What is fitness? Is being fit about being able to lift heavy things? Run fast? Cycle or swim a very long way? Julia Buckley takes a look...
People who excel in one of those rarely do the same in the others. For example a strongman competitor is unlikely to be a fantastic sprinter, and vice versa.
In my quest for answer I consulted the Oxford English Dictionary. It delivered its usual pragmatic wisdom.
Fitness: Of a suitable quality, standard, or type to meet the required purpose.
It seems fair to say that strength competitors, sprinters, cyclists, marathoners, Zumba instructors, and anyone else who performs well in their chosen physical activity, is "fit" in terms of being Of a suitable quality, standard, or type to meet the required purpose.
But what, on the other hand, if the person who has trained for strength but can’t run has neglected cardio vascular exercise (where you move fast and get slightly breathless) to such an extent that their heart is weak and their oxygen intake is low? Or if the person who can run long distances but can’t lift anything much heavier than a tin of beans has neglected their upper body strength so much that their bones are becoming weak?
I am by no means suggesting that strength competitors do neglect cardio fitness or that marathoners are weak. On the contrary, in my experience, the majority of people in both of those groups would perform better than the average person in those other areas because they generally understand the need for all-round fitness.
Fit for Purpose
People will always gear their training towards their chosen type of exercise or sport, and rightly so, but it’s important not to make that the only type of exercise you do. For good all-round fitness that will help protect your health and mobility at all stages of life I believe you'd do well to focus at least some of your exercise time on all nine of the components of fitness identified by top sports scientist and former Olympian Bill Tancred:
Strength - the extent to which muscles can exert force by contracting against resistance (e.g. holding or restraining an object or person)
Power - the ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements. The two components of power are strength and speed. (e.g. jumping or a sprint start)
Agility - the ability to perform a series of explosive power movements in rapid succession in opposing directions (e.g. ZigZag running or cutting movements)
Balance - the ability to control the body's position, either stationary (e.g. a handstand) or while moving (e.g. a gymnastics stunt)
Flexibility - the ability to achieve an extended range of motion without being impeded by excess tissue, i.e. fat or muscle (e.g. executing a leg split)
Local Muscle Endurance - a single muscle's ability to perform sustained work (e.g. rowing or cycling)
Cardiovascular Endurance - the heart's ability to deliver blood to working muscles and their ability to use it (e.g. running long distances)
Strength Endurance - a muscle's ability to perform a maximum contraction time after time (e.g. continuous explosive rebounding through an entire basketball game)
Co-ordination - the ability to integrate the above listed components so that effective movements are achieved.
What is fitness to you? Join the debate and leave your thoughts in the comments box below.
Tags: definition of fitness, exercise bascis, fitness, fitness defined, fitness meaning, types of fitness, what is fitness