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Five Components of Fitness: Body Composition

written by: Summer Banks • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 10/7/2010

The only component of physical fitness that does not involve movement is body composition. Body composition is a detailed look at where our body weight is distributed.

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    Total physical fitness is defined by 5 areas or components. These areas are defined as cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition. Physical fitness for total body health will include all 5 components of fitness.

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    What is Body Composition?

    Body composition refers to the percentage total body weight attributed to fat, muscle and bone. These percentages are used as a method of gauging physical fitness and overall body health. The most common measurement of body composition is BMI or Body Mass Index.

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    Looking at Fat Percentage in Body Composition

    The percentage of fat on the body is a recognized body composition marker. However, the percentage of body fat may not be the most effective percentage to use when judging overall body fitness. Athletes of different sports will often fall all over the fat percentage spectrum. For instance, the average male basketball player has a body fat percentage of 9%. The average male cross country skier has a body fat percentage of 5% and the average male golfer has a body fat percentage of 13%.Body Fat Percentage Chart 

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    Measuring Body Fat Percentages

    There are two methods of measuring body fat commonly used in physical fitness today. These are the skin caliper test and underwater weighing.

    Skin caliper testing involves a specialized instrument of folds of skin. The thickness of the skin fold is measured in specific parts of the body, usually the upper arm, abdomen and thigh for women and chest, abdomen and thigh for men.

    Underwater weighing involves total body submersion in water and specialized instruments. Underwater weighing should only be done with the attendance of a trained medical professional.

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    Body Mass Index or BMI

    Another method of judging body composition is referred to as BMI or Body Mass Index. In order to calculate BMI, a complicated mathematical equation is required. The Centers for Disease Control offer a BMI calculator for both teens and adults.

    To calculate your teens body mass index visit the Teen BMI Calculator.

    To calculate an adult's body mass index visit the Adult BMI Calculator.

    Once you have a BMI number, that number can be used to judge overall body composition and bring to light any areas of needed improvement. The healthy BMI levels are different for teens and adults. BMI levels for teens and adults will often vary by month, or even week. It is important to discuss BMI levels with the child's pediatrician.

    Adults can use a standard chart to judge where they fall on the BMI health scale.Adults can use a standard chart to judge where they fall on the BMI health scale. 

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    Bone Density and Skeletal Composition

    That old saying about having big bones may be more medically sound than once thought. While the average weight person can calculate the overall bone mass or skeletal weight by taking 14% of their overall body weight, this number offers just an estimate. The bone size and bone density will directly affect the overall mass of the bone. An orthopedic specialist or family physician will be able to offer guidance on the best method of measuring your bone mass and or bone density.

Five Components of Fitness

The five components of fitness are cardiorespiratory endurance, muscle endurance, muscle strength, flexibility and body composition.
  1. Five Components of Fitness: Cardiorespiratory Endurance
  2. Five Components of Fitness: Muscular Strength
  3. Five Components of Fitness: Muscular Endurance
  4. Five Components of Fitness: Flexibility
  5. Five Components of Fitness: Body Composition