Setting fitness goals? Not sure where to start? Keep it simple by focusing your energy on four main components of fitness. Shape a well-rounded and sustainable program of fitness.
In this blog post, we’ll define four components of fitness and provide one action item within each component that you can take now to improve your fitness. In later blog posts, we’ll explore more specifics and training tips within each component of fitness.
Body composition is the ratio of lean mass to fat mass in your body. Body composition is typically defined in terms of body fat percentage. Another quick and easy assessment of body composition is circumference measurements.
You can influence your body composition through exercise and nutrition. When it comes to exercise, both cardio and resistance training (muscular fitness) are important for maintaining a healthy body composition. Resistance training helps you gain and maintain lean muscle mass. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat and contributes to a healthy metabolic profile (i.e. you burn more calories throughout the day - both at rest and during exercise). Cardio is great for burning calories and promoting energy balance.
Action step: Work up to three days of cardio at 30-minutes+ per session and two days of resistance training during which you perform 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions for all major muscle groups. Need help designing a workout program? I can help!
Cardiovascular fitness is the fitness of your heart, lungs, and vascular system - the ability to sustain dynamic, large muscle movements (i.e. running or cycling). Since heart disease is a leading cause of death in most developed countries, cardiovascular fitness is an important consideration.
As we perform cardiovascular fitness activities, our heart gets stronger and is able to put out more blood with each beat. Our lungs are able to process oxygen and carbon dioxide more efficiently. Our arteries and veins become more pliable, and our capillary beds (the small blood vessels that extend into our muscles) expand so that we are better able to transport blood, oxygen, and nutrients to our working muscles.
Action step: The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that healthy adults accumulate cardiovascular exercise at a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity or a combination of the two each week. That would be 30-minutes of moderate intensity 5-days per week or 25-minutes of vigorous intensity 3-days per week or a combination of the two. What are your favorite cardio activities? Start with a schedule that feels do-able to you and then work up to the minimum recommended guidelines. If you need assistance with strategies, I can help!
Muscular fitness is typically divided into two main categories of muscular endurance and muscular strength.
Muscular endurance is the ability of our muscles to contract repeatedly over time (i.e. a set of 15-20 repetitions of a moderate weight) or stay contracted for a period of time (i.e. a plank hold).
Muscular strength is the maximal contractile force a muscle can produce (i.e. a one repetition maximum).
Healthy, strong muscles contribute to good posture and bone health. We improve the endurance and strength of our muscles by performing resistance training exercises. We place a demand on our muscles (i.e. lifting a weight), and our muscles will respond to the demand.
Action step: Decide which characteristic of muscular fitness you would like to focus on - endurance or strength. Then dedicate a minimum of two days per week to performing 2-3 sets of 8-10 exercises for all major muscles in your body. You can also break this up over 4-5 days and perform 2-3 sets of 4-5 exercises for certain muscle groups at a time, eventually working all major muscle groups over the course of the week.
Building resistance training workout programs is one of my favorite things to do, so I would be happy to help you put a program together!
Flexibility is the ability of our joints to move through a full range of motion. For example, being able to bend over to tie your shoes.
Flexibility is important for good posture and for fluid movement. Training our flexibility promotes healthy connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) and can be quite relaxing.
Action step: Dedicate 30-minutes two days per week to stretch all major muscles in your body. A yoga or stretching class would be a great place to start. Another way to tackle stretching all major muscle groups is to stretch the muscle groups you have exercised during each of your workouts. For example, after a run, stretch all of the muscles in your legs and back thoroughly. Not sure where to start, I can help!