The Five Components of Fitness

Ben Emanuel II

The five components of fitness include cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition, and flexibility. These components play an important role when it comes to building an effective exercise program and a meal plan.

It’s a fact that regular exercise and a healthy diet can do wonders for a person’s health. Regular exercise can reduce the risk for stroke, type II diabetes, and cancer by up to 50%. And also, regular exercise can decrease your risk for early death by up to 30%.

It is suggested by health experts that there should be a balance between the amount of calories that a person consumes and his or her daily energy expenditure.

But given the reality that 90% of Americans eat more than the recommended amount of sodium while consuming less than the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, it is clear that there is a dietary problem for the general population.  

But it isn’t just a dietary problem. The same can be said about their physical activities. 28% of Americans, approximately 80.2 million people, from age 6 and older are considered physically inactive.

The Five Components of Fitness

If you have plans of living a healthier life and improve your overall fitness, it makes perfect sense to use a metric that allows you to assess components that make a person “fit”.

The five components of fitness include cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition, and flexibility. These components play an important role when it comes to building an effective exercise program and a meal plan. These are the things that you need to assess regularly to gauge the effectiveness of your program.

1. Cardiovascular Endurance

Cardiovascular endurance pertains to the cardiovascular system’s ability to work at extended periods. Cardiovascular exercises include running, jogging, and swimming to name a few. To test cardiovascular endurance, the Cooper Test is usually done.

This type of test was designed by Kenneth Cooper in 1968 for the US military. The individual will run for 12 straight minutes and check how much distance they’ve covered for the given period. Gender and age are two things that can affect the Cooper Test assessment.

Aside from the Cooper Test, the Step Test is another popular method of measuring cardiovascular health. For the Step Test, the individual is made to step on a platform for 5 minutes.

2. Muscular Strength

Muscular strength pertains to the muscle group’s power. For instance, squats, bench press, shoulder press, and pull-ups are some of the movements that showcase muscular strength. One rep max (1RM) is usually done to measure a person’s muscular strength.

One rep max is the greatest amount of weight that a person can push or pull without failure, injury, or compromising form. It can be tricky to estimate your 1RM because you will have to consider your other rep ranges.

How to compute for your 1RM? First, you want to find the heaviest load that you can lift for 4-6 reps without compromising form. You now have to use the equation is: (Load x 1.1307) + 0.6998.

It means that if you can lift 65kg for 4-6 reps, based on the formula (65 x 1.1307) + 0.6998, your 1RM is 74.1953. Just round up the decimal to get the closest weight possible to your 1RM. In this case, it’s 74KG.

This is also a good equation especially if you are going to have a program that requires you to do 65% or 70% of your 1RM. This allows you to know the optimal weight for the workout without really pushing yourself towards pushing or pulling for your 1RM.

3. Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is defined as the ability of a certain muscle group to sustain repeated contractions. For instance, how many reps can you manage to do full squats?

There are different tests done to measure muscular endurance depending on the muscle group. Push up test is usually done to measure muscular endurance for the upper body’s pushing muscles. This test can also be done timed and compared with other people based on sex and age.

To improve muscle endurance, high rep programs are usually used. It means that individuals will perform 15 to 25 reps of an exercise per set. On top of that, rests in between sets will be limited to 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on the intensity of the workout. But unlike training for muscular strength, the weights are significantly lighter when training for muscular endurance.

4. Body Composition

The body’s composition is usually measuring your body fat and muscle mass. To be qualified as “fit”, men should have a body fat percentage of less than 17%. For women, you need to have a body percentage of less than 24%.  

For men aged 18-40 years old, ideal muscle mass is somewhere around 33.4-39.4 percent. However, this number gradually decreases as a person ages. The ideal muscle mass will depend on several factors. For athletes, gaining a lot of muscle isn’t always a good idea. That’s because bigger muscles will also require more energy.

On the other hand, if it is your goal to lose weight, a significant amount of muscle mass can help improve your metabolism.

Body mass index is a measurement used when it comes to classifying an individual as underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese. Body mass index can be taken by considering your weight and height. To measure your BMI, you will have to divide your weight (pounds) by your height (inches) and multiply by 703. Based on the number that you are going to arrive in, here’s how you can interpret the data.

  • Below 18.5- Underweight
  • 18.5-24.9- Normal Weight
  • 25.0-29.9- Overweight
  • 30 and Above- Obese

5. Flexibility

Lastly, flexibility is one of the most important components of fitness but often overlooked by a lot of individuals. Flexibility pertains to the individual’s ability to move muscles and joints based on their range of motion. Being flexible can prevent injuries, improve overall movement, and even boost athletic performance.

Daily activities will also challenge your flexibility. Stooping, reaching, and bending are just some of the things that will test your overall flexibility.

Stretching is the gold standard when it comes to improving your flexibility. Workouts like yoga and Pilates are some of the more popular routines that can help you become more limber. For static stretches, it is suggested that you hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. Plus, you must do these stretches regularly.  


Knowing the five components of fitness can help you find the perfect workout routine and diet for you. To know if it is working or not, be sure to measure your progress based on these five components. You’ll have a better idea how your body has been adapting to your program. These components will also let you know if you are lagging on anything. Keep in mind that fitness isn’t a short term goal but something that you want to have even when you reach your senior years.