What is Personal Fitness?


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The question: What is Personal Fitness?

Is a more difficult question than: What is Fitness?

Let’s answer the easier question first: What is Fitness?

The concept of fitness actually comprises ten separate components:

The IFPA Ten Components of Fitness. The IFPA Ten Components of Fitness are:

Strength: In physics you have probably seen the formula Force x Distance = Strength (or Work).

Therefore, your Strength is determined by your ability to move a given Force (or Weight) over a given distance. The typical fitness tests to determine your strength are One-RM Tests or One-Repetition Maximum Tests.

Examples of One-RM Tests are the One-RM Bench Press, to determine the strength of your chest and arms (pectorals and triceps brachii); the One-RM Squat, to determine the strength of your hips and thighs (gluteals and quadriceps); the One-RM Shoulder Press, to determine the strength of your shoulders and arms (deltoids, trapezius, and triceps brachii); the One-RM Arm Curl, to determine the strength of your biceps brachii; the One-RM Seated-Row, to determine the strength of your upper back (latissimus dorsi); the One-RM Heel Raise, to determine the strength of your calf (gastrocnemius); and other movements that you may deem important as a way of measuring your progress to your own individual strength goals.

Maintaining significant levels of Strength is critical to prevent injury, chronic pain, and loss of functionality. The super human strength of Power Lifters and Olympic Lifters can be greatly admired, but the Senior Citizen, who cannot stand or walk without assistance, can greatly improve their functionality with strength training! Strength can be increased by all!

Research on Master Athletes shows men and women in their 80’s and 90’s are STRONGER than untrained 20 and 30 year olds!

Speed: Is how quickly you can move your body or a light-weight object such as a baseball or baseball bat, tennis racket, football, hockey stick, soccer ball, etc. Speed Tests are the 40 Yard or 100 Meter Sprints.

Power: Is your ability to generate strength as rapidly as possible. The Jump-and-Reach Test is a classic Power Test for the lower body. You will observe that the Jump-and-Reach Test utilizes some of the same muscles that you measure in the One-RM Squat Test, but even though you are measuring some of the same muscles, you are measuring two completely different abilities.

For example, you are testing two World Class Athletes, one a Professional Basketball Player and the other a Nationally Ranked Power Lifter. When you perform a One-RM Squat on both, the Power Lifter can squat over three times what the Basketball Player can do, but when you perform the Jump-and-Reach Test, the Basketball Player scores over three times what the Power Lifter can do. In physics, Strength (or Work) = Force times Distance (S=F x D).

Power, in physics, is Force times Distance Divided by time (P= (F x D) ÷ T). This means that your Power is a measure of how rapidly you can generate Force as measured against your bodyweight or an outside force such as a Shot Putter, Javelin Thrower, Discus Thrower, or a Guard on a Football Team blocking a Defensive Linebacker to protect the Quarterback!

Anaerobic Endurance: Anaerobic Endurance or Muscular Endurance is far more critical for general health benefits than has been previously believed. There is growing evidence that higher intensities are a critical stimulus to the body’s Endurance System that controls every other system in the body. Anaerobic Tests are: Maximum Push-Up, Pull-Up, Chin-Up, Dips, Sit-Ups, Crunches or other Repetition Maximum Tests. 15 RM Tests or the YMCA Bench Press Protocol are typical weight-lifting tests for Anaerobic Endurance which utilizes the Lactic Acid Energy System.

Aerobic Endurance: A measure of the body’s ability to utilize oxygen and efficiency of your “Krebs Cycle”: the body’s Aerobic Energy System. Typical Aerobic Endurance Tests are: Walk/Jog/Runs of 1 mile, 1.5 miles or 2 miles, the Step Test, or the 6-Minute Aerobic Test programmed into many Aerobic Machines.

Agility: Is a measure of body control during movement; the ability to rapidly change direction under control. You marvel at the Agility of a Gymnast or Dancer or watching a Football player, Basketball Player, Hockey Player or Soccer Player cutting and weaving through a field of defenders on their way to score. Fitness Testing using Agility Drills can measure your Agility as well as performance improvements as you train to increase your Agility.

Balance: Static Balance is demonstrated by a Gymnast holding a handstand or a Senior Citizen trying to hold their Balance when standing on one foot. Dynamic Balance is demonstrated by a Tennis Player sprinting full speed to get to the ball while maintaining their Balance to make a winning return or a Baseball Player sprinting to catch a ball then quickly deliver an accurate throw to “throw-out” the base runner trying to score!

Coordination: Usually refers to smaller muscle unit motor functions like dribbling a basketball, serving in tennis or swinging a baseball bat effectively. For Senior Citizens, Coordination refers to Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) like walking, dressing, grooming or even eating. If you are fortunate to live a long and fulfilling life and you fail to maintain your Coordination, you may find seemingly simple tasks like buttoning a shirt or brushing your teeth to become quite a challenge!

Flexibility: Is the measure of a muscle’s Range of Motion (ROM) around a joint. You have probably admired the Flexibility of a Gymnast, Martial Artist, Wrestler or Dancer, but everyone needs to maintain adequate ROM to prevent injury, chronic pain, and loss of functionality. You can measure Flexibility in each joint by using Goniometers.

Body Composition: Is a measure of your body’s fat mass versus non-fat or lean mass! Any cells in the body that are not fat are classified as lean. Most of the lean mass in the body is muscle, but organs, connective tissues, blood, bone, skin, etc, are all classified as fat-free, lean tissue! Controlling and/or reducing fat mass is a primary goal of most Americans. Research shows that excess fat mass leads to inflammatory responses in the body.

Inflammation is the cause of all chronic disease, disability or dysfunction. Reducing fat mass is the best protocol for the treatment, care, and prevention of all chronic disorders. The Journal of Endocrinology published their findings in the September 2011 issue: that increasing muscle mass was by far the best protocol for reversing Type II Diabetes!

In the not too distant future, you may find that increasing muscle mass may very well be the ONLY way to reverse Type II Diabetes!

Until 2012, most doctors believed that reducing fat was the most critical factor in reversing chronic disorders. Abdominal Fat is by far the biggest cause of inflammatory hormones so there is a very critically important reason to reduce abdominal fat.

The good news is that these goals are not mutually exclusive. Increasing muscle mass, increases metabolism as well as regenerating the Endocrine System to increase production of healthy hormones which in turn regenerate every physiological system in the body.

Body Composition measures are Skin Fold Calipers, Hydrostatic Weighing, Bioelectrical Impedance, Infrared Interactance or Circumference Measurements.

The more difficult question: What is Personal Fitness?

This has become extremely difficult to answer since so many individuals have been physically inactive for so long. The difficulty becomes exasperated by the ever increasing percentage of the population becoming overweight and obese.

Currently, approximately 70% of the population is overweight or obese and the numbers are increasing. What is even more alarming is the increasing numbers among our children! Personal Fitness must start with personal responsibility.

The most difficult part of a Personal Fitness Program is to start! Anything you DO! Anything over and above what you are currently doing is a START and ANY start is a very good thing.

You do not have to start with all Ten IFPA Components of Fitness; you only have to start with ONE! Even walking is a start! Walking may not reverse chronic disorders, but it will slow the progression of disorders. Strength Training may be the most critical component of your personal fitness program, but if you hate Strength Training; Don’t Do It!

Start with something else; start with anything, but please start! If you need motivation, please do volunteer work at your local hospital or retirement home and observe the patients dying of heart disease, COPD, HBP, cancer, diabetes or the 60 other chronic disorders.

Do you want that to be your fate?

Your Personal Fitness Program can prevent this from happening.

Best regards,

Dr. Jim Bell,


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