What Do We Really Mean By Being Fit?

What Do We Really Mean By Being Fit?

Fitness can mean different things to different people, with being fit related specifically to your medical history, health status and sporting aspirations. In addition, fitness could be considered in emotional and mental dimensions. All of these are inter-related but for most of us we think of fitness in physiological terms, allowing it to be broken down into 5 key factors, collectively known as the health-related components of fitness, since they have the potential to impact. 

Cardiovascular Endurance  

Is your ability to breathe in oxygen, transport it through the blood and then use it in your exercising muscles. It is improved through specific training, usually involving a number of large muscle groups and sustained for a certain time, such as aerobics, jogging and cycling. 

Regular workouts lead to the heart being able to hold more blood and the heart wall becoming stronger resulting in an increased amount of blood being ejected with each beat. You can then handle higher exercise intensities and a by-product is that the stronger heart is able to work less hard when relaxed, so your resting pulse will drop. 

Muscular Strength and Muscular Endurance  

Can be considered together, as they can be viewed as two sides of the same coin, different functions but complementing each other. Healthy muscles enable children to play, adults to perform a manual job and mothers to carry their offspring. They are also essential to maintaining your independence in old age. Muscular endurance describes repeated contractions of the target muscle or group of muscles against a less than maximal resistance. With regular exercise, your body improves the supply of oxygen by increasing the number of blood capillaries in and around the muscle, so you are able to perform for longer before fatigue. 

Muscular strength training, leads to microscopic tears to the tissues at cellular level. Eating adequate protein and resting initiate the process known as super compensation, whereby extra contractile proteins are laid down in the recovering muscle fibres, leading to an increase in cross-sectional muscle size and a corresponding increase in strength. The degree to which muscles grow is dependent upon testosterone levels and explains the different responses between men and women to this type of training, with men generally increasing in size but women improving their tone and appearing leaner. 


Or suppleness, is something we often only become aware of when we lose it following an injury, for example. Flexibility can often be the most undervalued of the components of fitness, even though it can affect health status in a number of ways. For example, tightness in the hamstrings at the back of the thigh can cause a pull on the lower part of the pelvis causing it to tilt anteriorly and so to counter this, the lower spine assumes an exaggerated arch. Over time this will cause uneven pressure on the discs in the lumbar region and can lead to a number of health issues, most notably sciatica, which is a pain or weakness in the leg.

Body Composition 

Is a more important measure than weight alone, as it allows us to assess the percentage of our bodyweight that is attributed to fat. This is a valuable statistic, since excess body fat leads to increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, joint problems and respiratory issues. It is differences in body composition that explain why two women of similar weight have totally different shapes. Lean bodyweight, muscles and bones are more dense than fat so you could be looking at someone who is in great shape but actually weighs more than their ‘cuddly’ friend standing next to them. 

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