Bottom Line Up Front: Fitness is the ability of an organism to survive. This is a very Darwinian view, but it gets to the root of the idea quickly: fitness relates to survivability directly. Those that are fit not only survive longer but better (think quality of life vs length of life). Some do more than merely survive (get by); they thrive (live well)!
I subscribe to the idea there are many kinds of fitness which all directly contribute to the overall fitness of a person. Some others use a wellness paradigm (physical wellness, spiritual wellness, etc.) and leave fitness out of it entirely, but it is a semantic change only. We are looking for an overall structure to measure the total person. I use the term “fitness” for this. Far too long have we used fitness only to mean physical fitness. It takes far more than physical fitness to survive.
I believe fitness has the at least the following components:
- Physical fitness: The physical body and how it looks, feels, and operates.
- Mental fitness: Emotional and spiritual domains.
- Social fitness: Relationships with other people, the community, and the environment.
Enablers: These are things that facilitate your ability to become more fit in one or many categories. There are many many of them, but here are some major ones that I will explore in this site:
- Productivity: Being better are getting things done, staying on top of your obligations, and prioritizing accurately, you will be less stressed and make meaningful progress toward a goal.
- Technology & Gear: Having the right tools available at the right time will improve your fitness. Examples: Proper footwear for exercise, proper software to manage your to-do list, meditation app to guide you as you try to make it a regular habit.
- Income: In today’s society, having the financial means assists you in doing almost anything. If you have the money, you can take relaxing vacations, try new hobbies, buy better gear, etc. Not having sufficient income will result in arguments with your spouse, a feeling of stress, and a constant state of arousal that will pervade all the components of fitness.
Everything you do that improves your survivability makes you more fit. Every time you have a productive workout, you have increased physical fitness, maybe even your emotional fitness (you are happy with yourself for accomplishing something challenging). If you get a foam roller, you are one step closer to improving your mobility and recovery. You read a book about nutrition, you are better armed to eat better. You play outside with your kids for an hour, you now have a stronger relationship with them and the outdoors (social fitness). Seems easy to get fit, right?
There is a catch though. It is that for everything you do, there is something you DIDN’T do. It is what economists call an “opportunity cost”. If you spend time in the gym, you aren’t spending it on a favorite hobby or reading a new book or just relaxing or a million other things you could be doing to be more fit. Remember, time is your most limiting factor. To be mission capable, to get out of life what you want, you have to prioritize. What will you do with the time you have to make the biggest impact on your fitness? This is up you only, but in order to do it, you have to have an honest assessment of your fitness.
For example, if you are already very physically fit (eating very well, regular exercise, standing desk, daily meditation, low-stress job) but are basically a hermit who won’t go out to dinner for fear of eating sugar or bread, do you think the best thing you can do for your overall fitness is to spend time in a gym?
Consider another case of someone who has a great relationship with their spouse and children, happy to go to work each day, financially secure, heavily involved in their community and with their church. However, since getting older they have become much more sedentary and gained a few pounds a year, which has added up to 30 extra pounds. They do no formal exercise or physical activity and sit in a cubicle indoors. Does it sound like a good idea for this person to invest any more time in their mental or emotional fitness? Maybe it is time to get outside at lunch and take a walk every day. Maybe it is time to lose a few pounds a month and get on a better dietary track to prevent the diseases of civilization (diabetes, heart disease, etc.).
Both of these examples have glaring fitness gaps that need to be addressed. Both individuals may have a skewed definition of what they think fitness or health is. They will prioritize what they like to do, what is easier to do as what is important to them and ignore the hard things (being a normal social animal for the first one and taking physical health into consideration for the second one).
Just as units military units train to maintain their proficiency in things they do well and improve the ones where they are insufficiently trained, we should do the same as individuals. The trick is to balance the time where you need to in order to get the most fitness bang for your buck. As I said before, you can only to hope to attain improvements in your fitness after looking at it from a holistic perspective and attacking your weaknesses while maintaining your strengths.
We will explore many elements of fitness on this site. I will try to include as many useful pieces of information I can to contribute to fitness along the broad spectrum.
QUESTION: What does fitness mean to you? Post thoughts to comments.