What Are the 5 Components of Fitness?

Many people wonder about the 5 components of fitness and what that means for personal goals. Chances are high that you’ve already got an idea of what being ‘fit’ means to you. Maybe that means a slim, toned body or maybe it’s bulking up your pectorals.

For other people, physical fitness might be a mystical number on the scale or being able to do a 5k without walking. These personal definitions of fitness make it difficult for anyone to achieve their goals, though.

First, let’s clear up a misconception: physical fitness isn’t defined by appearance, age, or a specific number on the scale. Understanding the five components of fitness helps everyone meet their goals as well as paving the way to better health now and into your future.

For maximum results use a fitness program that embraces each of the five components of fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition.

Cardiovascular Endurance

Cardiovascular endurance refers to the body’s ability to keep up with aerobic activities like running, biking, or swimming. 

Cardiovascular health is often measured with a Cooper run test in which an individual runs as far as they can in 12 minutes. Another common test to measure cardio endurance is a step test that involves stepping onto a platform for 5 minutes.  Both tests give a fairly accurate picture of a person’s cardiovascular endurance capability.

During cardio exercises, people breath faster and more deeply, which boosts oxygen in the blood.  It also raises your heart rate, which increases blood flow through the blood vessels to the muscles and the cells in the body.

Over time, including aerobic activity in an exercise program leads to more efficient cellular metabolism and maintains or improves vascular health. Current American College of Sports Medicine (ASCM) activity guidelines call for 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise – like the kind found in circuit training.

Muscular Strength

Depending on a person’s fitness goals, muscular strength is either the first or second of the fitness components that comes to mind when thinking about what fitness really entails.

Strength refers to the amount of force a muscle group can produce in resistance exercises – your one-rep max.  Note that muscular strength is muscle group-specific.  Without a well-balanced strength training program, people might find themselves with incredibly strong pectoral muscles, but weak glutes.

A person in that position might be able to bench press their bodyweight or more, but not keep up on a steep hike. This is why a fitness program that targets all major muscle groups is so important!

This part of a fitness routine not only helps strengthen muscle fibers, according to the Mayo Clinic, it helps improve bone health as well.  To increase muscular strength, train with heavyweights in the 4 – 6 or 12 – 15 rep ranges.

The heavier the weight, the fewer reps should be performed to reduce the risk of damaging the muscles. ACSM guidelines suggest including strength training of all major muscle groups in a workout routine at least twice a week.

Muscular Endurance

Endurance in this case, is the number of times muscles can work without becoming tired. Rather than a quick burst of strength, muscular endurance is the ability of the muscles in the body to exert force and remain active for an extended amount of time.  

Like strength training, muscular endurance can only be improved muscle group by muscle group.

To improve muscular endurance, train with lighter weights. Using lighter weights or body weight exercises like planking, will train the muscle fibers needed for endurance activities. A circuit training workout program can combine muscle strengthening exercise and cardio to target multiple components of fitness into a single efficient training routine.


Flexibility is often one of the most ignored of the five components of physical fitness. It refers to the range of motion the body has around its joints. 

Flexibility is important for people of all ages – not just the older people doing tai chi in the park.  It affects a number of body systems including movement, balance, coordination, posture, and agility. Flexibility training ensures that the body can move with a full range of motion without pain or stiffness.

Flexibility is joint-specific.  It’s possible to have very flexible shoulders, but tight, inflexible hips. Flexibility training including yoga, pilates, or static stretching (when someone holds a stretch for 10 to 30 seconds).

A common flexibility test is the sit-and-reach test, but simply leaning forward and attempting to touch their toes will give someone an idea of their current flexibility. The more flexible an individual is, the closer they’ll come to touching their toes and beyond.

Body Composition

Body composition refers to the body’s fat mass compared to its lean mass (i.e. muscle, organ, and bone mass). As a person becomes more fit, their fat mass decreases and their lean muscle mass increases.  Additionally, a lower fat to lean mass ratio can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease!

To determine improvements in body composition a starting point must be determined. Stepping on a regular scale isn’t enough, as weight alone doesn’t describe the makeup of your internal tissues.

Standard body composition tests include skinfold readings, hydrostatic readings, or DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scans.  DEXA scans are most often done to determine bone density are done by physicians and may not be covered by insurance. One of the easiest ways to measure fat mass to lean mass ratios, is with a scale that uses bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) to estimate body fat percentage.

5 Components of Physical Fitness: Outcome

Including a balance of cardio, weight training, and flexibility exercises as part of a fitness routine will help develop muscle mass (fat-free mass) while reducing fat mass. Improved body composition usually follows as an outcome of working on the other four components of fitness.

Ultimately, using the 5 components of physical fitness leads to the fit, healthy body most people envision. Here at Circuit Fitness LV we know what it means to incorporate the 5 components of physical fitness, so if you are looking for some help along the way come in and try out our gym

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