Fitness gets plenty of attention as it helps you maintain a healthy body, prevents certain diseases and supports healthy aging. However, many people overlook the importance of mental fitness in their lives.
To get the most out of your physical fitness, it is important to develop five areas: cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and body composition.
Whether you’re climbing a flight of stairs, running your first 5K or dancing to your favorite TikTok song, your body is dependent on cardiovascular endurance. It’s not only a key indicator of your physical fitness, but it also helps you perform everyday tasks and reduces your risk of diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Cardiovascular endurance is a combination of the functions of your lungs, heart and blood vessels that allow you to exert yourself for a long period of time during whole-body activities. Your lungs and heart are working hard to take in oxygen from the air you breathe and to push out carbon dioxide through your breath, which is a natural and necessary process.
Your cardiovascular endurance is determined by measuring how well your heart and lungs are functioning during exercise, which can be tested by using different methods. Franklin says two viable field tests that can be done without using a laboratory setting or specialized metabolic equipment include the Rockport Walk Test and YMCA 3-minute Step Test.
Increasing your cardiovascular endurance will allow you to push yourself harder during workouts, which can lead to faster and more consistent results in the gym. It can also help you burn more fat, which lowers your risk for conditions like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol. You can boost your cardiovascular endurance by gradually increasing the length and difficulty of your workouts, adding in exercises that increase your heart rate, such as jumping jacks, burpees and mountain climbers, or trying activities like running or jogging, swimming, cycling and dance.
Whether you’re a long distance runner, cyclist or simply looking to spend the day skiing with your family, muscular endurance is essential. Unlike muscle strength, which refers to how much weight you can lift or move, muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to contract continuously for an extended period of time.
Muscular endurance can be improved through resistance training, such as body weight squats, lunges or jumping rope. It can also be improved by performing exercises like planks and seated dumbbell rows, which involve holding your body in a position for prolonged periods of time (12).
Athletes with strong muscular endurance are often able to perform movements longer and more consistently. They can maintain their speed and power for longer, which can help reduce injury risk. Additionally, having a high level of muscular endurance can improve your daily functional fitness and make you less tired from everyday tasks, such as climbing stairs or lifting heavy objects.
When working on building your muscular endurance, aim for a higher rep range (like 20+ reps) and lower weights. Training to failure – or performing each exercise to the point of failure – is an important part of increasing your endurance. You can also incorporate isometric exercises into your workouts to train your muscles for endurance.
Most people take part in aerobic exercise to improve cardiovascular endurance and burn fat, while they weight train to build muscle tissue and increase strength. But often overlooked is the importance of flexibility in overall fitness.
Flexibility is the ability to move your body through a range of motions, and it enables your muscles and joints to remain healthy and mobile as you age. In addition, it helps reduce the risk of injury and improves posture and movement patterns.
When you’re flexible, your body can move through its full range of motion without pain or stiffness, and this flexibility can help prevent muscle imbalances and increase your performance on the sports field or during a workout. Flexibility can also decrease your risk of injury by decreasing inflammation. When you’re inflamed, your muscles will tighten in response as a protective mechanism. This tightening can lead to increased muscle adhesions (also known as knots) and decreased elasticity.
If you want to improve your flexibility, try doing daily stretches and foam rolling exercises that focus on your hips, shoulders and back. You can even visit a chiropractor to get personalized flexibility routines that will specifically target areas of your body where you are most stiff and tight. Flexibility requires patience, though, as it can take a while to see improvements.
A healthy body composition is one that contains a healthy amount of fat and muscle. A balance of these components may help decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and low self-esteem. Body fat levels can be assessed by a variety of means including skinfold assessment, dual-x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA scan), body circumference measurement, hydrostatic weighing, and bioimpedance analysis.
Despite having the same weight, two individuals can have very different body compositions. A person can have a very high percentage of fat and a lower amount of muscle. This type of individual will likely have a very high level of health related fitness as they are able to perform cardiovascular endurance exercises well. However, the skeletal muscles will not be as strong and this can create problems with mobility and flexibility.
The ideal body composition for most people is one that has a lower percentage of fat and a higher proportion of muscle. This can be achieved by a combination of diet and exercise. Consuming foods that are rich in protein, fiber, healthy fats and carbohydrates will encourage the development of muscle while burning fat. Using a variety of cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength exercises will also help to improve overall body composition. Body composition is a much more accurate method of assessing fitness than body mass index (BMI), which only looks at overall weight and does not consider the ratio of muscle to fat.