5 Components of Physical Fitness

The 5 components of physical fitness are often used in our school systems, health clubs and fitness centers to gauge how good a shape we are truly in. The 5 components that make up total fitness are:

  • Cardiovascular Endurance
  • Muscular Strength
  • Muscular endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Body Composition
  • Total fitness can be defined by how well the body performs in each one of the components of physical fitness as a whole. It is not enough to be able to bench press your body weight. You also need to determine how well you can handle running a mile etc.

    A closer look at the individual components:

    Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of the heart and lungs to work together to provide the needed oxygen and fuel to the body during sustained workloads. Examples would be jogging, cycling and swimming. The Cooper Run is used most often to test cardiovascular endurance.

    Muscular strength is the amount of force a muscle can produce. Examples would be the bench press, leg press or bicep curl. The push up test is most often used to test muscular strength.

    Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscles to perform continuous without fatiguing. Examples would be cycling, step machines and elliptical machines. The sit up test is most often used to test muscular endurance.

    Flexibility is the ability of each joint to move through the available range of motion for a specific joint. Examples would be stretching individual muscles or the ability to perform certain functional movements such as the lunge. The sit and reach test is most often used to test flexibility.

    Body composition is the amount of fat mass compared to lean muscle mass, bone and organs. This can be measured using underwater weighing, Skinfold readings, and bioelectrical impedance. Underwater weighing is considered the “gold standard” for body fat measurement, however because of the size and expense of the equipment needed very few places are set up to do this kind of measurement.

    Why the need for physical fitness testing?

    As stated earlier the 5 components of physical fitness represent how fit and healthy the body is as a whole. When you have the battery of tests performed you will receive information on the specific areas you made need to work in. A very specific goal oriented fitness program can be developed from the test battery.

    If body composition is of (higher fat compared to muscle mass) there are many health related diseases and illnesses you have a higher chance of contracting. It is important to combine healthy eating habits with your exercise program.

    If you scored low on the cardiovascular test you would have a higher chance of being at risk for heart related illnesses and would not do well with activities that require longer times to complete. You would participate in things such as long bike rides, swimming and jogging for extended periods of time to correct this component.

    The next three tests can have results that are isolated to specific joints and muscles of the body or affect the body as a whole.

    If you score low on the flexibility tests, you have a greater chance of decreased performance in daily living activities/sports and a higher risk of injury. You may also experience low back pain. It would be important to included flexibility training into your workout everyday.

    If you scored low on the muscular endurance test you fatigue early into the exercise or activities of daily living. Many exercises that require high reps and low weight would be implemented into your training program.

    If you scored low on the muscle strength test you do not have enough strength to perform well in sports, resistance training and activities of daily living. Your fitness program would have a progressive strength training component added that would allow you to become stronger with little chance of injury over time.

    Fitness testing has its limitations – while it gives you a good idea of where your body is, it does not paint the entire picture. As stated earlier some of the above tests are only testing specific body parts. Other important factors such as balance and agility are not tested. It also requires the ability to perform the tests. It would be dangerous for someone who is in poor condition and does not exercise to participate in fitness testing.

    Before deciding to undergo fitness testing, make sure you know why they are being done and determine that it is safe for you to participate.

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