Posted by: Dr. Tyrone A. Holmes | June 25, 2008

What Does it Mean to Be Fit (Part 2)?

        Greetings, in my last post, I described the first two elements of physical fitness, aerobic capacity and muscular strength and endurance.  I will finish describing what it means to be fit by discussing flexibility and body composition

3.   Flexibility.  Flexibility refers to the range of motion within a joint and is probably the most overlooked element of fitness.  Even competitive athletes and those with rigorous exercise programs often neglect stretching and other types of flexibility activities such as Yoga.  This is unfortunate because increased flexibility provides a variety of benefits such as decreased risk of injury, increased flow of blood and nutrients to joint structures, increased neuromuscular coordination, decreased risk of low back pain, improved posture and reduced muscular tension.  If you participate in any type of organized sports activities (e.g. running, swimming, cycling tennis), improved flexibility can significantly enhance your athletic performance.

4.  Body Composition.  Body composition refers to the relative percentage of body weight that consists of body fat and fat-free mass (everything other than fat such as muscles, organs, blood, bones, water etc.).  Generally speaking, the lower your body fat percentage the better.  Volumes have been written on the diseases linked to excess body fat including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, gall bladder disease and sleep disorders.  Recently, an interesting question has been raised, “can you be fat and fit?”  The answer is an overwhelming NO.  A significant element of fitness is the possession of a healthy body fat percentage because increased fat leads to decreased athletic performance and increased risk of disease.  According to the American Council on Exercise, an acceptable body-fat percentage for men is 18-24% (for truly fit men the percentage is 14-17%).  An acceptable percentage for women is 25-31%, however truly fit women will be in the range of 21-24%.  Body-fat percentages above 25% for men and 32% for women are considered obese.  In my next post, I’ll describe some simple ways to measure your body composition, including the use of the Body Mass Index chart. 

NEXT POST: Monday, June 30, 2008

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