Health-Related Fitness 101: Definition, Components, and Benefits

You already know the benefits that come when you prioritize your health and physical fitness. The trick is understanding what, exactly ‘health-related fitness’ is and how you can go about achieving it. 

This is where the five components of fitness come in. They are the blueprint for the American College of Sports Medicine’s physical activity guidelines and serve as a helpful tool for planning and executing your own well-balanced workout routine. 

The five health-related components of fitness are: 

  • Cardiovascular Endurance
  • Muscular Strength
  • Muscular Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Body Composition

Creating a fitness plan that incorporates each of these components can help ensure that you get the most health benefits from your workout routine.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at each of these health-related components of fitness. 

What is Health-Related Fitness?

By definition, health-related fitness involves exercise activities that you perform in order to try to improve your physical health, particularly in the areas of cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, muscular endurance and body composition. Health-related fitness is the ability to become and stay physically healthy.

What Are the Health-Related Components of Fitness?

There are 5 areas of health-related fitness. They are cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, muscular endurance and body composition.

  • Cardiovascular Endurance

Cardiovascular endurance (also known as heart and lung endurance) refers to your body’s ability effectively and efficiently intake oxygen and deliver it to your body’s tissues by way of the heart, lungs, vessels, arteries, and veins. It is the ability to exercise your whole body for long periods of time. It requires a strong heart, healthy lungs, and clear blood vessels to supply the body with oxygen. 

Activities to improve cardiovascular endurance include running, cycling, circuit training, aerobic dance, and swimming – just to name a few. A person must do the activity continuously for a minimum of 20 minutes within their target heart rate zone. Also, cardiovascular activity should be done a minimum of 3 days each week – every other day is preferable. 

Given that cardiovascular diseases are the number 1 cause of death in the world, starting a workout program that enhances cardiovascular fitness is highly important. 

  • Muscular Strength

Muscular strength refers to your ability to move and lift objects. It is measured by how much force you can exert and how much weight you can lift for a short period of time. Muscular strength enhances overall health and boosts athletic activity. 

Developing muscular strength helps to build strong, healthier muscles and bones – this helps to develop good posture and relieve back pain. Muscular strength also helps you maintain a healthy body weight by burning calories and enhance body composition. Developing your muscular strength will also help you have more balance, flexibility, and stability, making falls and injuries less likely. 

To build muscular strength, do activities and exercises that make you work your muscles harder than normal. Some exercises to build muscular strength include squats, weight lifting, push-ups, sit-ups, and resistance training – just to name a few. 

  • Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or a group of muscles to sustain repeated contractions against a resistance for an extended period of time. It is one of the components of muscular fitness, along with power and muscular strength. 

In strength training, muscular endurance refers to the number of repetitions of a single exercise you can perform without getting tired. Examples include how many times you can do a full sit-up or squat before breaking form. Another example is holding a plank – the longer you’re able to contract your abdominals and hold your body in a steady position, the greater endurance you have through your shoulders, abdominals, and hips. 

People with good muscular endurance are likely to have better posture, better able to resist fatigue, and have fewer back problems than people who lack muscular endurance. You can improve muscular endurance by doing sit-ups, lifting weights, and doing planks – just to name a few exercises. 

  • Flexibility

Flexibility is the range of motion in a joint or group of joints, or the ability to move joints through a complete range of motion. Flexibility is important at any age – it plays a role in unobstructed movement and can affect your agility, coordination, and balance. Maintaining a full range of motion through your major joints can reduce the likelihood of injury and can enhance athletic performance. 

There are simple ways you can incorporate flexibility exercises into your day. This includes activities such as static stretching, where you hold a stretch for about 10-30 seconds at a time; workouts that take you through stretching exercises, such as yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi;  active stretching such as lifting your leg up high and holding it there; passive stretching where you assume a stretch position and hold it with assistance of another part of your body, an apparatus, or a partner. 

You don’t have to take a dedicated class to do flexibility training. Many people simply take a few minutes of stretching at the end of their daily workout to relax muscles and improve range of motion. Or, you can take 5 to 10 minutes to stretch in the morning after you get out of bed. Just a few minutes of flexibility training each day can provide you with numerous health benefits. 

  • Body Composition 

Body composition – or the proportion of fat and non-fat mass in your body– is the final component of health-related physical fitness. Because high levels of fat mass are associated with negative health outcomes such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, achieving and maintaining a healthy body composition is important. 

To see improvements in your body composition, you first need to know what your starting point is. Weighing yourself on a scale isn’t enough, as weight alone tells you nothing about the makeup of your internal tissues. Body composition can be measured using different instruments, such as calipers, a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scale, or some other specialized scale. Currently, hydrostatic testing is the gold-standard of measuring body composition. 

People who have a high percentage of fat are more likely to be sick. Exercise and eating the right foods in the proper amounts can improve body composition. Also, body composition is often improved as an outcome of improving the other four components of health-related physical fitness. If you are regularly doing cardio, hitting the gym, working on flexibility, and doing strength training, chances are you’re developing muscle mass (fat-free mass), while reducing fat mass. 

Health-Related Fitness Tests

A fitness test is made up of a series of exercises that help evaluate your overall health and physical status. There is a broad range of standardized health-related fitness tests used for these exams, some of which are intended for medical purposes. 

For general fitness and health purposes, the tests are often considered the starting point for designing a suitable exercise program. They are meant to ensure that you won’t be at risk of harm and provide the trainer with the insights necessary to establish clear and effective fitness goals. 

  • Cardiovascular Endurance Testing

Cardiovascular endurance testing measures how efficiently your lungs and heart work to supply energy and oxygen to your body during physical activity. Among the three most common cardiovascular endurance tests used include 12-minute run tests, exercise stress, and VO2 max testing. 

  • Strength and Endurance Testing

Strength testing measures the maximum amount of force a muscle group can exert at one time. On the other hand, muscle endurance measures the length of time a muscle group can contract and release before it fatigues. The exercises used include the core strength and stability test and the push-up test. In some cases, a trainer may use a metronome to test how long you can keep up with the rhythm – the results are then compared to people of the same gender and age group to establish your baseline levels. Strength and endurance tests are important as they help the trainer identify which muscle groups are stronger and which ones need attention. 

  • Flexibility Testing

Measuring the flexibility of your joints is crucial in determine whether you have range of motion limitations, postural imbalances, or foot instability. There are numerous tests used to measure flexibility including shoulder flexibility tests, trunk lift testing, and sit-and-reach testing. 

  • Body Composition Testing

Body composition provides objective data that can’t be obtained from scale weight alone, such as the proportion of weight that is fat mass. Body composition can be assessed in various ways including a bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DXA), skinfold calipers, air-displacement plethysmography (ADP) body mass index (BMI), and skinfold measurements. 

The Bottom Line

There is no shortcut to a healthy state, no magic food that lets you hit your five-a-day target, and no single exercise that gives you a toned physique in minutes. It takes time and effort to get in shape and stay in shape.

Good luck on your journey towards health and wellness! We hope that this guide helped you better understand what health-related fitness is, the benefits it can provide, and how you can achieve it.

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