The Pillars of Excellence: Health and Fitness Department
The Five Components of Health and Physical Fitness:
Physical activity plays an essential role in the quality of life because it increases energy, promotes physical, mental and psychological well-being, and serves as preventive medicine. Several studies have explored the relationship between physical activity and the overall quality of life. In 1996, the Surgeon General’s Office released its Report on Physical Activity and Health, which reviews the evidence relating physical activity to reduced risks of a variety of health problems. There is evidence that physical activity is related to a lower risk of premature development of many health problems like: anxiety, arthritis, back pain, cancer, depression, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, insomnia, lung disease, memory problems, and osteoporosis. A longer life and increased energy, as well as physical, mental, psychological, and social well-being are some of the compelling reasons to improve your health through physical fitness.
According to the experts at the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), the organization that literally teaches the nation’s top personal trainers how to get their clients into shape, total fitness involves an integrated approach that is dynamic, multidimensional, and also relates to heredity and environmental factors.
Although heredity influences physical fitness and health, we can all lead healthy or unhealthy lives regardless of our genetic makeup. It is not possible to establish the relative portion of an individual’s health or fitness that is determined through heredity, therefore your genetic background neither dooms nor guarantees success in achieving total fitness. Our environment includes our climate, altitude, and pollution, as well as social factors like friends, parental values, and workplace characteristics that affect our fitness and health. Our past and present environments affect us all, and can have a substantial impact on our health and wellness. Likewise, one of the major components of fitness involves personal choices: time spent in the sun, smoking, drinking, arguing, and worrying. People who, over a lifetime, have neglected health and fitness practices suffer higher levels of “disease” (maladies, ailments, injuries—the absence of ease) compared to those who have lived a fitness lifestyle.
As important as the mental and psychological components of fitness are, it is through physical activity that we can improve our quality of life by preventing or delaying the premature development of the aforementioned health problems. Below is what the technical support staff of the trainers to the personal trainers told us are the five principle physical components of fitness:
Cardiovascular endurance is an important (most physicians would state categorically that it is the most important) component of physical fitness. When your muscles need oxygen, your aerobic (cardiovascular) system must be able to efficiently deliver it to them. When your body has waste products that need to be expelled (e.g. carbon dioxide and metabolic waste products), your heart-lung complex must be up to the task. These two tasks form the functional basis of aerobic fitness. Also, engaging in aerobic exercise can burn up to one thousand calories an hour depending on the specific type and intensity of activity. As a result, individuals who want to reduce their level of body fat sensibly, instead of starving the weight off, have a positive, user-friendly option at their disposal. In addition, the value and impact of aerobic fitness extends beyond the boundaries of the workout room: engaging in aerobic exercise can increase your life span and your level of available energy; aid in relieving depression, stress, and anxiety, as well as in preventing certain types of cancer; enhance self-image; reduce the risk of heart disease; “slow” the aging process; and even improve mental sharpness and the quality of sleep.
Strength is your ability to exert musculoskeletal force against an external object, such as a barbell, the ground, or an opponent, and it stems from four main sources:
Structural/anatomical factors – How your body is put together as an efficient “machine”
Physiological/biochemical factors – How your internal systems work to create energy and promote repair, remodeling, and growth in response to training
Psycho neural/psychosocial factors – How your skills, attitudes, belief systems, and tolerance to pain interrelate to allow your body to function at peak efficiency
External/environmental factors – How factors external to your body (e.g., weather, gravity, equipment) can be manipulated to produce greater force output
In addition to cardiovascular concerns, a lack of adequate muscular strength in conjunction with a decrease in bone density due to an increase in age is a definite health concern of our general population. A lack of adequate muscular strength can lead to a decrease in our musculoskeletal functions. Strength developed through resistance training helps to develop our musculoskeletal system.
Sound nutrition is the consumption of food that provides your body with all the nutrients it needs to remain healthy and active. There are six major nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water) necessary for a healthy body. A deficiency in any one of these nutrients can reduce your chances of success in reaching your fitness goals. Considerable data indicates that the safest and most effective way to accomplish weight control is to combine sensible eating habits with a program of sound exercise including both aerobic and weight training.
Flexibility is the ability to flex, extend, or circumduct the joints through their full intended range of motion. The term flexibility refers only to joints’ mobility and how muscles, ligaments, tendons, or other soft tissues affect it, and not to the “looseness” or “suppleness” of those soft tissues themselves. How much flexibility do you need? Although the answer varies from individual to individual, it can safely be said that you need enough flexibility to meet the demands of your daily activities with ease, plus a little bit more to spare for life’s little emergencies (e.g., falling on ice, tripping, etc.). Most fitness enthusiasts typically tend to overemphasize flexibility training, to the neglect of developing functional strength while in the stretched position. Significantly improving your joints’ range of motion without also improving the strength of your surrounding musculature (especially at its new range of motion) can be an invitation for injury. For this reason, strength and flexibility training programs must occur concurrently.
A positive attitude may seem like a mental component of fitness, but this element of physical fitness is the most important of all! The YMCA adopted a triangle (in which the points of that triangle were “mind,” “body” and “spirit”) from the Native Americans. All religions in one way or another recognize the importance of this Mind-Body-Spirit link. Will it help you run faster? Fight through a tackle? Concentrate on a free throw? Well, miraculous things have happened! However, any individual who does not focus on their overall happiness with life will indeed suffer and never realize his/her full potential.
I hope this helps and it has provided you with new knowledge on healthy living or at least reminded you of what you already know. I love providing these articles because I love giving others information they can use so please put it to use. One thing I always say is start slow enough to make sure you do to over do the work as this is the one reason most fail to continue living a healthy lifestyle. Keep up the great work and I hope to see you in one of the Pillars events!
Thanks a Million and Live Life to the Full!
Dr. John P. DeMann