What is Fitness?

Watching a bit of the Tour de France, when the riders seem to effortlessly climb up massive mountain sides, there’s no question in our minds - those guys are in good shape. When a new 100m sprinting record is set, nobody questions the sprinter’s fitness level. A marathon runner? Yep - definitely fit. How about one of the cast on “Dancing with the Stars”? See their abs? They’re as lean as lean can be. And what about bodybuilders, gymnasts, weight lifters, firefighters, action heroes, golf players and pole vaulters? Would we classify all of these individuals as being fit? Probably. But what does that really mean?

At first, it seems a simple question. Everyone knows what fitness is. Or do we? We can easily peg a person who is fit and in shape, but are they really fit? What does it mean to be fit? Is it a low body fat percentage? Is it an abundance of muscle mass? Is it speed and agility? Is it strength? Or is it simply the ability to perform well at whatever you do?

For practical purposes, being functionally good at the day to day tasks that require some form of physical exertion may be the essence of what being fit is. The dancer is fit because she can dance well. The gymnast is fit because he possesses a significant amount of strength. But a computer programmer (like myself) wouldn’t be classified as being fit because he is good at rolling out of bed and getting to the office on time. Being fit requires additional attributes besides being able to exceed at one’s own work. In order to be fit, one must be able to do well at a variety of physical activities.

The dancer and gymnast each exceed in numerous physical abilities that contribute to their ability to perform. Strength, endurance and flexibility are just a few of these attributes. By exceeding in these multiple areas, they are also likely to do well in physical tasks outside of their domain.