Understanding the Definition of Health Related Fitness

Being a Health and Fitness Professional, it is my job to understand terms and definitions which are commonplace to this industry, as well to keep abreast of evolving trends. Through my experience, I have found that a number of terms deserve a little more clarification than that which they are granted.

Aside from clarifying the definition of Health Related Fitness, this article intends to shed some light on a few of the associated terms, and to show their respective distinctions.

Is it simply all in a name?

The fitness world seems to use the concept Health Related Fitness like a generic fitness principle – interchangeable with others like “Physical Fitness”, “Health and Fitness” or simply “Fitness.”

While all of these terms can be included under the broad term Health and Physical Fitness, they individually refer to different aspects – both generic and specific. Unfortunately, references to these and other fitness-related terms are often vague, while consistency in their intended use is meager at best; there is a kind of “generally accepted” use for them, but individuals often rely on own interpretation, and this can lead to confusion.

With that said, does Health Related Fitness simply infer fitness by means of good health? Not quite. That is why we need to understand a little more behind these words before digesting the definition.

How did the term Health Related Physical Fitness come about?

That is a good question. One could probably ask what is this concept all about – can we not simply use the terms “Fitness” or “Physical Fitness” instead?” Why Health “Related”?

The main reason stems from the fact that most health and fitness terms are used inconsistently and often refer to different concepts or notions. Subsequent to the 1996 report from the US Surgeon General (Physical Activity and Health; a report of the Surgeon General), there was a move to try and address the alarming rise in obesity levels among the general American public. Studies and initiatives required standardization among clinicians, health practitioners and fitness trainers to grapple with the task at hand. Enter “Health Related Physical Fitness”, a working term to address the general state of health among the public.

The definition of Health Related Fitness

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the main authority in this field, ineffective definitions with unclear and subjective wordings, as well as definitions containing terms which themselves require defining, have contributed to confusing the term “Physical Fitness.”

There exists no reliable guide for Health and Fitness Professionals to measure “Physical Fitness”, because the term has been so loosely and inconsistently defined. It is therefore that one should consider the concept of Health Related Fitness. The definition therefore centers on the 5 Components of Physical Fitness which relate to “good health.” These Components are:

  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness
  • Body Composition
  • Flexibility
  • Muscular Strength
  • Muscular Endurance

On the other hand, Skill Related Fitness Components are:

  • Balance
  • Reaction Time
  • Coordination
  • Agility
  • Speed
  • Power

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the definition of Physical Fitness emphasizes the difference between Health Related Physical Fitness and Athletic Ability Physical Fitness. Its point-of-departure is the “health” of the US nation, which is often referred to as the “public health perspective.” In that respect, the 5 Health Related Fitness Components are more important than those related to Athletic Ability (or Skill Related Components).

Although the concept of Health Related Fitness has an integral association with “good health”, the 5 Components are addressed individually by health professionals to allow for their measurement.

Now that we have a deeper understanding of the term, what purpose does it serve?

Continuing from where the definition left off, the objective of measuring the 5 Components is to advise clients about their own particular Health Related Fitness, and to use data obtained from the tests to design appropriate exercise programs which can then be evaluated.

The 5 Components contribute evenly to make up a holistic Health Related Fitness, which is of direct interest to the health of the ordinary citizen, in that the concept is normative. In other words, it is a standard which allows for consistent application.

It is therefore important for those working in the health and fitness industry not to mistake “overall physical fitness” with “Health Related Physical fitness.”

To conclude, let us consider this distinction between Physical Fitness and Health Related Fitness

One needs to bear in mind that regular physical exercise can improve overall Physical Fitness, as well as Health Related Fitness. However, overall fitness is a generic term and is up to subjective interpretation, while Health Related Fitness can be assessed.

The distinction therefore, between these two terms, exists in that Health Related Physical Fitness can be measured according to a set of established comparative norms.

This is where the “rubber hits the road.” The guidelines set out by the ACSM enable health professionals to work with clients to assess and measure their response to exercise and prescribe appropriate exercise programs. A client’s progress can then be monitored and adjusted where necessary in order to obtain the desired fitness goals.

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