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What is Physical Fitness? - Definition & Importance

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  • 0:03 Physical Fitness
  • 1:10 Cardiorespiratory Endurance
  • 2:46 Muscle Strength & Endurance
  • 4:15 Flexibility
  • 4:47 Body Composition
  • 5:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Physical fitness is your ability to carry out tasks without undue fatigue. Learn about the components of physical fitness: cardiorespiratory endurance, muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility and body composition and why they are important.

Physical Fitness

While on vacation last year, I had an opportunity to ride a Segway. After only a few minutes of wobbling, I felt like I had mastered this upright transportation technology, and I was able to travel long distances with very little physical effort. We certainly live in the technology age, and the advances we see in technology have simplified many physically demanding tasks. In fact, it can make you wonder if all of this technology has eased our physical burdens so much that one day we might be so physically unfit that we can no longer perform tasks without the help of technology. Our ability to carry out daily tasks and routine physical activities without undue fatigue is called physical fitness. While too much reliance on technology could make us less fit, we see that we can improve physical fitness through the performance of different exercises. In this lesson, we will take a look at the five components that make up physical fitness, how we can improve them and the benefits they bring to our lives.

Cardiorespiratory Endurance

In the most general terms, a fit person is able to perform tasks with more sustainable energy and for longer periods than an unfit person. But, fitness is more than just the ability to work longer; in fact, it includes a number of components, one of which is cardiorespiratory endurance. This is a measure of the circulatory and respiratory systems' ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to and eliminate waste products from cells. Your cells need oxygen and nutrients in order to fuel your muscles during periods of physical activity. When your cells work they produce wastes that need to be transported away. How efficiently your body does these tasks is a measure of your cardiorespiratory endurance.

You can build your cardiorespiratory endurance through aerobic exercise, which is a type of exercise that uses oxygen to meet energy demands. The word aerobic means using oxygen, so aerobic exercise is literally exercise that uses oxygen. This is the type of exercise that we might consider with activities performed over time at low to moderate intensity, such as taking a comfortable jog around the neighborhood, riding your bicycle or rowing a boat. Aerobic exercise is important because it strengthens your heart and lungs by making them work harder. Did you ever hear that really fit athletes have very low resting heart rates? That's because a high level of fitness leads to a strong heart, which is able to pump a lot of blood with fewer heartbeats.

Muscle Strength and Endurance

Another component of physical fitness is muscle strength, which is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to exert force against resistance. Having greater muscle strength enhances physical fitness because it allows you to more easily perform tasks such as pushing, pulling and lifting. You have experienced the importance of muscle strength when you performed household tasks such as moving furniture or carrying a full trash bag out to the curb.

Muscle endurance is yet another component of physical fitness. It is defined as the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to exert force for extended periods. Whereas muscle strength is the ability to give it all you've got in one maximum motion, endurance is the ability to keep going and perform repetitive motions of less intensity over time. You have likely experienced the importance of muscle endurance when you shoveled snow off your driveway or raked the leaves in your backyard.

You can build both muscle strength and endurance by performing exercises against resistance, such as weight lifting. These exercises typically involve anaerobic exercise, which is a type of exercise that does not use oxygen, instead the fuel for this type of exercise is provided by metabolic pathways. Do you see the prefix 'an-'? This means without, so anaerobic exercise is done without oxygen. These exercises tend to be more intense and cannot be sustained as long as aerobic exercises.

Flexibility

When you think about someone who is physically fit, you might picture someone with big muscles or who can run long distances. What you might not think about is a person with good flexibility. Yet flexibility, or the ability for joints to move through a range of motion, is an important component of physical fitness. Good flexibility can improve your performance in sports and other activities, and it can reduce your risk of injury. You can improve flexibility by regularly stretching or moving your joints through their full range of motion.

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