The four primary components (also known as the components of health related fitness) that are important to improved physical health are as follows:
• Cardiorespiratory capacity is the ability of the body to take in oxygen (respiration), deliver it to the cells (circulation), and use it at the cellular level to create energy (bioenergetics) for physical work (activity). In fitness, we also refer to cardiorespiratory capacity as aerobic capacity. This capacity includes aerobic endurance (how long), aerobic strength (how hard), and aerobic power (how fast). Some of the long-term adaptations of cardiorespiratory training are: decreased resting heart rate, decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, improved endurance, increased stroke volume and cardiac output.
• Muscular capacity refers to the spectrum of muscular capability. This includes muscular endurance (i.e., the ability to apply force over a long period of time or to complete repeated muscle contractions); muscular strength (i.e., the ability to generate force, or the maximum amount of force that a muscle can exert in a single contraction); and muscular power (i.e., the ability to generate strength in an explosive way). Some of the long-term adaptations of improving muscular capacity are increased strength, improved muscular endurance, increased basal metabolic rate, improved joint strength, and overall posture.
• Flexibility is the range of movement or amount of motion that a joint is capable of performing. Each joint has a different amount of flexibility. Some of the long-term adaptations of improved flexibility are decreased risk of injury, improved range of motion, improved bodily movements, and improved posture.
• Body composition is the proportion of fat-free mass (muscle, bone, blood, organs, and fluids) to fat mass (adipose tissue deposited under the skin and around organs). Some of the long-term adaptations of improving body composition are decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, improved basal metabolic rate, improved bodily function, and improved BMI.
The secondary components of fitness (also known as the components of performance based fitness) are involved in all physical activity and are necessary for daily functioning. Athletes experience different levels of success depending on how well these secondary fitness components are developed. Although the primary components of fitness are thought to be the most important, we should not ignore the secondary components because of their importance in the completion of daily tasks. The secondary components include the following.
• Balance is the ability to maintain a specific body position in either a stationary or dynamic (moving) situation.
• Coordination is the ability to use all body parts together to produce smooth and fluid motion.
• Agility is the ability to change direction quickly.
• Reaction time is the time required to respond to a specific stimulus.
• Speed is the ability to move rapidly. Speed is also known as velocity (rate of motion).
• Power is the product of strength and speed. Power is also known as explosive strength.
• Mental capability is the ability to concentrate during exercise to improve training effects as well as the ability to relax and enjoy the psychological benefits of activity (endorphins).
Health is a dynamic process because it is always changing. We all have times of good health, times of sickness, and maybe even times of serious illness. As our lifestyles change, so does our level of health.
Those of us who participate in regular physical activity do so partly to improve the current and future level of our health. We strive toward an optimal state of well-being. As our lifestyle improves, our health also improves and we experience less disease and sickness. When most people are asked what it means to be healthy, they normally respond with the four components of fitness mentioned earlier (cardiorespiratory ability, muscular ability, flexibility, and body composition). Although these components are a critical part of being healthy, they are not the only contributing factors. Physical health is only one aspect of our overall health.
The other components of health (Greenberg, 2004, p. 7) that are just as important as physical health include the following:
• Social health-The ability to interact well with people and the environment and to have satisfying personal relationships.
• Mental health-The ability to learn and grow intellectually. Life experiences as well as more formal structures (e.g., school) enhance mental health.
• Emotional health-The ability to control emotions so that you feel comfortable expressing them and can express them appropriately.
• Spiritual health-A belief in some unifying force. It varies from person to person but has the concept of faith at its core.
Wellness is the search for enhanced quality of life, personal growth, and potential through positive lifestyle behaviours and attitudes. If we take responsibility for our own health and well-being, we can improve our health on a daily basis. Certain factors influence our state of wellness, including nutrition, physical activity, stress-coping methods, good relationships, and career success.
Each day we work toward maximizing our level of health and wellness to live long, full, and healthy lives. The pursuit of health, personal growth, and improved quality of life relies on living a balanced life. To achieve balance, we need to care for our mind, body, and spirit.
If any of these three areas is consistently lacking or forgotten about, we will not be at our optimal level of health. We are constantly challenged with balancing each of these three areas throughout life.
As fitness professionals, we have a responsibility to guide and motivate others to improve their level of health and wellness. We can promote a holistic approach to health (mind, body, and spirit), not just encourage physical activity. As good role models, we should demonstrate positive health behaviours that assist in improving our own health and the health of others. If our focus is strictly on the physical benefits of exercise, we are doing a disservice to our clients and we are not fulfilling our professional obligation.
As fitness professionals, we spend a great deal of time inspiring and assisting others in their pursuit of improved health. Education is an important aspect of this. We must promote the benefits of regular activity and help people understand why they should be active.
Figure 1.2 will help you educate your clients about the benefits of activity and why each of these benefits is important to long-term health.
Health Canada introduced Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living to help Canadians make wise choices about physical activity as a way to improve health. Scientists say you should accumulate 60 minutes of physical activity every day to stay healthy or improve health. The recommendations in the Physical Activity Guide are as follows:
• Endurance-On 4 to 7 days a week, perform continuous activity for your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. Time required for improvements depends on effort.
• Flexibility-On 4 to 7 days a week, perform gentle reaching, bending, and stretching to keep muscles relaxed and joints mobile.
• Strength-On 2 to 4 days a week, perform resistance exercise to strengthen muscles and bones and improve posture.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has also developed activity guidelines for improving health:
• Perform 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week for cardiovascular health. The 30 minutes need not be continuous.
• Performing 1 set of 8 to 12 repetitions of resistance training for the entire body is necessary to maintain and develop muscular strength and endurance.
• Flexibility training should be performed daily, including stretches for all major muscle groups, in order to maintain mobility.