Muscular appearance is the fitness goal of many men. Bodybuilding adequately provides musculoskeletal strength, but not the other two essential components of fitness: cardiorespiratory health and flexibility.

By Jamshed Arslan, PhD

Health and Weightlifting

A person carrying out daily tasks with alertness and vigor, without undue fatigue, is considered healthy. This is true especially if he/she has enough energy left to enjoy leisure-time activities and can meet unforeseen emergencies. Needless to say that health and well-being is contingent upon nutrition and exercise. Nutrition includes macronutrients like carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and micronutrients like zinc, calcium and vitamins. Exercise generally refers to planned physical activities, which may or may not include resistance training.

Lifting heavy weights is just one form of exercise, and an incomplete one at that. What the heavy weightlifters miss about physical fitness is that being healthy includes more than just the appearance. Anyone who has interactions with professional bodybuilders, at least in Pakistan, can attest to the fact that these mass monsters cannot run fast or long, quickly climb stairs or even touch any part of their upper back. Although the body composition (amount of fat, muscle and bones) is a predictor of physical fitness, but that is not the whole truth.

Basic Components of Fitness

There are three basic components of physical fitness: Musculoskeletal fitness, cardiorespiratory fitness, and flexibility. Depending on the goals, bodybuilding only caters to the musculoskeletal fitness by giving you the muscle strength (lifting heavy weights) and endurance (lifting a bit light weights but for a longer time). Cardiorespiratory fitness means your heart and lungs can adequately supply nutrients and oxygen for various tasks. Running, brisk walking and climbing stairs train your circulatory system (heart and lungs) to do its job. Third, often ignored, component of physical fitness is the flexibility. You are sufficiently flexible if you can move your joints through the complete range of motion. An example of flexibility would be the ability to wash (most of) your upper back yourself in the shower.

Media shapes the reality around us. Wrestling, weightlifting and bodybuilding have set the criterion of ‘real’ strength for men as being highly muscular. Although the exercises and accompanying nutrition to achieve these goals do make a person healthy, but that health is often only in one domain (i.e. musculoskeletal). There are two other parts of fitness as well (cardiorespiratory fitness and flexibility), which must not be ignored.  

Source : Originally published at

By Jamshed Arslan

Pharm D (gold medalist); PhD (Neuropharmacology) Skilled in basic and clinical research and scientific writing, with over a decade of teaching and research experience.