What is Fitness?

What is Fitness?

Fitness is defined as the quality or state of being fit. The modern definition of fitness describes either a person or machine’s ability to perform a specific function or a holistic definition of human adaptability to cope with various situations. This has led to an interrelation of human fitness and attractiveness that has mobilized global fitness and fitness equipment industries. Regarding specific function, fitness is attributed to persons who possess significant¬†aerobic¬†or¬†anaerobic¬†ability, i.e. endurance or strength. A well-rounded fitnessprogram improves a person in all aspects of fitness compared to practicing only one, such as only cardio/respiratory endurance or only weight training.

Health Benefits Associated with Regular Physical Activity

Children and Adolescents

Strong evidence

  • Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
  • Improved cardiovascular and metabolic health biomarkers
  • Improved bone health
  • Favorable body composition

Moderate evidence

  • Reduced symptoms of depression

Adults and Older Adults

Strong evidence

  • Lower risk of early death
  • Lower risk of stroke
  • Lower risk of high blood pressure
  • Lower risk of coronary heart disease
  • Lower risk of high blood pressure
  • Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Lower risk of breast cancer
  • Lower risk of colon cancer
  • Lower risk of adverse blood lipid profile
  • Weight loss, particularly when combined with reduced calorie intake
  • Prevention of weight gain
  • Reduced depression
  • Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
  • Better cognitive function
  • Prevention of falls

Moderate to strong evidence

  • Better function health
  • Reduced abdominal obesity

Moderate evidence

  • Lower risk of lung cancer
  • Weight maintenance after weight loss
  • Lower risk of hip fracture
  • Lower risk of endometrial cancer
  • Increased bone density
  • Improved sleep quality

Components of Fitness

Everyone has their own idea of what a fit person should look like. For some people, it means having a sleek celeb body, while others want to have massive muscles or a perfect hourglass figure.

But fitness isn‚Äôt defined by appearance. A person must walk into a ‚Äútotal fitness” domain which can be defined by how well the body performs in each one of the components of physical fitness.

The components that make up total fitness are:

  • Body Composition
  • Cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Muscular endurance
  • Muscular strength
  • Flexibility
  • Skill related components: Speed, Agility, Power, Coordination, Endurance, Reactivity.

A closer look at the individual components:

Body composition is the amount of fat mass compared to lean muscle mass, bones and organs. This can be measured using underwater weighing, Skinfold readings, and bioelectrical impedance.

Cardiorespiratory fitness is the ability of the heart and lungs to work together to provide needed oxygen and fuel to the body during sustained workloads.

Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscles to perform continuous without fatiguing. Examples would be cycling, elliptical machines and step machines.

Muscular strength is the amount of force a muscle can generate. Examples would be the bench press, biceps curl or leg press.

Flexibility is the ability of each joint to move through the available range of motion for a specific joint. Examples would be stretching individual muscles or the ability to perform certain functional movements like the lunge.

Speed is the ability to move quickly across the ground or move limbs rapidly to grab or throw. Movement speed requires good strength and power as well.

Agility is the ability to move and change direction and position of the body quickly and effectively while under control. It requires quick reflexes, coordination, balance, speed, and correct response to the changing situation.

Power is the ability to exert a maximal force in as short a time as possible, as in accelerating, jumping and throwing implements. Training include lifting weights, throwing implements such as medicine balls, running against a resistance, and plyometrics.

Coordination is the ability to move two or more body parts under control, smoothly and efficiently. It requires good levels of fitness components such as strength and agility.

Endurance is the ability to sustain the necessary activity level for a specific competitive sport. It includes both cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Example, Marathon running, cycling.

Reactivity is the ability to respond quickly to a stimulus. It is important in many sports and day to day activities.


Types of Exercise

Physical exercises are generally grouped into three types, depending on the overall effect they have on the human body:

  • Aerobic exerciseis any physical activity¬†that uses large muscle groups and causes the body to use more¬†oxygen than it would while resting.¬†The goal of aerobic exercise is to increase cardiovascular endurance.¬†Examples of aerobic exercise include¬†running,¬†cycling,¬†swimming, brisk¬†walking,¬†skipping rope.
  • Anaerobic exercise is a¬†physical exerciseintense enough to cause¬†lactate to form. It is used by athletes in non-endurance sports to promote strength, speed and power; and by body builders to build muscle mass. Muscle energy systems trained using anaerobic exercise develop differently compared to aerobic exercise, leading to greater performance in short duration, high intensity activities, which last from mere seconds to up to about 2 minutes.
  • Flexibility exercises stretch and lengthen¬†muscles.¬†Activities such as¬†stretching¬†help to improve¬†joint¬†flexibility and keep muscles flexible. The goal is to improve the¬†range of motion¬†which can reduce the chance of injury.

Physical exercise can also include training that focuses on accuracy, agility, power, and speed.


Physical fitness has always been an important part of life. It is theorised that when people left a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and formed fixed communities based around agriculture that physical fitness levels declined. Regimented fitness regimes were invented or became more common in Ancient Greek and Rome. In Greece especially physical fitness was an essential component of a healthy life and it was the norm for men to frequent a gymnasium.

Physical fitness regimes were also considered to be of paramount importance in a nation’s ability to train soldiers and field an effective military force.

Gymnasiums which would seem familiar today began to become increasingly common in the 19th Century. The industrial revolution had led to a more sedentary lifestyle for many people and there was an increased awareness that this had the potential to be harmful for health. This was a key motivating factor for the forming of a physical culture movement, especially in Europe and the USA. This movement advocated increased levels of physical fitness for men, women and children and sought to do so through various forms of indoor and outdoor activity, and education. This laid the foundations for modern fitness culture.

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