5 Essential Components to Optimal Physical Fitness

Published: 18th September 2009
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If you look up the words "physical fitness" in several dictionaries, you will get several definitions that are similar, but not identical. But, the one common theme you will see is "a state of well-being in which performance is optimal, often as a result of physical conditioning." Another way of saying that is you can work and play effectively throughout the day without getting burned out. Or, that you're able to perform routine daily activities and handle normal daily stresses without getting totally drained. Following are the five components of physical fitness you should be aware of to lead a healthy, energetic and more productive life.

1.) Cardiovascular Fitness - This is your circulatory system's ability to efficiently supply oxygen and important nutrients to working muscles. This is considered by many trainers to be one of the most important components because cardiovascular fitness keeps your heart, lungs and vascular system working at its best. Experts suggest a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three or more times a week. Benefits can include lowering your blood pressure, increasing your metabolism, and decreasing the chance of depression and anxiety, among others.

2.) Body Composition - This measures the amount of body fat compared to lean body mass (bones, muscles, organs, water). Or, to put it simply, "How fat are you?" It is pretty much universally accepted that too much body fat poses serious health risks, including respiratory dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, heart disease, diabetes, and joint diseases, among others. Some health experts claim the optimal body fat range is 18 to 30 percent for women and 10 to 25 percent for men.

3.) Flexibility - This component is probably the most neglected factor to being physically fit. Flexibility is your ability to move joints or groups of joints through its natural range of motion, for example, bending down to tie your shoes. In addition, it also helps blood circulate to the muscles and nerves, and can help alleviate back and neck pain and other problems. Current research suggests you should stretch after warming up and to hold each stretch 20 to 30 seconds. If you think about it, nearly everything you do requires flexibility: getting out of bed, taking a shower, getting in the car, carrying groceries.

4.) Muscular Strength -- This is your body's ability to generate a maximum amount of force during limited repetitions. This is the "How much can you bench?" component of physical fitness. While it's not important to be able to lift a house, health experts agree muscular strength training should be a part of nearly everyone's fitness program.

5.) Muscular Endurance - Closely tied to muscular strength, muscular endurance is your body's ability to exert sub-maximal force repeatedly over long periods of time. This is especially important for athletes and people who play sports or workers who have to sustain physical activity for long periods of time. It also aids in good posture, helps prevent injuries and increases your stamina and endurance for non-sports related activities as well.

Other factors related to the above components include speed, agility, balance, coordination, reaction time, and power. The better you are at each one, the better your overall physical fitness. And, of course, your mental health plays an important role too, but maintaining a healthy physical fitness level will do much to positively affect your attitude and outlook on life. Your doctor or health instructor should be able to help you put together a fitness plan that is best suited to your particular needs.

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