The summer has come and gone, and once again you promise yourself to develop a body you can be proud of. One thing everyone should remember is looking good is important, but looking good is the result of a healthy life style that results in a high function physical being. This life style creates an aura of vitality and health that can be seen and felt by others.
Creating and following a balanced fitness program takes time and effort. There are five major components to physical fitness and they are all equally important for the health and wellbeing of the individual.
Muscular Strength- The amount of force a muscle or muscle group can exert during a contraction is muscular strength. The degree of force generated is generally measured by the one repetition maximum (1RM). There are specific exercises that are used to ascertain strength levels for particular areas of the body. Exercises such as the military and bench press are used to evaluate the upper body. The squat and leg press are frequently used for measuring strength in the lower body.
Muscular Endurance- The amount of times a muscle or muscle group can contract and exert sufficient force to move a predetermined load defines muscular endurance. Simple tests such as an individuals’ maximum number of pushups and the 60 second sit up test can be used to evaluate; upper body, abdominal and hip flexor strength. Free weights and machines may also be used to grade muscle endurance. Bench pressing a predetermined load such as a 35 pound barbell for women, and an 80 pound barbell for men for maximum repetitions is an accepted upper body test for upper body muscle endurance.
Cardiorespiratory Endurance- The ability to perform dynamic exercise using large muscle groups in a moderate, to a high intensity level for prolonged periods of time gages ones’ cardiorespiratory fitness. The best way for testing cardiorespiratory function is directly measuring maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max). Measuring VO2max must be done in a lab setting and has all the inherent risks associated with maximum performance testing. When working with the general population submaximal testing is: safer, cheaper, and easier to administer. Individual submaximal testing can be done on a cycle ergometer, or treadmill. Large groups can be tested via the three minute step test, the twelve minute run, or the Rockport fitness walking test. Results of the fore mentioned tests are graded against established age adjusted norms.
Flexibility- The ability to move a joint through a predetermined range of motion is ones’ flexibility. There are various flexibility tests that evaluate particular joints and muscle groups. The sit and reach test measures trunk flexion ability in regards to the hamstrings and lower back. Most individual’s flexibility decreases with age; this is why it is imperative to embark on a stretching program that will ensure full range of motion in ones’ later years. The image of an elderly person stooped over and taking tiny precarious steps should be sufficient impetus to get one to stretch.
Body Composition- The percent of body fat in relationship to ones’ lean body mass is what constitutes body composition, and measured by body fat percentage. Lean body mass is; muscles, bones, organs, connective tissues, and skin. The standard accepted body fat percentage is: 21% for women and 16% for men. It should be noted that body fat is imperative for proper physiological functioning of the body. Body fat can be measured by various means the most accurate being the submersion technique and the easiest and cheapest being skin fold measuring.