5 Components of Fitness

5 Components of Fitness: Test Yourself!

Use the 5 Components of Fitness to test your level of fitness. Calorie is King, but it is still important to aim for fitness as well as a healthy body weight. The 5 Components of Physical Fitness are:

  • Cardiorespiratory (or Cardiovascular) Endurance
  • Muscular Strength
  • Muscular Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Body Composition

According to organisations like the US Department of Health, you can declare yourself fit if able to pass all 5 fitness component tests. Here’s how to use each component to discover your fitness level:

First component of fitness cardio

Heart and Lung Endurance Component

More officially known as Cardiorespiratory Endurance, this component of fitness is about how well you can do high intensity exercise. Its the type of activity which causes you to breathe a lot and get hot under the skin. Your heart pumps furiously and your lungs fill and empty quickly. We’re talking about running, pedaling a bike up a hill, doing an aerobics class, and other such vigorous intensity exercise.

Fit adults can exercise with vigorous intensity for ten minutes per day, or 75 minutes per week.

A more specific test of the cardiorespiratory, or cardiovascular, endurance component of fitness is the Step Test. First, step onto a raised platform such as a stair. Then, place both feet on the higher surface. Finally, step back down without turning your body. Alternate feet and repeat the process as fast as you can, non-stop. Last 5 minutes to declare yourself fit!

From age 65, you are fit if you can exercise at moderate intensity for 150 minutes or more per week. This means brisk walking, leisurely bike rides, or gentle calisthenics. Basically, anything that gets the heart pumping fast enough to cause breaths to get faster.

Strength Component

Muscle Strength Component

The second component of fitness is about how strong your muscles are. Muscular strength is not about how long or how fast you can go. Instead, it is about how much weight you can lift, push, or pull. We have several different muscle groups, and there are many different types of strength exercises. The exercises which work multiple muscle groups at the same time are best for strength training.

Perhaps the most convenient and universally available muscle strength exercise is the push-up. This is where you lie face-down on the ground with your hands placed palm-flat alongside your shoulders. Raise your body up by straightening your arms, whilst keeping your back and knees rigidly straight. Without pausing, return to the start position by bending the elbows and repeat the straightening and bending movement until failure.

If you are an adult male aged 18 to 65, call yourself fit if you can do at least 20 push ups in one go.

If you are a female in the same age group, call yourself fit if you can do 15 push ups.

Older adults aged 65 and above are not usually tested with the push up method. Instead, various grip-strength and weight-lifting techniques are used.

Endurance fitness component

Muscular Endurance Component

The third component of fitness is Muscle Endurance, or how long your muscles can strain for. How far you can walk or run. How long you can hold your shopping bag in one hand. The laps can backstroke in the pool. Like the muscle strength measure, this muscular endurance component can be a challenge to define.

A good place to start is the exercise known as the plank.

Do a plank by resting on your elbows (90 degree angle between arm and floor) and the balls of your feet whilst keeping your legs and back as straight as possible.

Imagine that, from the top of your head to your heels, your body has become a straight plank of unbending timber.

Adult males are considered fit if their muscles can endure a plank for 30 seconds at a time. Females are fit if they can plank for 15 seconds per go.

Both men and women are considered strong when able to plank for 60 seconds or more. The world record plank is over 5 hours!


Flexibility Fitness Component

Number 4 out of the 5 Components of Fitness is Flexibility. Flexibility is the ability for your limbs and torso to be able to bend through a wide range of motion at the joints. Flexible joints are those not held back by stiff muscles and connective tissue, poor cartilage and joint fluid, and pain.

There are several important tests for flexibility, based on age, gender and medical history. However, one simple, age-old method arguably trumps them all: the toe-touch.

To perform the toe-touch, stand up straight, feet together, then gently bend your back whilst keeping your knees unbent, reach down and touch your toes with your fingertips. Alternatively, stand with your feet apart and touch the floor in-between them.

Adults aged 65 and under are classed as being fit if they can touch their toes without bending their knees. Older adults use more specialised range of motion tests to assess their flexibility as a component of overall fitness.

