the basics of fitness

Simply click a component of fitness below to get started. Each section features information pertaining to that specific component and the role it plays in achieving optimum fitness.

Aerobic Fitness Muscular Fitness Flexibility Body Composition

The more you know—the easier it is to get fit!

It's no secret that physical fitness is one of the keys to a healthy lifestyle, but how do we define fitness? Well, it's pretty easy. Fitness is simply the ability to perform physical activities, and there are several components or parts that contribute to what we like to call health-related fitness. These include:

  • Aerobic Fitness
  • Muscular Strength
  • Muscular Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Body Composition

A comprehensive fitness program should be geared toward improving each of these areas. And, the great thing about exercise is that you have complete control over what you choose to do.

But, before you begin, you probably need a better understanding of health-related fitness. Let's briefly review the five components of fitness so you're armed with the knowledge you'll need to create an effective exercise program1` that improves not only fitness, but health as well.

aerobic fitness

Aerobic fitness is essentially the interaction between the heart, lungs, and blood vessels that allows you to sustain exercise for prolonged periods of time. The more aerobic fitness you have, the healthier your heart, lungs, and blood vessels will be. They will also be much more efficient at rest, which means less stress and strain for the entire body.

To achieve aerobic fitness, you must participate in some form of aerobic exercise, which is also referred to as cardio, or cardiovascular, exercise.

how to gain aerobic fitness

In aerobic exercise, you continually move large muscle groups, such as legs, arms, and buttocks. This action causes you to breathe more deeply and your heart to work harder to pump blood, thereby strengthening your heart and lungs.

Aerobic exercises include:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Bicycling

before you get started

Before starting an exercise program, check with your doctor about any possible medical problems. If you're new to exercise, consider making an appointment with a certified personal trainer to help you develop a safe, effective, and enjoyable exercise program.

muscular fitness

Regular strength training (or weight training) definitely makes you stronger, and we're not just talking about bulging biceps. Weight training strengthens bones, ligaments, and tendons—as well as muscles—all of which translate into improved balance, greater power, quicker recovery, and a reduced risk for injury.

A targeted weight training program will help you attain both muscular strength and muscular endurance. But what's the difference? Read on for the details.

how to achieve muscular strength

Muscular strength is the ability of your muscles to exert forces against objects for short periods of time. In other words, it's your ability to lift or move objects, or even your own body weight. For example, to pick up a bag of groceries, your muscles have to generate forces and then contract to complete the movement. Muscular strength allows you to perform these types of simple tasks, and the stronger you are, the easier these tasks become. Weight training exercises, like squats, bicep curls, and chest presses, are most commonly associated with strength improvements.

how to achieve muscular endurance

Muscular endurance deals with repeated muscular contractions or the ability to exert force continuously against an object. It's actually the crucial link between muscular strength and aerobic fitness. You have to demonstrate muscular strength to move your body, and since your muscles do the actual work during aerobic exercise, they must be trained to handle repeated contractions and longer exercise durations. Therefore, you need muscular endurance to be aerobically fit. Push-ups and sit-ups are often used to test for muscular endurance, but any weight training exercise with lighter weight and more repetition will improve this aspect of fitness.

flexibility

Flexibility is basically the ability to move your muscles and joints through their full range of motion. It’s really a measure of how efficiently you move your body, and the more flexible you are, the less likely you are to encounter injuries during your daily activities. Several factors affect your range of motion, including joint structure, age, sex, and activity level.

how to increase flexibility

You probably remember the sit-and-reach test from your school days, which measured the flexibility of your low back and legs. Nowadays—in order to increase and maintain flexibility—you should stretch all the major muscle groups during each and every workout. This means focusing on all of the following areas:

Upper Body Lower Body
Arms (biceps and triceps) Thighs
Shoulders Hips
Upper and lower back Groin
Chest Calves
Torso

how to stretch

Two general types of stretching include dynamic stretching, where the joint is moved through its full range of motion, and static stretching, where the joint is held at a specific point within that range. To stretch your muscles, you can either do individual stretching exercises for each muscle group or you can do total body stretching routines.

body composition

Body composition refers to the amount of fat you have, relative to lean tissue (muscles, bones, body water, organs, etc). This measurement is a clearer indicator of your fitness because regardless of what you weigh, the higher percentage of body fat you have (especially in the abdomen), the more likely you are to develop obesity-related diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Body fat adds to your overall body weight, but it isn’t a force-producing tissue like muscle. This means you’re forced to carry it around, but it isn’t helping you in the process. Therefore, to optimize your body composition, it’s important to vary your fitness regimen and keep it balanced with both strength and aerobic exercises.

how to measure your body composition?

There are a number of methods used to assess body composition, some being more expensive, more cumbersome, and more accurate than others. A short list appears below:

  • Skinfold Measurements with Calipers
  • Underwater Weighing
  • Bod Pod
  • Bioelectrical Impedance
  • DEXA Scan (Dual X-ray Absorptiometry)

what is a healthy body fat percentage?

The percentage of body fat that's ideal for you will vary based on your gender and age. Women naturally have a higher body fat to lean tissue ratio than men, and body fat naturally increases with age. If you have a body fat measurement taken, the practitioner will likely analyse the results for you specifically.