What is Physical Fitness?

National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is reaching the halfway point and many of you may find your self asking, “What exactly is the definition of physical fitness?”.  We all have our own idea of what it means to be physically fit.  For some people, fitness is measured by weight, others by strength and still others consider endurance a sign of physical fitness.  To determine how fit you are and find ways to improve your fitness level you must first understand that true fitness is measured by multiple components.

o Body Composition– Many people confuse body composition with body weight or body fat.  In reality your body composition is actually defined as the percentage of fat, bone and muscle in your body.  In relation to physical fitness, the amount of fat compared to bone and muscle is measured to determine body fat percentage and overall health.  Too much body fat increases the chances of illness and disease.  Conversely men and women who have too little body fat risk decreased exercise performance and severe health complications.  The ideal body fat percentage varies by individual based on gender, age, body type and heredity.  Finding the level that is right for you is an important factor in determining overall health and fitness.

o Muscular Strength and Endurance–  Strength and endurance are two separate components both of which contribute to physical fitness.  Your muscular strength is your ability to life or exert maximum force in a single effort.  Increase muscle strength through weight or strength training which increases muscle mass.  This increases your body’s capacity to burn calories which aids in weight loss and lowering your body fat ratio.  Muscular endurance on the other hand does not measure how “much” you can lift or move rather how “long” you can perform repetitive actions.  Both strength and endurance are important in maintaining healthy fitness levels.

o Aerobic Endurance- While muscle endurance is needed for your muscles to perform repetitive actions, aerobic (cardiorespiratory) endurance is needed to perform physical activity and sports.  Specifically aerobic endurance is determined by the ability of your heart to move oxygenated blood through your body and to working muscles.  People with little or no aerobic endurance tire quickly when performing simple daily tasks such as climbing a flight of stairs or playing with their children.  Increase you aerobic endurance or stamina through regular exercise.  As your fitness level increases you will have to intensify or vary your workout to gain the maximum benefit.

o Flexibility–  Defined as the ability to move your joints or muscles through their full range of motion.  Your flexibility is determined by a number of factors including joint structure, age, activity level, body composition and strength of opposing muscle groups.  This ability is one of the components of physical fitness and needed to perform day to day activities and enjoy an active lifestyle.

As you can see there are several factors that determine you level of physical fitness.  By eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise you will look and feel better while reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems.