What is Physical Fitness?

Fitness is a common goal, but the definition of fitness can vary depending on whom you ask. Most people have a sense of what it means, or they think they know it when they see it. Commercial fitness tells us that being fit means being in shape, looking good and feeling good. But you cannot measure a person’s fitness simply by looking at them or asking how they feel. Professionals use the following definition:

This explanation may not remind you of sexy fitness models “trimming their waists, toning their thighs or sculpting their arms.” It may sound bookish or vague. But don’t be discouraged. This definition of fitness is your key to success. You just have to break it down into smaller parts.

The last phrase: “without undue fatigue, injury or illness” suggests the prevention of illness and the preservation of health. In the science of fitness, your health is the core of the matter. With adequate fitness you are less likely to lack energy, sustain injury or get sick.

The middle segment: “perform daily activity” reminds us that physical activity is an important part of everyday life. Who hasn’t experienced the breathlessness of running to catch a train or bus, the fatigue of carrying heavy shopping bags, or the muscle tightness of sitting or standing for hours at a time? With enough fitness, normal activity won’t wear you down.

The first part: “a set of qualities” implies that fitness is multidimensional. There are 5 primary components and they are the most reliable measures of fitness. Each component is distinct in terms of how it impacts your health and how it affects your ability to perform physical activity.

As you digest this new definition of fitness you may find it is not compatible with how you feel about your own fitness. Your current concept of fitness may center on liking the way you look and feel. These are important qualities and they may be correlated with fitness, but they are not part of the formal definition. The term “fitness” is reserved for definable and measurable components. Clearly defined terminology is the first step towards achieving objective results.

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