers tend to fire in an asynchronous manner. In other words, they do not fire in unison. As a person trains them, however, they learn to fire together as one, thereby increasing maximum power output.

Muscular endurance

Fitness can also include muscular endurance, which is the ability of a muscle to continue exerting force without tiring.

As mentioned above, strength training builds bigger muscles. Endurance training, on the other hand, does not necessarily generate muscles of a larger size.

This is because the body focuses more on the cardiovascular system, ensuring that the muscles receive the oxygenated blood they need to keep functioning.

Another important change in muscles that people specifically train for endurance concerns the different types of muscle tissue: fast twitch and slow twitchTrusted Source fibers.

Fast twitch fibers contract quickly but get tired quickly. They use a lot of energy and are useful for sprints. They are whitish, as they do not require blood to function.

Slow twitch fibers are best for endurance work, as they can carry out tasks without getting tired. They are present in core muscles. These fibers appear red, as they rely on a good supply of oxygenated blood and contain stores of myoglobin.

Different exercises will promote fast twitch fibers, slow twitch fibers, or both. For example, a sprinter will have comparatively more fast twitch fibers, whereas a long distance runner will have more slow twitch fibers.

Body composition

Body composition measures the relative amounts of muscle, bone, water, and fat an individual has.

A person can potentially maintain the same weight but radically change the ratio of each of the components that make up their body.

For instance, people with a high muscle (lean mass) ratio might weigh more than those with the same height and waist circumference who have less muscle.

How is body composition calculated?

There are several methodsTrusted Source for calculating body composition. For example, a doctor can measure a person’s body fat using tools such as calipers or through bioelectrical impedance analysis to detect fat cells.

The above methods are prone to inaccuracies, however.


Flexibility refers to the range of movement across a joint.

Flexibility is important because it improves the ability to link movements together smoothly and can help prevent injuries. It is specific to each joint and depends on a number of variables, including the tightness of ligaments and tendons.

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Various activities that stretch the joints, ligaments, and tendons can increase flexibility.

There are three common types of stretches that people use to increase flexibility

Dynamic stretching: This refers to the ability to complete a full range of motion in a particular joint. People use this type of stretch in standard warmup exercises, as it helps prepare the body for physical activity.

Static-active stretching: This refers to holding the body or part of the body in a stretched position and maintaining that position for a period of time. One example of static-active stretching is the splits.

Ballistic stretching: People should only engage in ballistic stretching when the body is already warmed up and limber from exercise. It involves stretching in various positions and bouncing.

There are a number of ways to improve flexibility. Having a daily stretching regimen can be the simplest and most efficient way of achieving whole body flexibility.

In conclusion,physical fitness is the ability to do daily tasks without becoming easily fatigued.

To qualify as fit:

  • Men must have a body fat composition lower than 17 percent
  • Women must have a body fat composition lower than 24 percent
  • The average man tends to have about 18 to 24 percent body fat, while the average woman has 25 to 31 percent body fat.

Any program that neglects one or more of these types of fitness is NOT going to benefit your body in the long run. An effective fitness program will attempt to improve all five components of fitness!

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