Muscular strength is the ability to contract a muscle (make it shorter) to move a heavy load. This can be accomplished by going to the gym and doing Resistance Training (RT) by lifting weights, or doing body weight exercises. You should aim for 40 minutes a week at minimum to increase strength and maintain muscle mass, which helps keep off extra pounds of fat.
Muscular endurance is the ability to use large muscle groups continuously at an intensity that allows the body to get rid of lactic acid build-up more quickly than it accumulates. This is important for people of all ages and their Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s).
Cardiorespiratory endurance is the ability to consume oxygen and deliver it to the body. The more oxygen you can consume and deliver, the better your long-term health will be. This would involve using your large muscle groups for extended amounts of time at a low intensity, like walking, jogging, bicycling, etc.
Flexibility is the ability to lengthen muscles. There is a lot of power in being more flexible. An aspect of muscles is that they are elastic. The farther you can stretch them, the more power you can exert without being in the gym hitting the heavy weights. Being more flexible helps you expend your energy in a wider range of motion (ROM). There is static stretching where you hold a stretch for :30 seconds, then there is movement preparation where you move your body through different ranges of motion to gradually increase your flexibility with stability at the shoulders, torso, and hips. Having good ROM in these three areas will decrease the energy leaks and help you achieve greater strength and endurance.
Body Composition is the ratio of lean body mass (that which uses energy) and body fat that accumulates on the body. We would like to have a leaner body mass and the way we eat will have a greater impact on our body composition than PA, or exercise by themselves. The MyPlate method of eating is very easy to understand and follow to help with grocery shopping and cooking meals: 50% vegetables, 25% protein, and 25% carbohydrates.
There are three energy systems the body uses: Aerobic, Anaerobic, and the Creatine-Phosphate system. The Aerobic Systems is good for making your heart healthier since it is a muscle and needs 30-60min/day, most days of the week of walking, or PA. If you can walk and recite your favorite poem, then you are at a proper intensity. The Anaerobic system is when you are at a high intensity, where you have to focus on your breathing and moving at a high intensity with minimal talking, and only able to blurt out a few words. You will not last for long until the lactic acid overcomes your ability to move at a fast pace. The Creatine-Phospate (CP) system is for POWER! We need to do resistance training to build strength in our muscles, but it is this power that will help catch ourselves as we fall. Challenging your CP-system will only take a few seconds at a time, like sprinting, jumping or lifting something really heavy.
People who have active lives as part of their jobs, or regular chores may already meet many of these aspects without going to a gym, or setting aside time to exercise. The considerations listed above will make a well-rounded exercise routine for good, general fitness.
Editor’s Note: Sonny Sellars has a BS Exercise Science from Eastern Washington University and is an ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist.