Fitness! What is it and where can i get some?

Fitness is everywhere and everyone is telling you how to get more of it. Unfortunately, many of the fitness professionals who claim to be "forging" fitness don't even know what it means to "be fit." The word "fitness" is an ambiguous term; it is used both mathematically and metaphorically. Fitness can be used to express a measure of performance or a state of appearance/being.

The Two Types of Fitness

  1. Mathematical model: the measure of a specific event or task used to rank performance levels among competitors. So, a high jumper who clears 7 ft is more fit than one who clears 6 ft.  A sprinter who runs 100 meters in 9.8 second is more fit than one who covers the distance in 10.1 second.
  2. Metaphorical model: the representation of health, achieved through orthopedic and aesthetic improvements(improved posture, body fat, muscle mass, etc...).  A physique competitor with 7% body-fat and good posture, is more fit(looks better) than a competitor carrying 10% body-fat with poor posture.

Obviously, these two models can intersect. The act of training for performance can result in an improved appearance. But there can be a downside to focusing on performance based goal. For example, training for a marathon will definitely improve your endurance(fitness), but it can also damage your joints and appearance in the process.

The mathematical(performance) model of fitness is specific to the event or competition. There is no such thing as "the fittest person on the planet" that's just a silly phrase thought up by people who do not understand fitness.

Well what about Fitness and Health?

Good health is simply a state in which you are free of disease or orthopedic dysfunction, all while maintaining a physiological balance between anabolism and catabolism. Health has a ceiling, once you achieve it, training more will not result in a state of super-health. Health does not continuously rise proportional to fitness. Improvements in health can be achieved utilizing almost any well designed exercise regimen that is performed consistently. Someone who eats healthful foods, gets plenty of sleep, exercises 2-3 times/week and possesses an optimal body fat level can have better health markers than an Olympic level athlete who trains 6 days/week.

Take home message:

Know what it is you're trying to accomplish. Do you want to look and feel better all while improving health? Then train in a manner that improves the metaphorical model of fitness. Do you want to compete in an event or sport? Then you must train using the mathematical model where improving performance is the primary goal.

Erick Minor