For many of us, being fit means maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise. However, the “healthy weight = fit” idea really omits several of the components of what being truly fit means. In biological terms, “being fit” means being able to provide for one’s own life and wellbeing by adhering to five aspects of physical fitness.
We all have an idea of what fit looks like. For many, it means having a thinner body or massive muscles or maybe even an hourglass figure. But being physically fit is not defined by an appearance. It refers to the relative amount of muscle, fat, bone, and other vital parts that make up the body.
- Muscular Strength
- Muscular Endurance
- Cardiovascular Endurance
- Healthy Body Composition
To have Muscular Strength is to have the power you need to lift, push and carry heavy objects. It is also seen as your ability to exert a force during a daily activity. Resistance training is the mode of exercise that allows you to see an improvement in overall strength and quality of life.
Muscular endurance is defined as the ability of the muscle to perform contraction or movement over a period of time. So, in essence, it is how long can I go, rather than how much can I lift, without becoming fatigued.
Flexibility is the range of motion you have around a specific joint. Being flexible reduces injury potential and allows for pain-free movement during activity. A basic stretching program may be all you need to improve this often-neglected aspect of being truly fit.
Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of the body’s circulatory and respiratory system to deliver fuel to cells during any activity over a specific time period. Thus, those who perform cardiovascular fitness can deliver blood and oxygen to the body for an extended period of time.
Having good Body Composition and addressing the ratio of fat to lean, is the fifth aspect of being fit. It refers to the relative amount of muscle, fat, bone and other vital parts the body is comprised of. Experts agree that assessing one’s composition provides a better evaluation of overall health than weight or BMI alone. It is important to maintain a level of fat that is not too low (below 3-6% for men and 9-12% for women), nor too high (above 25% for men or 38% percent for women). There are a variety of tools available to measure composition including calipers and bio-electrical devices which can assist in monitoring changes as one adheres to all aspects of fitness.
If someone has the ability to attain success in all five aspects, the list of benefits include:
- Increased calorie burns and overall weight management
- Decrease in blood pressure
- Improved blood lipids
- Decrease in pain during daily activity
- Decrease in bone loss
- Increase in overall stamina
- Increase in self-esteem and overall appearance
- Decrease in fracture during falls
- Reduced risk factors for disease
The American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM, recommends Fitness Instructors and Personal Trainers follow what is called the FITT principal when designing an exercise program that includes all five aspects of fitness. FITT stands for:
- F= Frequency or how often one is to perform the exercise
- I= Intensity of the exercise to be performed
- T= Time spent or the duration of the exercise to be performed
- T= The type or mode of exercise that will be chosen
Seeing an increase in overall physical fitness, weight management and health status means there has been adherence to a program that addresses all five aspects of fitness. A professional coach can assist in goal setting, program design and overall adherence. This is the number one way to make sense out of the often-confusing prescription for overall health and fitness. Also, participating in a variety of group fitness classes or small group programs weekly can aid in attaining the requirements needed for being fit. Finally, frequent assessments to see improvement in all five aspects of fitness is the number one way to maintain consistency over the years.
COACH’S MOMENT: A little tip for Coaches and Trainers!
- Write a program with specificity
- Progress once there is adaptation to avoid reversibility
- Follow the FITT prescription for all five aspects of fitness
If you follow the aforementioned principles noted in this article, you will be certain to improve your overall health and fitness of your clients.