The Anatomy of Fitness

Are you a committed fitness fanatic looking to optimize your results? Or perhaps you've just begun your journey to improved health and fitness...

Fitness is considered a measure of the body’s ability to function efficiently and effectively in work and leisure activities, to be healthy, to resist sedentary life style (hypokinetic) diseases, and to meet emergency situations. Fitness comprises two related concepts: general fitness (a state of health and well-being) and specific fitness (a task-oriented definition based on the ability to perform specific aspects of sports or occupations).

The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, a study group sponsored by the Government of the United States, declines to offer a simple definition of Physical Fitness. Instead, it developed the following chart,


Health Related

Skill Related



Body Composition




Cardiovascular Fitness



Bone Integrity


Motor coordination



Muscular Endurance



Muscle Strength


Reaction time


Exercise scientists have identified nine components that comprise the definition of fitness.

1. Strength

The extent to which muscles can exert force by contracting against resistance (e.g. holding or restraining an object or person).

2. Power

the ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements. The two components of power are strength and speed. (e.g. jumping or a sprint start).

3. Agility

the ability to perform a series of explosive power movements in rapid succession in opposing directions (e.g. ZigZag running or cutting movements)

4. Balance

the ability to control the body's position, either stationary (e.g. a handstand) or while moving (e.g. a gymnastics stunt)

5. Flexibility

The ability to move our joints through their full range without being impeded by excess tissue, i.e. fat or muscle (e.g. executing a leg split)

6. Local Muscle Endurance

The ability of a specific muscle to fire for an extended period of time. Examplea are rowing or cycling.

7. Cardiovascular Endurance

The ability of the heart, lungs and blood vessels to deliver oxygen to working muscles and tissues, as well as the ability of those muscles and tissues to utilize that oxygen. Cardiovascular endurance is also frequently called cardio-respiratory endurance, cardiovascular fitness, aerobic capacity or aerobic fitness.

8. Strength Endurance

The ability of the muscle to exert a submaximal force repeatedly over a period of time. For example the continuous explosive rebounding through an entire basketball game.

9. Co-ordination

The ability to integrate the above listed components so that effective movements are achieved.

Of all the nine elements of fitness cardiac respiratory qualities are the most important to develop as they enhance all the other components of the conditioning equation. This is measured by the volume of oxygen you can consume while exercising at your maximum capacity (VO2max). VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen in millilitres, one can use in one minute per kilogram of body weight. Those who are fit have higher VO2max values and can exercise more intensely than those who are not as well conditioned. Numerous studies show that you can increase your VO2max by working out at an intensity that raises your heart rate to between 65 and 85% of its maximum for at least 20 minutes three to five times a week. A mean value of VO2max for male athletes is about 3.5 litres/minute and for female athletes it is about 2.7 litres/minute. So what do you think your value is like? Probably you may want to increase it.

Well you have some insights on the elements of fitness, but what about working out and experimenting on yourself? That is more relevant here. Take up some cardio and alternate it with strength exercises by visiting your nearby gym. If you are busy you can get a set of dumbbells and a Swiss ball and do some strength exercises at home. Occasionally add some flavour of isometric and agility exercises and you are on your way to a perfectly healthy and fit body. Incidentally, if you have been dormant for a while or if you have some chronic diseases, please consult your doctor. All the best!

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