Body Fat percentage

Body Composition

The fifth, final, and most visibly obvious Component of Fitness is Body Composition. Simply and crudely put, it is the amount of fat you have, relative to muscle, bone and other body tissues. Body composition is not the same as body weight, since a fit, muscular person may weigh the same as an unfit person of the same height.

An adult male is considered fit if he has less than 17% body fat, whilst an adult female is fit with less than 24% body fat.

In other words, men are fit if they carry less than one fifth of their body weight as fat, whereas fit women may have up to about one quarter of their weight as fat.

Measuring body fat percentage accurately without specialised hydrostatic testing equipment is difficult. However, several more convenient, if less accurate, methods such as skin-fold (with callipers), bioelectrical impedance, abdomen vs neck ratios, and dual energy x-ray absorptiometry tests can be used.

For most people, body composition can easily be measured with a simple BMI reading. Find out what your BMI is and learn all about it with the calcount BMI Calculator right now!

5 Components of Fitness Activities

To summarise, the activities related to each of the five components of fitness are:

  1. Cardiorespiratory Endurance Component: The 5 Minute Step Test
  2. Muscular Strength Component: 20 push-ups for men, 15 push-ups for women
  3. Muscular Endurance Component: 30 second plank for men, 15 second plank for women
  4. Flexibility Component: Touch your toes!
  5. Body Composition Component: Less that 17% body fat for men, less than 24% body fat for women

Whilst broadly accepted, understand that different health professionals are likely to have more specific activities and definitions for individual people.

Does Sweating Burn Fat?

Does Sweating Burn Fat?

No, sweating does not burn fat. In fact, sweat (perspiration) might not even be an indication that you are burning extra calories! We sweat during a tough workout because our muscles are generating too much body heat to disperse by normal circulation. The sweat droplets that form on your skin whilst exercising have no body fat dissolved in them. Here’s why:

Sweat Glands

The average person has about 200 sweat glands opening onto the surface of ever square centimetre of skin covering their body. That makes for between 2 and 4 million sweat glands per person. There are two main types of sweat glands. One makes the oily type of sweat (think everyday armpits), and the other makes the watery type. Even though these glands are surrounded by fat cells, they do not function by drawing fat out in any way. Instead, sweat is taken from body fluids found in between cells (extracellular fluid).

Purpose of Sweat

Sweat is excreted for many different reasons, but the type we are talking about here is specifically made for cooling purposes. It is mostly water, which spreads out on the skin surface and evaporates into the air. In so doing, it cools the body down in the same way that a water-soaked T-shirt does on a hot day. Fat stores would be useless for this purpose because fat does not evaporate easily!

Saunas don't burn fat

Saunas don’t burn Fat

Think about it, if sweating really did burn fat, then saunas would be way more popular than they are right now. So would habanero chilli peppers, night sweats, and hot flushes. The average adult can perspire 12 litres of sweat in a day, so imagine the weight loss possibilities if, say, 10% of that was body fat! Sweating does cause temporary weight loss (water weight), but it does nothing special to burn fat.

Cold Workouts are Effective

Whilst exercising in cold temperatures can be associated with elevated injury risk, it is just as effective (if not more so) at burning calories than other workouts. Climbing Mt. Everest in a blizzard will cause much less sweat than running on a hot Gold Coast beach, but both workouts will burn calories effectively. Sweating during a workout is a sign of a hot body, but it is not necessarily an indication of fat burn.

Cold Workouts burn fat

Some People just Sweat More

There is a truly massive difference in the number of sweat glands each person has. Some people have twice as many sweat glands as others, thus they tend to sweat almost twice as much. If sweating really caused fat burn, then sweaty people would have a huge advantage in the weight loss department. Think about all the heavy sweaters you know – are they generally skinny?

Sweat has Fat in it

The Surprise Twist

So, we’ve just written a page explaining that sweat does not cause fat burn, but here’s the twist: sweat can have “pieces” of “used up” body fat in it! Perspiration, along with urination and defecation, is one of the body’s excretion mechanisms. Excretion is the process of removing unwanted and excess products from the body. Fat metabolism produces water, some of which ends up being evaporated away as sweat. There may in fact be burned fat in your gym headband!

