Feeling “fitter” is one of the most common goals we hear from clients. For a good reason too!
But the next question we ask can often throw people off guard: how can you measure fitness, or what does that mean to you?
This article will cover many key points that will lead to notable increases in your health and fitness.
We will be covering these key areas in this article.
- What is fitness? Physical vs health-related fitness
- Different types of fitness
- Levels of fitness
- How fitness links to longevity and quality of life
- How to make fitness measurable and achievable
- Importance of recovery
- The importance of muscle integration and good mechanics
- Making training relevant & structured to help you move better as you get older
Fitness that promotes longevity and quality movement takes innovative training, an understanding of biomechanics, discipline, a solid plan & consistency. This article will help you with the plan & biomechanics; the rest is up to you!
WHAT IS FITNESS?
There are many definitions & interpretations of fitness, so we’ll summarise them here and break them down a little.
Experts define physical fitness as one’s ability to execute daily activities with optimal performance, endurance, and strength to manage disease, fatigue, stress and reduced sedentary behaviour.”
According to many experts, the five components of physical fitness are cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength/endurance, flexibility, and body composition. There is unanimous agreement in the fitness community that these are the five components of physical fitness.
However, the definition of what fitness level needs to be achieved falls on the individual.
Most of us consider fitness to only be the cardiovascular side of things. However, we need to ensure other areas aren’t being neglected to ensure overall health and well-being.
THE 5 COMPONENTS OF FITNESS
Cardiovascular endurance: Cardiovascular endurance is your body’s ability to keep up with exercises like running, jogging, swimming, cycling, and anything that forces your cardiovascular system (lungs, heart, blood vessels) to work for extended periods. The Cooper Run (running as far as possible in 12 minutes) is a test commonly used to assess cardiovascular endurance. Still, many trainers use the Step Test (stepping onto a platform for 5 minutes). Both are accurate measures of a subject’s cardiovascular endurance.
Personally, our favourite way to measure improvement in cardio endurance is by assessing our clients in Circuit, Boxing & Kickboxing sessions. Then reassessing in a month and see how much more they can perform.
We generally find clients see considerable improvements in cardio endurance within 4 to 6 weeks.
Muscular strength: This is the “power” that helps you lift and carry heavy objects. Without muscular strength, your body would be weak and unable to keep up with its demands. Increasing strength is to train with heavy weights, working in the 4 – 6 or 12 – 15 rep ranges. The heavier the weight, the fewer reps you should perform!
It also goes beyond this. We must establish how muscles function and not go against that critical biological blueprint.
We have done an entire article on strength, and if this is something you’re interested in, we highly recommend checking it out here. https://www.platinumhs.com.au/blog/how-to-get-really- strong-on-a-time-crunch
Muscular Endurance: Endurance is the ability of your muscles to perform contractions for extended periods. The muscles are used for minutes rather than just lifting or carrying something for a few seconds. Increasing endurance is to train with light weights, working in the 20 – 25 rep range.
Just like with strength training, when training for endurance, you still need to do this within a relevant context of what a human being is designed to do.
You need to do 2 things to assess this. First, define the organism & second, establish what the primary functions of the organism are.
For humans, this is standing, walking, running and throwing.
For more information on this, check out the Functional Patterns article on functional training in the references section.
Flexibility: Easily one of the most misunderstood areas in the fitness industry today.
We have an attitude toward flexibility similar to what we have with cardio or weights, in the sense that more is best. We want to achieve the splits or get into crazy yoga poses.
A better way to think about this would be to consider flexibility as quality of movement and mobility. When we think of it in these terms, we need to engage in activities that improve the fundamental movement patterns a human being experiences.
Muscles are part of an interconnected system that allows the body to function and move correctly. Once you start stretching certain areas in an isolated context, the action potential of those areas (think elastic recoil) reduces along with the system’s structural integrity overall.
Great ways to improve mobility and flexibility include MFR or self-release techniques like a foam roller or trigger ball, good quality movement that engages and stretches the muscles the way they are intended (such as sprinting, throwing and dynamic exercises)
Flexibility, quality of movement & mobility are articles in themselves. So for more info on this, be sure to check out the references section below.
Body fat composition: Refers to the amount of fat on your body. For example, a 100-pound person with a 25% body fat composition will have a lean body mass of 75 pounds.
To qualify as fit:
- Men must have a body fat composition lower than 17%
- Women must have a body fat composition lower than 24%
The average man tends to have about 18 to 24% body fat, while the average woman has 25 to 31% body fat.
Does this mean you should feel discouraged by not being within these ranges? Of course not!
Lower body fat percentages will help overall health and well-being and make movement much easier. As you gain traction and consistency in your training, as long as your nutrition and lifestyle are pretty good, the numbers tend to come down rather quickly. If you feel you’re doing everything you can and still not budging, feel free to let us know. Often, a few tweaks make all the difference, and we’d be happy to help.
LEVELS OF FITNESS
There are a few ways and angles you can look at fitness levels. An athlete does x; someone fit needs to do y. But this has us in a frame of mind of comparison toward others.
If you compete for a particular event, what others do becomes much more relevant.
But for most of us and the vast majority of our clients, we look at current fitness levels and determine where you would like to go, then set realistic time-frames and action plans to help get you there.
Most people don’t have measurable fitness goals; they want to “increase fitness.”
When you ask people what that means, they often look puzzled for a second, then realise they don’t know.
So, for the best results, there are 2 levels of fitness.
- Where you are now.
- Where you would like to be.
