Fitness has different definitions for everyone. For the weightlifter, fitness might mean bench pressing twice their body weight. For the yoga teacher, fitness may mean being able to do a handstand scorpion. In my fitness goals, I try to take the broadest and most far-reaching approach that I can so that I am an all-around, functional athlete. I choose not to “specialize” in any one area of fitness but rather be proficient in several areas. This is a personal choice for everyone.
What areas of fitness are there, and how can we improve each of them for ourselves? Here are 7 standards for physical fitness.
Cardiovascular endurance is the body’s ability to continue exertion using the aerobic system for energy. The aerobic system is the system our bodies use to generate ATP, or energy, while we are performing lower-intensity activities, like walking or jogging for longer than 3 minutes. Note: anaerobic activity (shorter but more intense exercises) also increase cardiovascular endurance.
- Benefits: builds a stronger heart and lungs, teaches body to use oxygen efficiently, decreased body fat
- Goals: Running, jogging, walking, swimming, biking, etc. for at least 20 minutes, 3-5 times a week, increasing duration, speed, and/or intensity as endurance plateaus
- Practical Applications: being able to walk up stairs without becoming winded, keeping up with children
- Read: How to Use Heart Rate Training to Improve Cardiovascular Endurance
Strength or Muscular Endurance
Strength endurance is a measure of how well muscles work continuously and produce force.
- Benefits: increased strength and functional ability, stronger joints, greater bone density, increased metabolic rate, lowered body fat
- Goals: Perform as many reps of a strength training exercise (pushups, squats, etc) as possible in a set amount of time, increasing reps each workout
- Practical Applications: being able to carry in many bags of groceries, carrying a baby around for an extended period
- Read: High Reps vs. Low Reps for Weight Loss
Strength is a measure of maximum load for one rep of exercise, or the maximum amount of force one can produce in one try.
- Benefits: increased muscle mass, stronger joints, greater bone density, increased metabolic rate, lowered body fat
- Goals: One rep of the heaviest weight you can manage without muscle failure, increase this weight over time
- Practical Applications: being able to lift a heavy laundry basket or heavy suitcase, moving furniture
- Read: 50 Tips for How to Build Muscle the Right Way
Flexibility is a measure of the ability of joints to move through a full range of motion.
- Benefits: decreased risk of injury, better posture and range of motion, decrease in muscle tension and soreness, increased exercise performance
- Goals: deepened stretches and range of motion (example, being able to do full splits)
- Practical Applications: reaching something on the top shelf, sitting on the ground
- Read: Flexibility Training – You’re Not Fit Without It
Speed is a measure of the maximum velocity that can be reached by part or all of the body.
- Benefits: increased performance in certain sports, muscle memory
- Goals: increased sprint times, moving through circuits faster with accuracy
- Practical Applications: run to catch the train, throw a fast baseball
- Read: How to Run Faster – 6 Tips to Increase Speed
Agility measures the ability of an athlete to maintain control while quickly moving direction and changing positions.
- Benefits: increased sports performance, increased reaction time, injury prevention
- Goals: jump hurdles without pausing, run drills without faltering at direction or balance changes, increased jump height
- Practical Applications: avoiding obstacles like jumping over toys in the living room
Balance and Coordination
Balance is the body’s ability to control it’s center of gravity against movement, coordination is the ability to move multiple body parts with control efficiently.
- Benefits: enhanced sports performance, improved muscle control, decreased risk of injury, improved focus, counteracts loss of balance and coordination that comes with aging
- Goals: achieve yoga balance poses, balance and increased work on beam or stability ball (for example-balance on stability ball while performing squats)
- Practical Applications: maintaining balance when walking over uneven surfaces
- Read: 50 Reasons Why Being Fit Is Awesome
Improving all 7 of these areas will improve your overall physical fitness, your health, your daily functioning, add years to your life, improve the way you age, and turn you into an overall badass.