Wibble, Wobble… Vibrate yourself Fit!

If you have been down to your local shopping centre recently, you might have seen a kiosk with vibration machines on display. They look like big bathroom scales shaking in an earthquake, their rapid see-saw motion just begging the four-year-old in you to hop on for a ride. In this article, we ask why they have become so popular, what they do, and whether or not they are worth the $400 to $17,000 price tag.
History of Vibration Machines
One of the first proponents for the health benefits of vibration was Dr. John Kellogg, the famous inventor of Corn Flakes breakfast cereal. He started to use vibrating platforms to treat people who visited his sanitarium in Michigan, USA in the late nineteenth century. However, it was not until the 1960s that serious research and experimentation into vibration training took place, first in the former East Germany (work of W. Biermann), then in Soviet Russia when Vladimir Nazarov developed vibration machines for elite athletes competing in Olympic sports. That work soon caught the attention of space agencies in the USA, USSR, and Europe concerned with keeping astronauts and cosmonauts healthy in zero-gravity environments. Since then, numerous studies into their effects have been published and multiple companies have manufactured and marketed vibration machines for home and gym use. The popularity of vibration machines exploded in the mid and late 2000s when celebrities such as Madonna, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, and the Collingwood Football Club were reported to use them extensively. At that time, vibration machines were expensive and relatively bulky, but in the last few years prices have come down as the technology has matured.
How Vibration Machines Work
Your muscle fibres contract when you make a conscious effort to move them, for example when you move your leg in order to walk. They also contract without your conscious effort when your body feels as though it is falling. We have all experienced how fast our hands shoot out to block a fall when we step on the soap in the shower. Scientists have found that many more muscle fibres are activated during these involuntary contractions when compared to normal conscious contractions. Vibration machines trick your body into thinking that it is falling. When the vibrating platform drops down suddenly, for an instant your nerves sense a fall and cause an involuntary muscle contraction in your legs, torso and arms before your thinking brain can react. This repeats again and again at the rate of about 20 to 50 times per second. Muscle contraction is exercise, so the rationale of a vibration machine is that you can get an exercise workout which may be more efficient and more convenient than alternatives like jogging in the park. More efficient because more of your muscle fibres are being activated, and more convenient because you can do it in a small space.
The reported Benefits of Vibration Machines
Much has been written about the reported benefits of vibration machines, and from our review it seems pretty clear from published research that regular vibration training delivers the following benefits:
  • Efficient expenditure of energy due to sustained muscle use
  • Growth in muscle mass and strength due to supercompensation effect
  • Improved circulation due to short-term vasodilation (widening of blood vessels)
  • Improved explosive power in muscle tissue due to rapid contraction training
  • Comparatively less strain on bones, ligaments and joints than weight-based exercise, so ideal for people with excessive weight or age-related frailty
  • Increased activity in osteoblasts (bone building cells) due to compression and remodelling of bone tissue
Although the above benefits have been confirmed in reputable studies, it must be noted that some claims put out by manufacturers and marketers have been exaggerated and in some cases downright false. False claims include reports that vibration machines can “re-align” twisted spines and “break up” fatty deposits in the hips and belly. Vibration machines can be of significant benefit to your health and wellness, but they cannot cause significant weight-loss by themselves. For that you need to control calories and enjoy an active lifestyle which could include 20-30 minutes of shake, rattle and roll when you watch TV every day.

