Health Related Fitness Components
Is the sum greater than the whole?

Health Related Fitness Components
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The 5 Health Related Fitness Components combine to form the concept known as Health Related Physical Fitness (HRPF), a term which is more often referred to simply as Health-Related Fitness


The fitness world seems to use the concept Health-Related Fitness like a generic fitness principle, regarded as interchangeable with others like "physical fitness", "health and fitness" or simply "fitness."

While all 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.

A closer look at the concept Health-Related Fitness will reveal that there's a whole lot more to it than meets the eye. This is a concept which was intended to primarily address public health and provide some means of measurability. Thus, it has a specific intention. (Read more about the background and explanation on the page: Definition of Health-Related Fitness.)  

Definition of Health-Related Fitness, Health-Related Fitness Components, exercise terminology, Copyright: studiom1 / 123RF Stock Photo


In order to better explain the Components of Health-Related Fitness and their intended use, let’s first briefly clarify what Health-Related Fitness is and why it's of interest, especially to Fitness Trainers and Health Instructors. According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness (PCPFS), "Health-related physical fitness consists of those components of physical fitness that have a relationship with good health."

Broken down, the 5 Health-Related Fitness Components are:

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

As the PCPFS notes, there is a cause-effect relationship between physical activity and health. Plainly said, with increased levels of activity, we improve our levels of physical fitness and enjoy better health, afforded by the benefits of exercise. Physical fitness is reflected by our lifestyle (sedentary or active). Physical fitness, in the realm of Health-Related Physical Fitness, is therefore a set of measurable characteristics, or Components.

Although the Health-Related Fitness Components are assessed individually, it is essential that they are viewed integrally when considering "levels" of Health-Related Physical Fitness; even though each of them is intended to contribute in equal share to Health-Related Fitness as a whole. To this effect, individual attention is primarily for the purpose of measurement.


What purpose, other than measurement, is derived from breaking the concept Health-Related Fitness down into its 5 Components?

Health professionals assess the respective levels of the 5 Components in order to review them with would-be clients. This way, they can develop individual exercise programs to the meet particular needs of individuals.

Naturally, these assessments are client-specific, paying due regard to the general health and physiological state. For example, one would not simply put a previously inactive person through the rigors of testing without adequate screening and preparation.

A couple of the major players presiding over Health-Related Fitness

The authority on Health-Related Physical Fitness assessment is the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

ACSM's Health-Related Physical Fitness Assessment Manual provides thorough guidelines for the assessment of Health-Related Physical Fitness. This publication also refers to doses of activity and/or exercise required to produce health benefits.

The ACSM and the American Heart Association (AHA) have made recommendations for Physical Activity and Public Health, which provide an essential adjunct to the afore-mentioned manual in Physical Activity and Public Health -- A Recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine, JAMA 02/01/1995; 273: 402-407 (accessed October 12, 2009).


Yes, we went into a lot of detail on this page about the terms and meanings of fitness (particularly health-related) and its components. But I feel its part of the sensible approach to know and understand that fitness can be desired or needed for several different reasons. All too often, the fitness industry conveniently uses the term 'fitness' to include anything physical.

To mention just a few reasons, fitness could be for skill, health and/or function (cognitive or physical). So it's important to know these distinctions. (The page on 'How to get Fit' has more on this.) 

In other words, you could be into fitness for more than just looking good.

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