Part 1 should be determined within a relevant context. We don’t make our clients row for 5 minutes or go for a 12-minute run if they are not interested in running or rowing. We measure based on what they like doing and look for increases in speed, volume or improvements in movement quality.
Determine what cardio you enjoy doing, then measure. An example is taking our clients through a boxing or kickboxing session, as most interested in fitness tend to enjoy this training style. We note what you could do and how soon into the session you gassed out.
That’s where part 2 comes into it. Within a month or 2, clients notice a considerable difference and often double their output without gassing out for the entire session. So this is a measurable way to determine that someone’s fitness levels have doubled.
FITNESS LINKS TO LONGEVITY AND QUALITY OF LIFE
There is no denying that exercise leads to better health, and all-cause mortality is decreased by about 30% to 35% in physically active as compared to inactive subjects. That means it helps with almost everything that kills us as we get older!
We tend to think of things in the short to mid-term without focusing on our health going into older age.
But imagine your future self being one of 2 things. Either hiking in the countryside & keeping up with your grandchildren or seeing them from a hospital bed. There’s nothing you can do then; everything that matters is happening now. There’s no better time to get started, and although we
know how difficult starting something new or challenging can be, the alternative will be substantially more challenging to deal with.
The good news is that there’s so much to gain in the short term. Regular physical activity has been proven to improve the following.
- Body composition
- Energy levels
- Building and maintaining muscle & bone
- Improve brain health & memory
- Skin health
- Relaxation & sleep quality
- Pain reduction
- Sex life
IMPORTANCE OF RECOVERY & NOT OVERDOING IT
One thing that’s guaranteed to ruin your progress is injury. And although we think it’ll never happen to us or that we have everything covered, given how complicated the human organism is, it’s impossible to know the whole story of our unique physiology and thresholds.
Over-training can do much more harm than just causing an injury; it can also cause the following.
- Physical burnout – This tipping point is known as OTS, where the tables turn and exercise becomes detrimental to the body. The below points can be some of the consequences of OTS.
- Hormonal dysfunction – Overtraining negatively affects the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. This imbalance can lead to emotional instability, trouble with concentration, irritability, depression, and difficulty with sleep.
- Anorexia – Hormone imbalance also impacts hunger and satiety processes in the body. Although increased exercise should boost hunger, excess exercise can do the opposite.
- Impaired metabolism – Low-energy availability over a long period can negatively affect various organ systems and lead to iron deficiency anemia, low testosterone levels in men, and low bone density.
- Poor immunity – Overtraining can wear down the immune system, making it harder to fight various infections.
- Increased cardiovascular stress – With overtraining, even simple workouts become more effortful. The need for more recovery is also an issue due to heart rate having difficulty returning to normal after training.
- Decreased performance – One of the significant signs of overtraining is decreased athletic performance. This performance decrease can be related to impaired agility,
slower reaction times, reduced running speeds, and decreased strength/endurance. Loss of motivation can also be a warning sign.
- Fatigue – Excessive fatigue results from insufficient time to recover from continual exercise and refuel.
- Chronic injury – Muscle and joint overuse eventually lead to full-time aches and pains. If these injuries persist for more than 2 weeks, as can happen with OTS, the injury may be substantial and warrant medical attention.
To avoid overtraining, consider the following.
- Take rest days
- Seek advice from exercise professionals
- Listen to your body
- Don’t ignore niggles or aches (these are warning signs that need to be addressed)
- Choose sprint / HIIT style training over steady-state cardio for extended periods
- Prioritise training around what you are biologically designed to do as a human being. (more on this below)
GOOD POSTURE / GOOD MECHANICS / QUALITY MOVEMENT
Being fit is great, but there’s more to it than just the cardiovascular aspect.
You can put a V12 engine in a car, but if the tyres are flat and the pistons aren’t firing correctly, how much harder would it be for that car to reach its full potential?
The same goes for your body. To be fit for the long haul, you need good structural integrity & good biomechanics. How is this determined? By having a well-integrated, well-hydrated system that moves optimally. The way we were designed to operate.
The most valuable ways of assessing this are by checking your standing posture and running mechanics. Running is the pinnacle of importance for movement, as it’s the movement we have been designed to do since we became bipedal over 4 million years ago.
You can check out our articles on posture for more help on this. Still, the vital takehome for this article is that a well-established foundation is the key to quality movement and exceptional fitness levels.
Feeling fitter and stronger is something the vast majority of us want to achieve. We’ve gone over some critical steps in this article to get you well on your way to the fittest you’ve ever been.
By not getting caught up in other people’s definitions of fitness levels, you can create your own and determine your own improvements unique to your circumstances. This is more motivating & more enjoyable.
We covered the different fitness components and discussed the importance of recovery and not overtraining.
Finally, we showed the importance of training in line with how we are designed to function. Also, having an emphasis on good posture, movement and muscle integration.
Improving fitness is a never-ending journey that feels amazing and leads to a much higher quality of life.
If you have any questions or feel you could benefit from some additional help, let us know via the contact page.
In our initial assessment, we’ll review your posture, muscle functionality, nutrition & lifestyle to work out a plan to get you where you’d like to go.
We hope you found this article helpful and look forward to catching you next time!
Definitions of physical fitness
5 components of physical fitness
What is functional training? Breaking down one of the most bastardised words in the fitness industry.
Dysfunctions of stretching most commonly found in the fitness industry & what you need to focus on instead.
Does Physical Activity Increase Life Expectancy? A Review of the Literature
Top 10 benefits of exercise
9 adverse effects of too much exercise
Explaining the big 4 for quality human movement. Standing, walking, running and throwing.
Human beings becoming bipedal