3 Reasons to Avoid Fitspo

Fitspo is Fitspiration (fit + inspiration) and in case you have not noticed, Fitspo is exploding right now. But what exactly is it? Well, Fitspo is the photograph of a buff model hanging up in the gym with the caption: “Excuses Burn Zero Calories!”, or the Instagram picture of someone’s peanut butter and blueberry sandwich labelled: “Eat Clean or Die!”. The visual images and edgy word phrases are designed to motivate people to push themselves harder, exercise until it hurts, deny their food cravings, and aspire to look like an air-brushed TV infomercial star. These images and slogans are shared widely on social media, so it is not really possible to avoid seeing them, but we can think of three good reasons why you should not jump on this particular bandwagon.
1) Obsession with Body Image is Unhealthy
Fitspo models have minimal body fat and maximum muscle tone. They are usually pictured doing some sort of tough exercise like stomach crunches or hill-sprints. When you see their faces they are not smiling, instead they purse their lips in determination or furrow their brows with the effort of tightening their perfect abs. When they are not running or skipping or lifting, they are resting after a tortuous workout, with sweat droplets forming rivulets which course down chiseled torsos and arms akimbo. Then there are the mantras:
  • “Fall 7 times, Get Up 8”;
  • “When I exercise I wear Black, It’s like a Funeral for my Fat!”;
  • “I am Proud, but Never Satisfied!”;
  • “Walk in Strong, Crawl out Stronger”;
  • “You are 6 Months away from This!” (under a picture of a bared-midriff 20-year-old);
  • “Sweat is Fat Crying! Boo Hoo!”
The whole point of Fitspo is to get you to think about your body as something that needs to be punished in order for it to look acceptable to others. It is a life philosophy where every aspect of your daily routine is geared towards building or maintaining your body to look like a Fitspo picture. Your sense of self-worth becomes tied to how you perceive your body to be, because so much of your time is taken by the attempt to attain the “perfect” body.
The time and mental energy spent on a single pursuit comes with a hefty opportunity cost. We all know stories of people who have neglected their physical health when they focus on something else that takes up all of their energy – just think of the aged person who does not eat because of loneliness, or the obese computer programmer who spends all of her time coding the next killer app.
The person who takes Fitspo to heart is the other side of the coin – who knows what they might be able to accomplish in other areas of their lives if they were not obsessed with their bodies?
2) Comparisons are Unhealthy
Fitspo is all about comparing yourself to the ideal. Just about every Fitspo message contains the subtext: look at yourself, now compare yourself to this! The consumer of Fitspo is made to feel inadequate in their present state, and promised that they will be whole and fulfilled if only they could change themselves to become more like the model in the picture. We know that this is so because a number of studies like this one have shown that self-satisfaction declines when people are presented with images of idealised body models. The problem with comparing yourself to an aspiring model who has 8% body fat is that it does not help you to achieve your goals. Many studies, including this one show that using comparisons to motivate behaviour is actually counter-productive in the long run. You may be shamed into visiting the gym a few times but common-sense will soon kick in and you will stop. It will then be that much harder to motivate yourself to get back into it later.
When we look at Fitspo we see the shining happy trailer, not the full movie. Each piece of Fitspo out there has been photo-shopped, edited, tested and designed to make you feel inferior. Happy, self-secure, well-meaning people do not set out to purposefully make other people feel bad about themselves. Remember the old saying “Misery loves company”?
3) Fitspo has a Hidden Agenda
It’s all about the Scrilla, yo.
Once a Fitspo “star” gets a following on a social media account, the product placements, ads and endorsements will surely follow. The teams behind the messages and photos are not paid to make you succeed in your health goals, they are paid to make a product that is attractive to advertisers. That means making a buzz with whatever gets the most followers, hence the edgy slogans and the scantily-clad models. Now, there is nothing wrong with advertising products which help consumers to make healthy lifestyle choices, but there is something insidious about the covert nature of Fitspo commercialism. We all know why James Bond drinks Heineken but it is not as obvious when our favourite Fitspo Instagrammer drinks Exxtreme Nutrition Amino Whey Blaster Shake.
Advertisers have always exploited people’s vulnerabilities about self-image, but Fitspo seems to have taken it to a new level of ick.

