What it really means to be in shape, according to a fitness expert — and how to gauge how fit you are

What it really means to be in shape, according to a fitness expert — and how to gauge how fit you are

People often mean a lot of different things when they describe being "in shape" — to some people, it’s the ability to run far or lift heavy weights. For others, it has to do with measurements like body fat percentage .

Key components of fitness include aerobic fitness, muscular strength, body composition, power, and flexibility, according to fitness expert Shawn Arent.

With training, you can improve on each of these measures.

There are plenty of people who can bench press their own bodyweight but would be gasping for breath if they tried to run a 5k. And there are distance runners who can’t do a pull-up or a set of more than a few push-ups.

When people talk about trying to get "in shape," they might mean a lot of different things, according to Shawn Arent , director of the Center for Health and Human Performance at Rutgers University and a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.

"For some people, they really mean ‘How do I look better?’ For other people, it’s ‘I want to run a marathon, how do I get more aerobically fit?’ For others, it’s ‘I want to be functional in all parts of my life,’" Arent told Business Insider.

There are a number of components of fitness, according to Arent, including aerobic fitness, muscular strength, body composition, power, and flexibility.

"I would say they’re all important," he said. Stephen Spillman/AP Assessing fitness

At Rutgers, Arent’s lab can assess fitness both for the general population and for athletes . They can also recommend ways to get stronger and build endurance."There’s no such thing as too strong, no such thing as too much endurance," Arent said. But once you understand the categories, you can see what you might want to improve. To test your aerobic fitness , a lab like Arent’s will measure your VO2Max. This is a measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen you can make use of during exercise, and is commonly used as a measure of endurance. Like most measures of fitness, VO2Max declines with age. But by engaging in physical […]

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