Physical Fitness

The key to a healthy life

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The importance of being fit

Wellness is the outcome of a healthy lifestyle that not only includes a balanced diet, but also physical activity, which helps build physical Fitness.

Being fit allows us to live full, healthier and independent lives, with a lower risk of chronic diseases and mortality.

Being physically fit is one of the best things that we can do right now to ensure better quality of life today and for our older years. This article explains why and has links to useful resources on how to become fitter.

The components of Physical Fitness

Positive Feedback loop of Wellbeing. Notice the key role of "Fitness".

Fitness is defined as "the quality or state of being fit, and being fit means "(1) : adapted to an end or design : suitable by nature or by art. (2) : adapted to the environment so as to be capable of surviving".

And that is what fitness is all about: physical harmony, adaptability, being able to survive, live life well, in comfort, with better health.

Physical fitness consists of five basic components:

  1. cardiorespiratory endurance
  2. muscular strength
  3. muscular endurance
  4. flexibility
  5. body composition.

Some other factors that make up fitness are your motor skills: balance, coordination, agility, speed, power and reaction time.

Cardiorespiratory endurance is the ability of your lungs and heart to intake and distribute the oxygen necessary for your metabolic functions during normal activities and during those that require an effort.

Muscular strength is the force that a muscle group can apply and its endurance is the ability to contract repeatedly or remain contracted for a given period of time. You need strength to lift objects, move them, pull and push, climb, run.

Flexibility is how your joints, body and limbs move gracefully and efficiently. Lack of flexibility can cause pain, discomfort and increase the risk of injury.

Body Composition refers to the fat and lean tissue components of your body. The "fat" makes up your "body fat" while the rest is known as "lean body mass" (muscle, internal organs, bones).

Being fit means having the correct fat-to-lean-body-mass ratios. Too much fat is bad for your health, lack of muscle or muscle loss (which takes place as you age) also affects quality of life.

Some Definitions regarding exercise and fitness

Sometimes the terms "exercise", "physical activity" and "physical fitness" are taken as sinonyms, but they aren't. They are words that describe different concepts: ( 1 )

  • Physical activity: is the bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that result in energy expenditure.
  • Exercise: is the physical activity that is planned, structured and repetitive with the goal of maintaining physical fitness
  • Physical Fitness: are attributes (which we have detailed further up) that are related to skills and health.

But, what are the benefits of being fit?

Fitness reduces health risks

We are all aware that being overweight increases the health risks and mortality rates. But when you include fitness in the equation, you find some surprising results, as shown by Blair and Brodney (1999) ( 2 ). They asked themselves if higher levels of physical activity reduced the health risk in obese or overweight individuals and how do "active" obese ⁄ overweight people compare to "inactive" normal-weight subjects. They also wondered which was the most important predictor of mortality: being inactive or being overweight. This is what they found:

  • Being active and fit had a protective effect against the hazards of being overweight or obese (meaning that it lowered the risk for all leading causes of death - cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes- except cancer).
  • "This apparent protective effect was often stronger in obese individuals than in those of normal weight or who were overweight".
  • "Regular physical activity clearly attenuates many of the health risks associated with overweight or obesity".
  • "Active obese individuals actually have lower morbidity and mortality than normal weight individuals who are sedentary"

So the answer to their first question was that yes, physical fitness protects active obese people and their death rates are lower than that of "inactive" "thin" people.

Regarding their second question, both being overweight or obese and inactive or unfit are equally important as mortality predictors.

Take home point

Physical fitness protects your heart and reduces mortality risk in comparison to being inactive or sedentary.

But weight loss is also important to reduce your health risks

A later study by Fogelholm (2010) ( 3 ) mirrors these findings:

The health risks caused by poor fitness, that is being physically inactive are worse than those of being overweight:

People that are overweight (have a high Body Mass Index or BMI) yet have good aerobic fitness have a lower all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than individuals that have a normal weight but poor fitness.

But the fitness effect did not protect the overweight subjects from suffering from a greater risk for the incidence of type 2 diabetes and the prevalence of cardiovascular and diabetes risk factors, compared with normal BMI with low physical activity.

Sitting is bad for your health

Being fit means keeping physically active, building cardiorespiratory endurance, muscle strength, endurance and flexibility and also losing fat, and to do so you have to get up and begin to move. Sitting is not good for your health even if you fulfill your weekly quota of physical activity as per the guidelines published by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

A study (Pesola, Pekkonen and Finni, 2016) ( 4 ) found that "excessive sitting [is] a health risk even if recommendations for physical activity are fulfilled", and the reasons for this seem to be the lack of muscular movement which increases insulin resistance affecting how fat is transported and oxidized in the muscles (and being active later cannot reverse this side-effect of sitting).

More Fitness resources

We have included more pages with plenty of information, advice and tips on becoming fit, losing weight and shaping up:

Fitness: Guide to getting started

Getting Started with your fitness program: Prepare your physical activity plan and start off. Reach your exercise goals, keep motivated and inspired


Get Fit & Lean

Tips to exercise more, lose weight and get into shape. Fitness and exercise are as important as diet in your body weight control program. Feel fitter, leaner and healthier.


The Science behind exercise

Science and exercise: the proof, facts & studies behind the benefits physical activity. Scientific information about exercising, getting fit and its health benefits.



Cite this article:

. ©2018. Get fit and lean. Patagonia Wellness, 15 Nov. 2018.

Tags: getting fit, fitness, get fit, getting into shape, lean, exercise, physical activity

Subject: Fitness. Muscle strength and endurance, flexibility, cardio endurance and body composition (more muscle and less fat) give you balance, strenght, power, speed and improve your quality of life.


References and Further Reading

(1) Caspersen CJ, Powell KE, Christenson GM., (1985). Physical activity, exercise, and physical fitness: definitions and distinctions for health-related research, Public Health Rep. 1985 Mar-Apr;100(2):126-31

(2) Blair SN & Brodney S., (1999). Effects of physical inactivity and obesity on morbidity and mortality: current evidence and research issues, Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Nov;31(11 Suppl):S646-62.

(3) Fogelholm M., (2010). Physical activity, fitness and fatness: relations to mortality, morbidity and disease risk factors. A systematic review, Obes Rev. 2010 Mar;11(3):202-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2009.00653.x. Epub 2009 Sep 9

(4) Pesola AJ, Pekkonen M, Finni T., (2016). Why is excessive sitting a health risk?, Duodecim. 2016;132(21):1964-71