What Is Fitness – Definitions, Components

What Is Fitness – Definitions, Components

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Sounds simple and yet so many people don’t really know what fitness is, and when asked what they have in mind when they talk about fitness, many will get confused, saying something that mostly sounds like exercising a lot, having carved muscles etc. But “fitness’ is so much more than simply exercising on a consistent basis.

In this article I’ll present to you different definitions, explain their pluses and minuses, and then I’ll introduce you to the components of fitness. Let’s dive into it. So what is fitness?


There are many definitions, but I’ll show you the most relevant ones and problems with them. Here we go:

  • ‘The condition of being physically fit and healthy’ (Oxford dictionary). Personally, in this definition I’m missing including mental health. And what does it mean to have a healthy body? Just because you engage in workouts and daily activities doesn’t mean you are healthy. And plus they are talking about physical health – what about mental?
  • ‘The ability to carry out daily tasks with vigour and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies’ (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This requires proper conditioning through both structured exercise and leisurely activities. Much better, love it 🙂
  • The most clinical of definitions: “The capability of the body of distributing inhaled oxygen to muscle tissue during increased physical effort“. This definition is focused on biological processes and lacks in broadness, there is more to the concept of fitness than just a biological process.
  • “The state or condition of being physically sound and healthy, especially as the result of exercise and proper nutrition”. Again, not a word of mental health. Many of the words in this definition like “sound, healthy and proper” fall squarely into the subjective category.
  • “The degree of adaptation of an organism to its environment, determined by its genetic constitution.” Well, this one is interesting, as convoluted as that may sound.

Overall, “fitness” refers to your own optimal health and overall well-being. Being fit not only means physical health, but emotional and mental health, too. It defines every aspect of your health. Healthy nutrition and active living are fundamental to fitness.


Components Of Fitness

The 5 components that make up total fitness, well, physical fitness are:

1. Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of the heart and lungs to work together to provide the needed oxygen and fuel to the body during sustained workloads. Examples would be jogging, cycling and swimming. The Cooper Run is used most often to test cardiovascular endurance.

2. Muscular strength is the amount of force a muscle can produce. Examples would be the bench press, leg press or bicep curl. The push-up test is most often used to test muscular strength.

3. Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscles to perform continuous without fatiguing. Examples would be cycling, step machines and elliptical machines. The sit-up test is most often used to test muscular endurance.

4. 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 such as the lunge. The sit and reach test is most often used to test flexibility.

5. Body composition refers to the percentage of fat, bone, muscle and organ mass in one’s body.  (ex: Two people who are the exact height and weight but look completely different.) This can be measured using underwater weighing, Skinfold readings, and bioelectrical impedance. Underwater weighing is considered the “gold standard” for body fat measurement, however because of the size and expense of the equipment needed very few places are set up to do this kind of measurement.

What Does It Mean Yo Be Fit

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Complete Food and Nutrition Guide (3rd ed.), when you are fit, you have:

  • Energy to do what’s important to you and to be more productive
  • Stamina and a positive outlook to handle the mental challenges and emotional ups and downs of everyday life and to deal with stress
  • Reduced risk for many health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis
  • The chance to look and feel your best
  • Physical strength and endurance to accomplish physical challenges
  • A better chance for a higher quality of life and perhaps a longer life, too

So Many Opinions

“Fitness” is a broad term that means something different to each person. What does it mean to you? Having read all those different definitions of ‘fitness’ you certainly have your own opinion. Please let me know what are your thoughts about it or which definition you agree with the most.

Thank you for reading this article. If you have any question, or want to leave a comment – impression, suggestion, your thoughts, experience… please do so in the comment section below, and I’ll be happy to help you out.

5 thoughts on “What Is Fitness – Definitions, Components

  1. You are absolutely right. Fitness has many definitions, it depends what you define fitness as. To me personally, It means I am feeling well, happy within my body. I feel and look well. I am strong and confident. I’m abundant in all areas of my life. In a nutshell, I have a flourishing body and mind.

    Thank you for helping us think healthy.

    Best regards

  2. I totally agree on you that fitness is more than just the physical health component!!
    In fact they both go hand in hand: a good mental health will keep you moving’ your body, whereas people who don’t feel well often become passive and have a low level of energy, although movement would be very helpful for them.
    I think I see my own ‘fitness’ in terms of overall energy level and how good I feel in my head and body.

    Glad you wrote about this subject!

    Kind regards,

  3. Hi Tanya, I loved reading your article regarding the definition of fitness. I think that many people believe that fitness is only about working out like hell and getting fit. A few years ago, I was doing cross-fit, but I was super under weight, was not eating properly, and I did not take care of my mental health. So although I was trying to enter the “fitness” world, I was doing it all wrong. Now I am slowly gaining my energy back by eating nutritious food, doing yoga for my physical and mental health, and going on long walks – I would consider this to be more a “fitness” routine, compared to my routine a few years back. I like CDC’s definition of fitness, but like you said, it probably needs to be more elaborated.

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