Ask a handful of nutritionists and personal trainers to list the five most important components of physical fitness, and chances are, all of their answers will be startlingly similar. The 5 components of physical fitness are: eating a healthy and balanced diet, building muscle, burning fat, maintaining flexibility, and taking care of overall wellness. The truth is, there is no magic pill or “easy button”, and achieving peak fitness levels takes time, hard work, and dedication.
Of the 5 components of physical fitness, a healthy diet is most imperative. Without eating well, nothing else will work. It’s important to eat as many whole foods and vegetables, while cutting out sugar, white starches, processed foods, and any unnecessary added calories. Bodybuilders refer to this as “eating clean.” Lean meats like fish, turkey, chicken breast, and pork are excellent sources of lean protein, which the body needs to maintain and repair muscle. Carbohydrates should be consumed from whole grains, fruits, beans, sweet potatoes, and low fat dairy products. Leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of fiber and vitamins, and should be included in as many meals as possible. Fats are also important, but should be eaten in moderation. It’s important to consume fats from natural sources such as almonds, flax seeds, olive oil, peanut butter, and cheese. The healthier the diet, the better the body will function.
The second major component of physical fitness is building muscle. This can be done by weight lifting (also called strength training). Most gyms have a variety of weight sets and strength training machines, as well as knowledgeable personal trainers who assist beginners and can answer questions. Muscle is essential to physical fitness because it increases bone density and causes fat to be burned faster. As the amount of muscle in the body increases, the amount of fat decreases.
Cardiovascular exercise is perhaps the most well-known part of being fit. Cardio can be loosely defined as any type of exercise that increases heart rate blood circulation, usually for a prolonged amount of time. Common forms of cardio include running, bike riding, inline skating, and even jumping rope. Cardio helps increase fat loss, lowers blood pressure, and increases levels of good cholesterol. It also improves brain function, reduces stress, and when done regularly improves quality of sleep.
Some physical fitness exams require testing in several specific areas. One of these areas, and one of the 5 components of physical fitness, is flexibility. Often overlooked as a component of physical fitness, flexibility is paramount for seasoned athletes and beginning gym-goers alike. The rise in recent years in popularity of disciplines like yoga and pilates has raised awareness about how important to fitness flexibility really is. Staying flexible ensures that muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints all function properly together as one ages.
The final of the 5 components of physical fitness is called wellness. Wellness is a general term sometimes used to refer to mental and emotional aspects of health. A few examples include stress management, keeping a positive attitude and realistic goals, and getting adequate sleep. Sleep is necessary in order to reach any fitness goal. Without proper sleep the body simply cannot perform. Stress management is also crucial, because stress can lead to increased levels of cortisol (a chemical that causes the body to store fat in the abdominal area) as well as overeating and insomnia. It is helpful to keep a positive attitude and realistic goals when working to become physically fit. Transformations do not occur overnight, but optimism and visualizing the end results can be great catalysts towards ultimate success.