Defining Fitness

Fitness- a term thrown around freely with no concrete definition. Is it a group of health measurements, such as weight, body composition, VO2 Max, heart rate, running speed and jumping height? What about defining it as a state of health free of disease? How about an endpoint you can claim after completing a challenging exercise program? What is fitness exactly?

“What is Fitness” from Google:

fit·ness/ˈfitnis/

Noun:
  1. The condition of being physically fit and healthy.
  2. The quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.
Synonyms:
suitability – aptitude – convenience – pertinence
A definition still quite vague. So, fitness is a condition of being physically fit and healthy. Ummm, okay…
WebMD approaches a better understanding stating that fitness:
…means being able to perform a physical activity. It also means having the energy and strength to feel as good as possible. Getting more fit, even a little bit, can improve your health.
While still a cloudy definition of fitness, we can re-work this statement to clarify. Let’s break these three points up.
  1. Being able to perform a physical activity. Another vague statement. What defines a “physical activity?” You can technically define brushing your teeth as a physical activity. So does that mean you are fit? Or, does a physical activity mean running 6 miles? The point here is that being “fit” requires identifying what you are fit to do. If we are talking about brushing teeth, then fitness for brushing your teeth is being able to brush your teeth. Because we are talking about exercise and health we have to define a quality of exercise that would correlate with fitness. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should be able to exercise at a moderate intensity for 20 to 30 minutes per day, five days per week for optimum health. Once you can achieve this goal, it is safe to say you are physically fit. Keep in mind that the amount of exercise you can perform in 20 to 30 minutes will continue to increase as your fitness improves. Let’s see what the other two points have to offer in defining fitness.
  2. Having the energy and strength to feel as good as possible. Point two offers another subjective definition of fitness, but it makes a few important points. The definition of fitness has a component of internal feeling to it. Is your level of physical activity helping you to improve your energy level and mood as much as possible? Yes, it can be hard to say “I have as much energy and strength to feel as good as possible,” because if you have never been at your peak of “fitness” you would not know. Point two offers more of an end point definition to fitness, although that end point is still not clear. I would suggest combining the first two points to state: Fitness is having the energy and strength to feel as good as possible to complete 20 to 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity 5 days per week. 
  3. Getting more fit, even a little bit, can improve your health. Here fitness is more of a spectrum than a definable end point. The statement that “getting more fit, even a little bit, can improve your health” has significant depth. Even exercising a little can improve your place on the fitness spectrum to improve your overall health. A point that is encouraging.

Okay- now for the official Exercise Menu definition of fitness:

fit·ness/ˈfitnis/

Noun:
  1. Having the energy and strength to feel as good as possible to complete 20 to 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity 5 days per week.
  2. A spectrum that positively correlates the level of physical activity with health benefits and chronic disease prevention.

Hopefully this helped to bring clarity to this definition.

How would you define fitness? Share your thoughts below.