The Components of Health-Related Fitness
The basic components of health-related fitness are cardiovascular function, body composition, strength, and flexibility. These are the very same components found in performance-related fitness. The major difference lies in the degree to which each component is developed within the two areas.
Cardiovascular function is the most important component in the health-related fitness area. The leading cause of death among the adult populations of most industrialized societies throughout the world is circulatory disease of various kinds. The United States leads the world in this gruesome statistic.
Although the evidence accumulated thus far is not unequivocal, many cardiologists, physiologists, and other health professionals are convinced that physical activity at levels sufficiently high enough to promote improved cardiovascular function is a potent factor in either preventing circulatory disease altogether or reducing its effect if it does occur. It is clear that sedentary individuals have a much higher incidence of myocardial infarction, and that the fatality rate is higher in those who are not very physically active.
Body composition is defined as the relative percentages of fat and fat-free body mass. It is an important correlation to cardiovascular function as far as health-related fitness is concerned. In addition, an increased incidence of coronary heart disease among obese persons, certain other health problems are manifested. These include greater risk of developing and suffering from hypertension, diabetes melitus, gallbladder disease, degenerative arthritis, kidney disease, adverse postural changes, delayed puberty in children, and decreased endurance and work capacity. It has been estimated if all the deaths related to obesity were removed, the life span for Americans would increase by 7 years.
Strength is the relative capacity of a muscle or muscle group for exerting force against some external resistance. The importance of strength to high level performance in sport activities is rather obvious to most persons. The importance of strength in general health is perhaps less clear. However, stronger muscles better protect the joints which they cross. Thus, the individual is less susceptible to strains sprains, and pulls that sometimes occur when participating in physical activity. In addition, better tone in the muscles of the trunk helps to prevent some of the more common postural problems that plague us like sagging abdominal organs, rounded shoulder, low back pain, etc.
Flexibility refers to the degree to which a joint may move through its maximal possible normal range of motion. The determining factor in joint range of motion is the extensibility of the associated connective tissue in and around the joint tendons and ligaments. From a health standpoint, loss of joint flexibility often contributes to postural difficulties. These usually result from the adaptive shortening of connective tissue on one side of a joint concurrent with a loss of tone in the muscles on the opposite side of the joint. This can be avoided or reversed through therapeutic exercise.
From a chiropractic treatment point of view, maintaining a strong, well-conditioned body is critical to the maintenance of good health throughout a person’s lifetime. As chiropractors, we are keenly aware of our role in guiding our patients in cardiovascular, body composition, strength and flexibility.