What is Fitness?
Fitness is a lot more than just exercising on a consistent basis. Fitness has a distinction of components and there are many ways it can be measured.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical fitness is defined as 'the capability to carry out day-to-day tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with full energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies.' Based on this definition, fitness involves everything from getting out of bed to hiking to performing CPR.
To complete all these tasks, one must constantly address their fitness levels. This needs proper conditioning through both structured exercise and leisurely activities.
Components of Fitness
Depending on the basis, the components of fitness vary significantly. Below are common components:
Cardiorespiratory endurance - typically measured by how long or fast a person can accomplish an activity and how this influences measurements such as heart rate and oxygen consumption.
Muscular endurance - typically measured by how many reiterations of an exercise a person can perform. Common tests include push-ups and sit ups.
Muscular strength - typically measured by how much weight can be moved in relation to recurrences. Exercises relating multiple joints and muscle groups such as squats or bench press are regularly used.
Muscular power - typically measured by how much power can be generated during a given activity. Innovative equipment used by biomechanists are often needed to measure muscular power.
Flexibility - typically measured by how far a muscle group can be stretched or joint can be moved. The most common tests involve the hamstrings and shoulders.
Balance - typically measured by how long a specific position can be held with or without some type of activity being performed. Simple tests such as standing on one leg can be used to measure balance. More innovative tests may involve standing on an unsteady object while trying to catch a ball.
Speed - typically measured by how fast an individual can move from one point to another. The 40-yard dash is often used to judge speed.
Body composition - this is the amount of fat on the body versus other tissues such as muscle, bones and skin. Measured using a variety of tests and devices. Simple tests using mathematical equations or calipers are common and reasonable. More advanced tests such as underwater weighing is far less common and much more luxurious.
In many cases, endurance and strength are the components used to assess fitness. But applying the other components offer a more complete picture of overall fitness, along with health and athleticism.
Common Fitness Measurements
Fitness can be measured in a variety of ways. Below are common tests used in both clinical and athletic settings:
Cooper Run - This test measures cardiorespiratory endurance. In 12 minutes, run as far as possible. For most adults, running 2000 meters or more in this time is considered a 'good' to 'very good' level of fitness.
Push Up Test - This test measures muscular endurance. Men should perform this test using 'military style' (knees straight) while women should use the 'bent knee' position. Participants should perform as many pushups as possible while keeping proper form until exhaustion. An adult male performing 25-30 repetitions and an adult female performing 20-25 repetitions are considered 'above average.'
Sit & Reach Test - This test measures flexibility. Place a ruler on a step and sit with heels together and flat against the bottom step. Reach forward and measure the distance in front of or past the heels. Men reaching 2.5-6 inches past the heels or women reaching 4.5-7.5 inches past the heels are considered to have 'good' flexibility.
Bioelectrical Impedance - This test measures body composition. Using either a hand-held or at-home scale, a slight electrical signal is sent through either the hands or feet. Body fat percentage is estimated based on the speed in which the signal passes through body tissues. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE) men with a body fat percentage of 14-17% and women with a body fat percentage of 21-24% are considered to be in the 'fitness' category.