Skill-related fitness factors can affect healthy lifestyle

Jimmy H. Ishee
Published Tuesday, March 20, 2001

I have often discussed the health-related fitness factors of cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, body composition, muscular strength and muscular endurance. There are also skill-related fitness factors, sometimes called performance-related fitness or motor fitness factors, that are important if you wish to improve your physical skills. These skill-related factors are not essential for health and well-being but they are necessary for sports and games. Of course, participation in sports and games can enhance your health-related factors.

The following are considered to be skill-related factors:

* Agility -- This is the ability to change the direction of your entire body in space quickly and accurately. When you must move suddenly and unexpectedly like when guarding an opponent is a good example of using agility.

* Balance -- This is the ability to maintain your equilibrium through the interrelationships of internal and external forces while stationary or moving. Static balance involves stationary balance, while dynamic balance involves the body in motion.

* Coordination -- This is the harmonious interaction of individual muscles and muscle groups to produce skilled movement patterns. For example, the integration of your eyes, hands and feet with movement when catching, hitting or throwing require hand-eye coordination.

* Reaction Time -- This is the amount of time it takes you to get moving once you become aware that you need to move. It is the old "stimulus to response" time period. The stimulus could be auditory, visual or tactile.

* Speed -- This is your ability to perform body movements rapidly which allows you to cover a distance in a short time. Most people think of running when they think of speed; however, it includes any rapid, successive movement or movements.

* Power -- The is the ability to perform strength requirements at a rapid pace. It is a combination of the health-related component muscular strength and the skill-related component speed. As one of my former coaches used to say, "You need to get there firstest with the mostest." Not the best use of the English language, but an excellent description of power.

Most sports and games require a combination of these components and not simply just one. In fact, sometimes it is hard to separate them when they are required in a highly complex motor-skilled activity. Also, it should be noted that there is not mutual exclusivity between the health-related and skill-related components of fitness.

As mentioned the skill-related components have little to do with the qualities required for a healthy lifestyle and appropriate level of physical fitness. In fact two of the components, reaction time and speed, are very difficult to improve upon. Of course, the great thing about the health-related components is that improvement can be seen in all areas with an appropriate level of activity within a relatively short period of time. So remember, you do not have to be a skillful athlete to be healthy and physically fit because health-related fitness can be achieved with minimal psychomotor ability. This is an important message to people of all ages and abilities.

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jimmy H. Ishee is associate dean of the College of Health and Applied Sciences at the University of Central Arkansas. His column on fitness appears each Tuesday in the Not Just Food section of the Log Cabin Democrat.)