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What Does Being Physically Fit Really Mean?

Hi Friends of Oompf, it’s Alvan here. Today I will be talking about what it means to be physically fit and will be diving into the topic of cardiovascular endurance and its importance.

We can be healthy but not physically fit. Physical fitness actually consists of five essential components:

  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Muscular strength
  • Muscular endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Body composition

They are the outline for the physical activity guidelines and serve as a helpful tool for organising and executing your own workout routine. Creating a workout routine with all of these five components will ensure you get the most health and fitness benefits.

For the next five weeks, each week, I will be talking about one component so you can understand what it is and the importance of training that component.

Let me explain the various components briefly:

1. Cardiovascular Endurance
Cardiovascular endurance is your body’s ability to keep up with exercise like running, jogging, swimming, cycling, and anything that forces your cardiovascular system (lungs, heart, blood vessels) to work for extended periods of time.

2. Muscular Strength
This is the “power” that helps you to lift and carry heavy objects. Without muscular strength, your body would be weak and will cause many problems such as imbalances which will lead to injuries and more serious issues.

3. Muscular Endurance
Endurance is the ability of your muscles to perform contractions for extended periods of time. Rather than just lifting or carrying something for a few seconds like in the muscular strength part of fitness, the muscles are used for minutes.

4. Flexibility
Flexibility is one of the most important, yet often overlooked, components of physical fitness. Without flexibility, the muscles and joints would grow stiff and movement would be limited. Flexibility training ensures that your body can move through its entire range of motion pain free and prevent stiffness.

5. Body Fat Composition
Body fat composition refers to the amount of fat in your body. For example, a 100kg person with a 25% body fat composition will have a lean body mass of 75kg.

Today we are going to discuss more in depth about cardiovascular endurance.

Cardiovascular endurance
So, when you think of cardiovascular endurance, I am sure the first activity that comes to mind is activities like running, swimming or cycling. It is absolutely right if you think about these. Basically, you are making your heart pump oxygen into all your body tissues to make them work!

Importance of cardiovascular endurance
Cardiovascular endurance indicates a person’s level of aerobic health and physical fitness. Improving your cardiovascular fitness can bring about various benefits such as reducing your risk of developing heart disease by increasing the efficiency of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. The easier it is to pump blood through your body, the less taxing it is on your heart.

Improving your cardiovascular endurance also helps to increase oxygen uptake in the lungs and heart which will in turn allow one to sustain physical activity for a longer period of time. This means your body will be more capable to endure activities with higher intensity or pace and you will be able to do more and not feel as tired or out of breath. You will see improvement in performance of activities such as running, jogging, tennis, hiking and much more.

How is it measured?
Tests that measure cardiovascular endurance include:

Metabolic equivalents
Metabolic equivalents (METs) refers to the ratio between the energy expended during physical activity and the energy expended while at rest. Finding a person’s MET involves measuring how much oxygen their body uses at rest.

Maximum oxygen uptake
Maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max) test determines the maximum amount of oxygen the body is capable of using during high-intensity activities, such as sprinting or biking.

The VO2 max test typically involves running on a treadmill or peddling on a stationary bike as fast as possible. During the test, the person wears a chest strap or other body attachment that records their heart rate and a face mask that measures oxygen consumption. Examples of VO2 max tests are Cooper Test 12 min run and Bruce protocol treadmill test.

The Cooper 12-minute run test requires the person being tested to run or walk as far as possible in a 12 minute period. The objective of the test is to measure the maximum distance covered by the individual during the 12-minute period and is usually carried out on a running track by placing cones at various distances to enable measuring of the distance.

The Bruce protocol is a maximal exercise test where the athlete works to complete exhaustion as the treadmill speed and incline is increased every three minutes. The length of time on the treadmill is the test score and can be used to estimate the VO2 max value.

How to improve?
There are many ways to train for improved aerobic endurance depending on duration, frequency, and intensity. Focusing on slightly different energy systems and skills will result in a well-rounded program that promotes a variety of physical adaptations. Some of the training programs you can embark on is:

• Long, slow distance training (also known as Low intensity steady state)
It is the most common type of endurance training and the foundation for any long distance races involving running, swimming or cycling commonly. It is also the easiest form of endurance training for beginners.

• Pace/tempo training
It consists of training at a steady but at a higher intensity than a long slow distance activity. Therefore the duration compared to long slow distance training is shorter (normally about 20-30 minutes).

• Interval training (also known as High intensity interval training)
It consists of short, repeated, but intense physical efforts (usually 3 to 5 minutes followed by short rest periods). Interval training is a great opportunity to mix in resistance activities, such as calisthenics, along with short bursts of cardio.

• Circuit training
It consists of a series of specific exercises performed for a short duration and rotated through in quick in succession with little or no rest in between. Traditional circuit training routines include both strength training and endurance exercise and can be customised to meet any athlete’s training goals.

• Fartlek training
It combines some or all of the other training methods during a long, moderate training session. During the workout the athlete adds short bursts of higher intensity work and recovers down to a lower intensity in between sets of these short burst.

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