Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Size versus Full Body Fitness-Is There a Difference?

Fitness is often seen in a specific mindset that assumes that bigger equals better. When dealing with sports and general health this is not always the case. Size has its place but that place is beneath other aspects and markers of good health. Those interested in fitness and sports may focus on activities that increase their performance on tasks or improve perceptual body image. This could include the building of arms and chest at the expense of other body parts or it may also include engaging in the same activities over and over thereby increasing the risk of injury.

Sports and health are a full body activity. They require the ability to maintain cardiovascular endurance, strength, the ability to get into certain positions, put the body in the right positions, and the coordination of many parts working together. Ensuring that your entire body is at peak performance has great benefits beyond specific activities. General health should be seen as a full-body experience.

Fitness components include the following (1, 2, 3):

-Cardiovascular endurance: Improvement of the cardiovascular system that carries oxygen and blood to different parts of the body. The cardiovascular system is used in nearly all sporting activities and ensures that the body doesn’t become winded under prolonged stress.

-Muscle tone: Improvement in the strength of the muscles to lift more and do more. Muscle tone is used in nearly all sports and can create more power in activity. 

-Flexibility: The ability to use a full range of motion. Flexibility is used in all sports as well as those requiring particular body movements that can be difficult.

-Body Composition: This is how the body connects together and its relative portions that allow for full use. Body composition works well in sports that require proper body mechanics and form.

-Muscle endurance: This is how long the muscles can sustain pressure and weight. Muscle endurance is useful for activities that require equipment and other weighted items. 

-Coordination and Balance: This is how the body and all of its parts work together to ensure that tasks are completed. Coordination and balance is used in all sports and activities to create accuracy, coordination of movement, and momentum.

Multiple physical developments have its place within the literature. In the military it is often necessary to maintain stamina and peak performance above that of the civilian population. The military has four components of physical fitness that include endurance, mobility, strength, and flexibility (Roy, et. al., 2010). Coordination is often calculated a different way through successful task completion.

Focusing on something like size alone is not the only determinant of performance. A study developed to predict battlefield performance included 32 physically trained men for peak performance (mean +/- SD: 28.0 +/- 4.7 years, 82.1 +/- 11.3 kg, 176.3 +/- 7.5 cm) (Harman, et. al., 2008). They used anthropometric measures associated with height and body mass, fitness tests (push- ups, sit-ups, 3.2 km run, vertical jump and horizontal jump) as well as simulated battlefield physical performance under load (30-m sprints, 400-m run, obstacle course, and casualty recovery). The researchers found that body mass helped with recovery but not actual performance.  

What should we learn from this? If you are a steroid chomping, weight pumping, crazed beach buff who is completely satisfied with bulging arms and pin legs you are on the wrong track. True fitness should be measured in broad-based terms. Tone, flexibility, body composition, endurance, coordination and balance are more effective as measurements of potential performance. These aspects help to ensure the body has the skill for varying types of activities. 

General sporting and fitness health should include multiple sports. For example, yoga will support flexibility and balance while dance will encourage higher levels of coordination of movement. Muscle building activities will improve endurance and strength while sports like kickboxing and fencing will enhance how different muscles work together. Don’t forget the sprinting, jogging and walking that ensure your body is getting the proper amount of blood and oxygen for stamina. 

Harman, E., et. al. (2008). Prediction of simulated battlefield physical performance from field-expedient tests. Military Medicine, 173 (1). 

Roy, al. (2010). Physical Fitness. Military medicine.

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