The Truth about Spot Reduction

 Burn belly fat fast with the amazing ___________! (insert revolutionary exercise machine and/or diet supplement in blank). Spot Reduction is the concept of specific body-part fat-loss. An example of spot reduction in action is the idea that doing sit-ups will melt belly-fat, or that working out on a cross-trainer will tone one’s hips and legs. We know, from many scientific studies, that spot reduction is a fallacy but its appeal lingers…. But why?
It is a fallacy
Spot reduction does not work. You cannot target an area of your body with anything other than surgery and expect that it will become proportionally less fat than every other part of your body. Think about an overweight tennis player. Will that tennis player have one fat arm and one thin arm if she always holds her racquet with her right hand? Will an overweight jogger get skinny legs before he loses his belly fat? No, of course not. In fact, one of the first studies to disprove the idea of spot reduction was published in 1971 where the researchers studied tennis players and concluded that working the muscle below fatty deposits does not in any significant way affect the fat deposits directly. Muscles do not suck up fat from wherever it is closest when they need energy. Instead, the muscles use energy from a complicated, multi-faceted process which involves many hormones and organs coming together in concert to draw reserves from all over the body in a controlled, uniform manner. Think of your body like a country, where the cities (muscles) draw food from farms (fat) all over the world in proportion to its availability and price, rather than just raiding all of the local veggie patches.
Despite the tennis player study and the many hundreds of other research which supports it, an internet search today for “burn belly fat” or “lose your double-chin” will yield pages and pages of targeted exercises and diets. Why do so many people believe that you can get rid of specific patches of fat on specific body-parts?
Big muscles
Probably the single biggest reason that the myth persists is something called “muscle hypertrophy”, otherwise known as Big Muscles. When you train a muscle and provide it with adequate nutrition, it grows bigger. When you do fifty sit-ups each morning, the muscles in your core, including the abdominal muscles (abs/six-pack) grow stronger and bigger. These stronger muscles are better able to hold your belly in, making it tighter and more compact. If you are not accustomed to the extra exercise, you are probably burning more calories every day by increasing your Basal Metabolic Rate, so you may also be losing fat as your body unlocks the energy stored in fat deposits throughout your body to fuel your faster metabolism. The uniformly reduced fat layers seem to be reduced more over your bigger muscles than anywhere else in your body, and this gives the impression that you have lost more fat over your belly, thus supporting the idea that sit-ups have melted your belly fat away. The effect can seem very real and it just feels intuitively right to assume that the fat over hard-working muscles should “burn” faster than other fat. Unfortunately, this thinking is flawed and can lead to frustration and wasted effort.
Why it is not beneficial to spot train
It is not a good idea to attempt a targeted approach to fat loss for these key reasons:
  1. It does not work. You cannot pick and choose which fat burns first. Your body will lose fat uniformly for as long as you have some to lose and you expend more calories than you consume on an ongoing basis.
  2. Isolated exercises are less efficient. Focussing on a specific exercise which targets specific muscles like crunches and leg-lifts is far less efficient for expending energy and thus increasing one’s BMR over time than a varied exercise routine or general aerobic exercises like walking and running.
  3. Mental anxiety is bad for wellbeing. The problem with trying to lose fat in a specific part of one’s body indicates that an unhealthy fixation with body shape has developed. Losing weight in a healthy manner can seldom be reduced to the idea of getting washboard abs or a thigh gap. The frustration that comes with realising that the Four Point Two Minute Ab Machine is not working could lead to a cycle of despair and demotivation.
So how can I lose belly/thigh/face/hip fat?
It is simple, really. Just maintain a calorie deficit (use more calories than you consume) and your belly, thigh, face, hip, arm, leg and toe fat will all melt away.

Exercise Pill? Yeah Right!

