We have heard people talking about how fit they are or on the other hand the amount of fitness they do in fact lack.  The question is what does it mean to be fit?  Over the years of seeing patients in the office and teaching in the classroom, I have had firsthand experience observing  that  the definition of “fit” is certainly flexible in the mind of the beholder.   So let’s define in more certain global terms what it means to be fit.

By dictionary definition, fit is simply …”of suitable quality, standard, or type to meet the required purpose.”  From this the required purpose would be to live life in the best possible state of both mental and physical health.  So let’s get to that state:   arriving at being physically fit involves paying special attention to the unanimously agreed 5 components of physical fitness:

1.   Cardiovascular Health:  is the ability of your heart, lungs and blood vessels to deliver oxygen and nutrition to your working muscles during activity.  We can maintain our cardiovascular health by exercising regularly (minimum 3 days per week for the average adult) at a consistent heart rate that is approximately 30 beats per minute less than our anaerobic threshold.  The average anaerobic threshold is considered to be 65% of your maximum heart rate.  To calculate this level of intensity, you take the  maximum heart rate which is defined for the average human being at 220 beats per minute (bpm) and subtract your age.  Then calculate 65% of this number and this new calculated figure is your aerobic threshold.  For example, a 40 year old individual’s aerobic threshold is calculated as follows:

220bpm (Max. Heart Rate) – 40 (age) =  180bpm X .65% = 117 bpm – 30bpm = 87 bpm (aerobic threshold) 

Conclusion:  For an average 40 year old adult to achieve minimum cardiovascular fitness, he or she must engage in an activity that keeps  heart rate up at a sustained rate of  87 bpm for a minimum of 30 minutes/3 days per week.   This minimum standard and frequency of activity increases depending on the amount of cardiovascular fitness the individual wishes to attain.

2.  Muscular Strength:   the amount of force that can be created by your muscled when you exert yourself to execute an action.

3.  Muscular Endurance:  the ability of your muscles to sustain or repeat an action for an extended period of time.

To improve and maintain muscular strength and endurance we must engage in activities that work our muscle groups against resistance for a period of time.  Resistance activities can include weights, medicine balls, resistance tubing, or using your own body weight in activities such as push ups, sit ups, and walking up and down stairs.  A good guideline is to either combine these activities on the day you perform your cardiovascular activities or to change it up, do them on the opposite days of your cardiovascular training.   

4.  Flexibility:  the ability of your individual muscles to stretch and your joints to move freely within their normal range of motion.   One of the best  ways  to maintain your flexibility is by doing static stretching.  This type of stretching involves stretching a muscle to a point and holding the stretched position for 15 to 30 seconds .  Static stretching should be done on a daily basis and also more importantly before and after any exercise activity.  The end result is a more relaxed, tension free and mobile body which will be less prone to injury.

5.   Body Composition:  the ratio in your body between its lean muscle mass and total body fat.  The goal is to maintain a healthy body weight for your height while maintaining as much lean muscle mass as possible and reducing the fat composition.  The acceptable range for an average adult is considered to be 18-25%.  This is achieved thru exercise and maintaining a balanced fat reduced diet. 

Focusing on the above 5 components will make you healthier and more fit.  The guidelines are set to apply to an average adult.  Greater focus, intensity and time are required to take the next step in the path to greater fitness.  The reality however,  is that if you are not committed to the goal of becoming more fit, the results will be difficult to attain.  At my office, a significant part of my time with my patient is devoted to making them more fit.  We focus on the components and how we can make them a part of their daily routine.  The results speak for themselves;  healthier, happier and fitter.    This leads to what I refer to as the sixth and possibly most important component of fitness:

6.  Mental Attitude:  in a nutshell, fitness = commitment, discipline, consistency and compliance.  When all is said and done, you are doing it for yourself… so always do your best!