But if you want to achieve and maintain optimal physical fitness, your fitness program must include all 5 of these components of physical fitness:
1. Muscular fitness
Muscular fitness includes muscular strength and muscular endurance. Muscular strength is the maximal force that a muscle or muscle group can exert while performing an exercise. Strength is important for everyday activities such as lifting and carrying objects. The best way to increase strength is to train with heavy weights, working in the 4-8 or 8-12 rep range.
Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle group to exert force against resistance over a sustained period of time. Repeated actions, such as climbing stairs or shoveling snow, require more endurance than do actions that are performed just once. To increase muscular endurance, train with lighter weights, working in a higher rep range, 15-20 reps, or for longer time intervals (for example, as many reps as possibly for 30 second intervals).
2. Aerobic fitness (cardiovascular endurance)
Cardiovascular endurance is the capacity of the heart, blood vessels, and lungs to deliver oxygen and nutrients to working muscles during exercise. The higher a person’ cardiovascular endurance, the more work he or she can perform without fatiguing. Sustained aerobic exercise, such as swimming, cycling, and hiking, all help to improve aerobic fitness.
Flexibility is the ability to move joints through their normal full range of motion, which is important for preventing injuries and maintaining correct posture while performing exercises or everyday tasks. Yoga classes, mobility warm-ups, and static stretching at the end of every workout all help to increase flexibility.
4. Body composition
Body composition refers to the body’s proportion of lean body mass (muscles, bones, organs, and skin) in relation to body fat. Body fat is considered either essential fat or extra, stored fat. Essential fat is considered 2-5% for men and 10-13% for women. To qualify as having a ‘fit’ level of body fat, men must have a body fat composition below 17% and women must have a body fat composition below 24%.
5. Mind/body vitality
Mind/body vitality is defined as an individual’s ability to alleviate unnecessary stress and tension from the body by integrating physical exercise and mental focus. Exercise forms such as yoga, tai chi, or martial arts, all include a mental component as well as a physical one. Purely mental training forms, such as meditation, can also help increase one’s mind/body vitality.
So what would a balanced physical fitness program look like?
If you are a cardio junkie who loves to run or bike, balance to you might look like 3-4 days of cardio exercise, with one or two days of strength training and one or two days of yoga per week.
If you’re more of a gym rat who loves lifting weights, you might have more days of weight lifting and one or two aerobic endurance days thrown in instead. Just make sure you mix up your workouts–and, of course, get proper nutrition and sleep, too!