Don’t believe the hype around this week’s news story about a revolutionary new exercise pill, because there is no exercise pill. There will be no exercise pill. There is just a 1 in 5,000 chance that the reported drug will make it to market by 2030. If and when that happens, it will not be marketed as an exercise pill.
Selling the dream
On Tuesday this week, researchers from Deakin University had one of their research papers published on an online science journal. Deakin must have a stellar PR team because by Wednesday all of the major network TV and news media were breathlessly reporting headlines like: “New ‘exercise pill’ could be a game changer in fight against obesity” (SBS) and “New ‘fat pill’ to help you lose weight without lifting a finger” (Ten Eyewitness News). If one believes the gist of these reports, it will soon be possible to buy a pill which, when taken regularly, will instantly produce the same effects of a regular exercise workout routine. Sensational journalism? Yes. Useful information for people who want to control their weight? No. Here’s why:
The Research
The actual research paper, co-authored by Vidhi Gaur, Timothy Connor and others, is entitled “Disruption of the Class IIa HDAC Corepressor Complex Increases Energy Expenditure and Lipid Oxidation”. The fact that the title is not as catchy as “Exercise Pill a Reality: Aust Researchers” (Daily Telegraph) offers a hint that this paper is not about a miracle exercise pill. The paper describes how, by injecting a type of chemical into the muscles of mice for 28 days (before killing them), they were able to record significant improvements in the metabolic health of the mice. The mice which received the treatment were healthier than the ones which did not receive the treatment, because their bodies were tricked into “thinking” that they had been exercising (even though they had not been), because the drug interfered with their DNA in the same way that the effect of exercise does.
The researchers administered three different substances on the mice. The type of drug that was tested is a compound called an HDAC inhibitor. This type of compound has a long history of medical use mainly in the fields of psychiatry and neurology. HDACs were first used to treat epileptic fits in 1967. The family of compounds is also used in cancer treatment, inflammatory diseases, parasite diseases, HIV/AIDS, and now (apparently) metabolic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
The primary purpose of the research appears to be an attempt to make the case that a specific HDAC inhibitor is an option for treating heart disease in people who are unable to exercise. Here, we are talking about people who are necessarily inactive because of old age, paralysis, or some other condition which makes it impractical to become active enough to effect metabolism in a meaningful way.
Why it is not an Exercise Pill
The term “exercise pill” has a meaning which is different to the properties and intended purpose of the drug being reported. An exercise pill would replace exercise by providing the same benefits of exercise, but this drug does not provide the same benefits of exercise (even if it indeed works exactly as reported in humans who are not killed after 28 days of intra-muscle injections). Exercise causes a great many long and short-term changes to occur in the body’s structural, metabolic, hormonal, and psychological state. The HDAC inhibitor causes a much narrower set of metabolic changes in the short-term, and since they killed the mice after 4 weeks nobody can speak about the long-term effects.
Regular exercise has a profound and ongoing effect on a person’s muscle mass and basal metabolic rate, whereas it would appear that the effects of the drug being reported last for only as long as the compound is active in the bloodstream.
Why it may never appear on supermarket shelves
With just one single piece of research involving a few eight-week-old male mice from Western Australia, it is fair to say that this is a highly experimental drug. Even with maximum resource funding, it takes an average of 12 years for an experimental drug to move from laboratory trials to your bathroom cabinet, that is if it is able to pass all of the necessary tests and approvals including:
  1. Pre-clinical testing
  2. Investigational New Drug Application
  3. Phase 1 Clinical Trials
  4. Phase 2 Clinical Trials
  5. Phase 3 Clinical Trials
  6. New Drug Application
  7. Phase 4 Studies
The above steps are from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in the US but a similar process is followed in Australia.
Just five out of five thousand drugs which enter pre-clinical testing end up being tested on humans, and out of those five only one ever makes it to market. So, on the face of it, this new ‘exercise pill’ has a one in five thousand chance of making it into pharmacies, and even then it is likely to take upwards of a decade before it passes all of the tests.
Side Effects
All drugs have side effects, but at this stage it is not possible to speculate on what they might be for this “exercise pill”. Perhaps a good place to start would be the known side-effects of Belinostat, which is an HDAC inhibitor drug (same chemical family as the reported drug) currently available for the treatment of cancerous tumours:
  • Low blood pressure
  • Swelling of extremities
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Itching
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Anaemia
  • Dizziness
The list goes on but you get the idea – this drug is unlikely to be doled out to whomever wants it so that they can skip their daily walk around the block.
The conclusion is simple and obvious: there is no substitute, and there will be no substitute, for good old-fashioned exercise. So get those trainers on and get out amongst it!