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Staying Active

The 11 components of fitness

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Fitness is often thought of as a ‘one size fits all’ thing, whereby you are either fit, or you aren’t, but the science of fitness actually goes a lot deeper than that and demonstrates that there are a number of components that go into a person being physically fit.1

The strongest, most musclebound person may have no flexibility for example, but does this mean they aren’t physically fit? Conversely, a petite gymnast might be able to touch their toes and perform a backbend, but they probably couldn’t lift the same weights as the person in the first example. Does this mean they are not physically fit? Total fitness is better defined by looking at how well your body performs under different types of scenario.

A holistic approach to fitness

Total fitness looks at different areas and can be broken down into components or parts to make it easier to understand. It also helps you to appreciate the different requirements of different sporting activities, and even the different requirements of different roles within that activity – on a football field for example, a goalkeeper will need to work on different areas of skill than a striker.

Health related components of fitness

Health related components of fitness are those that you need to work on in order to improve and can be broken down into the following areas:

Body composition. The division of your body into percentages of fat, muscle and bone will have a direct result on your fitness level. A high jumper for example, will have a lean body composition to enable them to propel themselves upwards, whereas a shotput thrower will need a more solid body composition to generate the strength to thrown further.

Cardiorespiratory endurance. Certain sports will need a very high level of cardiorespiratory endurance. Long distance running for example, is dependency on your heart, lungs and blood having the ability to transport oxygen effectively for an extended period of time.

Flexibility. The range of motion that you can move your joints through is a measure of fitness and some sports will require this more than others – a gymnast for example needs to have more flexibility than a billiards player. 

Muscular endurance. This is the ability to continue your performance without your muscles becoming fatigued. A great example of a sport where this would be needed would be rowing, where rowers need to be able to continue the same repetitive movement for a long period of time.

Strength. Strength is a measure of how much force your muscles can exert when they come up against resistance. Wrestling, for example, requires more physical strength than something like badminton.

Skill-related components of fitness

Many sports require different levels of skill-related components of fitness. Gymnasts, for example, have been shown in studies to need high levels of speed, strength, endurance, agility, flexibility and power.2 Skill related components of fitness are those that can be improved with practice:

Accuracy. Controlling movement in a fixed direction is essential for certain sporting practices, like boxing, where your focus needs to be on a very specific area.

Agility. Be able to quickly change direction in a controlled way is important for certain sports, such as tennis and squash and would be less important for something like sprinting.

Balance. The ability to control and stabilise the body is a requirement of many sports and is a good indication of fitness for someone like a sprinter, who would need to maintain perfect stillness until the gun sounds and then spring into action.

Coordination. When you are able to use two or more body parts at the same time to do different tasks you could be considered well-coordinated. An example would be dribbling a basketball, where your legs needs to move you around and your hand needs to maintain contact while moving the ball.

Power. Power is a key indicator of fitness in sports such as javelin or discus throwing, where your performance is directly related on the distance your arms can throw, having applied great force to the tool while rapidly shifting your arm forward.

Speed. Speed is often used as a reflection of fitness in sports that require you to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, such as running.

Breaking down fitness into these components demonstrates that it is about more than just ‘who is the quickest’ or ‘who is the fastest’. Fitness is unique to each individual and to each type of sport. The important thing is to use your own capabilities as a benchmark and not compare yourself to other people. Whatever your fitness level, based on any, or all of the 11 components, practice and perseverance can help you improve them all.

  1. http://www.professorjohnthoday.com/downloads/Fitness.pdf []
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3325636/ []