Components of Physical Fitness

Components of Physical Fitness

Overall fitness is made up of five main components: 

  • Cardio respiratory endurance
  • Muscular strength
  • Muscular endurance
  • Body composition
  • Flexibility 

In order to assess your level of fitness, look at all five components together.

What is "cardio respiratory endurance (cardio respiratory fitness)?"

Cardio respiratory endurance is the ability of the body's circulatory and respiratory systems to supply fuel during sustained physical activity (USDHHS, 1996 as adapted from Corbin & Lindsey, 1994). To improve your cardio respiratory endurance, try activities that keep your heart rate elevated at a safe level for a sustained length of time such as walking, swimming, or bicycling. The activity you choose does not have to be strenuous to improve your cardio respiratory endurance. Start slowly with an activity you enjoy, and gradually work up to a more intense pace.

What is "muscular strength?"

Muscular strength is the ability of the muscle to exert force during an activity (USDHHS, 1996 as adapted from Wilmore & Costill, 1994). The key to making your muscles stronger is working them against resistance, whether that is from weights or gravity. If you want to gain muscle strength, try exercises such as lifting weights or rapidly taking the stairs.

What is "muscular endurance?"

Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscle to continue to perform without fatigue (USDHHS, 1996 as adapted from Wilmore & Costill, 1994). To improve your muscle endurance, try cardio respiratory activities such as walking, jogging, bicycling, or dancing.

What is "body composition?"

Body composition refers to the relative amount of muscle, fat, bone, and other vital parts of the body (USDHHS, 1996 as adapted from Corbin and Lindsey, 1994). A person's total body weight (what you see on the bathroom scale) may not change over time. But the bathroom scale does not assess how much of that body weight is fat and how much is lean mass (muscle, bone, tendons, and ligaments). Body composition is important to consider for health and managing your weight!

What is "flexibility?"

Flexibility is the range of motion around a joint (USDHHS, 1996 as adapted from Wilmore & Costill, 1994). Good flexibility in the joints can help prevent injuries through all stages of life. If you want to improve your flexibility, try activities that lengthen the muscles such as swimming or a basic stretching program.