Life can sometimes get out of balance. We eat too much, sleep too little or work too hard. Likewise, our fitness routine can get out of balance if we are not careful. There are four components to physical fitness that are necessary if we are to be at our optimal level of health.
When we make time for all of these components in our fitness routine our body feels in balance and breathes a big sigh. However, if we focus on one of them too much we can create imbalance that leads to overuse injuries or the inability to reach our fitness goals.
The four components are muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance. The question then becomes, what kinds of activities will allow us to participate in activities that allow us to achieve this balance. Let’s dive into each component a little deeper.
Muscular Strength- Muscular strength is defined as the ability of a muscle group to develop maximal contractile force against a resistance in a single contraction. Activities that will improve muscular strength include any type of weight lifting, body weight exercises such as squats, planks or push-ups or any fitness class that involves resistance like “Body Sculpt” or “Total Body Conditioning.” We need muscular strength to be able to perform daily activities that require a large force like lifting heavy boxes or carrying a bag of groceries.
Muscular Endurance-Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle group to exert submaximal force for extended period of time. There are two classes in particular right now that do a fantastic job of improving muscular endurance. They are Body Pump and Barre classes. We need muscular endurance to help us do activities such as gardening, raking leaves and washing your car.
Flexibility-Flexibility is defined as the ability to move joints effectively through a complete range of motion. Classes like yoga and Piyo promote increased flexibilty. We need flexibility to perform all of our daily activites without injuring ourselves. Decreased flexibility puts excessive stress on our joints and makes performing normal daily activities difficult.
Cardiovasular Endurance-Cardiovascular endurance is defined as aerobic capacity or the ability of the heart and lungs to deliver oxygen to working muscles. Activites that improve this component include running, cycling, walking and classes like Zumba or step aerobics. The benefits to cardiovascualr endurance include a stronger heart and lungs, increased bone density, reduced risk for heart disease and some types or cancer and better sleep.
All of these components are important and if you find that you are reaching a fitness plateau perhaps you are missing one of these components. Don’t underestimate the benefits of being well-balanced in your fitness routine.