Ah, the quest for fitness. It’s a worthwhile endeavor. But, what does “being fit” actually mean? Is there ever a pinnacle? Is it a spectrum?
If you’re strong, but can’t run around the block, are you fit?
What if you are a marathoner, but you can’t perform a squat or jump?
Conversely, if your body doesn’t allow you to perform certain feats of strength or gymnastics, does that make you unfit?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, fitness is:
the condition of being physically fit and healthy; the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.
Well, that’s pretty vague.
Wikipedia does a better job:
Fitness is a state of health and well-being and, more specifically, the ability to perform aspects of sports, occupations and daily activities. Physical fitness is generally achieved through proper nutrition, moderate-vigorous physical exercise and sufficient rest.
According to Medical News Today, the components of fitness are:
– cardiorespiratory fitness
– muscular strength
– muscular endurance
– body composition
I remember Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Fitness test from elementary school. Any kids scoring in the top 50% of a series of tests (like the flex arm hang and the sit and reach) were deemed “fit” and got a sweet certificate.
CrossFit promotes “elite” fitness and has stated that world-class fitness involves being able to do not only functional movement patterns, but also gymnastics like presses to handstand, pirouettes, ﬂips, splits, and holds.
I believe there are some truths in all of the above, and I also think fitness boils down to simply being well-rounded, having both general strength and capacity.
And to further dive in…
- Being able perform functional movements properly – squat, lunge, press, pull, hinge, carry and brace.
- Being able to sustain aerobic activity for a period of time.
- Being mobile – the ability for your joints to move.
- Being capable of handling “real life” independently…putting your suitcases in an overhead bin, helping a friend move, chasing your kids around, etc.
I don’t think fitness has anything to do with being able to perform a muscle-up or snatch your bodyweight. And 6-pack abs don’t mean you are fit, either.
Fitness is on a continuum and it’s a journey. We should always be striving for better and finding holes in our game. So, at times, the focus may be to become stronger. Or more mobile. Or to improve capacity. As we get older, the goal is to maintain strength and balance and fight off the aging process, namely sarcopenia (muscle-wasting).
Wherever you are, you can always improve and it’s never too late to find your fitness!