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How do you define fitness?

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  • How do you define fitness?

    Been thinking about this recently as I don't really have a fixed idea in my head as to how I define fitness.

    I kinda think I'm fairly fit, but not as fit as I'd like to be. But to an averge inactive westerner, they would probably consider me very active and fit. However my level of activity is far below that of a nomadic hunter gatherer I would suspect.

    Be interested to hear other peoples ideas on how they define fitness and if they have achived that level.
    You know all those pictures of Adam and Eve where they have belly button? Think about it..................... take as long as you need........................

  • #2
    this is a tricky one for me too. i would consider myself very fit compared to most of the people i know, but, like you, likely way below the nomadic hunter/gatherer. i know that i'm not as fit as i would like to be.

    but, i think fitness is measured by your ability to move yourself effectively and continually through space. i can hike all day without external fuel, run a few miles, lift myself/climb trees/rocks/etc. with relative ease, sprint/jump effectively. so, does that make me fit? yeah, but i could be a lot better at all of those. i guess i should try some persistence hunting and carry back a "carcass" to see how i really measure up.


    • #3
      Fitness is multi-faceted to me.

      I'm a 39 year old woman, FWIW.

      I want to have functional strength. I want to be able to carry my own groceries, push a car that's stuck, shovel the driveway, carry the vacuum up and down the stairs, etc. I can do all these things right now, but I want to be able to do them until I'm 80 and beyond. I have seeing elderly people that get so weak they can't do the most basic things. I don't want to have that happen to me.

      I want bone mass. Lifting weights and impact exercise both build bone mass. As a woman, and with my family genetics, I am prone to osteoporosis. Again, I don't want that. So I make sure to do strength training (heavy weights, low reps) and impact exercises (jumping, jogging) to try and build bone mass.

      I want energy. This is where my weight comes in. Clearly I am overweight now, although I've lost 47 lbs. But I'm still carrying an extra 50 or so pounds. That uses a lot of energy, not to mention stresses my joints. I want to lose that weight so that I can use my energy to move a much lighter body much further! I love hiking. I love backpacking. I love kayaking. I want to be able to do these things longer.

      My primary winter activity in Alaska is back country snowmobiling. We call it sledding up here. Anyway, sledding in the back country has us square in avalanche terrain. My biggest fear is that if I witness an avalanche that my own poor fitness will prevent me from being able to adequately help. I am avalanche trained, and I'm very fast at finding burials (using an avalanche beacon and probe). But getting to the location and then digging is very intense, very hard work. I don't want someone to die because I was in too poor a shape to get to their burial site quickly enough, or to dig fast enough.
      High Weight: 225
      Weight at start of Primal: 189
      Current Weight: 174
      Goal Weight: 130

      Primal Start Date: 11/26/2012


      • #4
        Fitness is....

        For me its transformed from athleticism to something that enhances my daily life and longevity. I use to do whatever it took to be the strongest, fastest...ect. that I could be. After a lifetime of escalating injuries (I'm now mid thirties) I began redefining what I do in terms of risk/reward. I'm no longer interested in risky behavior or exercise to make incremental gains. I go for the biggest bang for the buck and then just kick back and enjoy life.

        As to my own fitness level, well I developed a great deal of strength early in I'm still kinda riding that out. All that hard work doesn't just disappear . I ran a 5k in under 25 minutes without training for it. Play basketball and jump on the trampoline with the kids after a full days work. Yeah, I feel fit for life.


        • #5
          I think this is a great and important question - with a lot of different directions for answers (as our colleagues have already suggested).

          I would start where Prof. Primalrob started, the ability to move your body effectively and continually. What do we mean by "effectively" and "continually," though? A marathon runner movers her body continuously - but does she do it effectively? And is "effective" a matter of efficiency or intensity? Someone who can do all four of the basic primal body weight moves would seem to be "effective" in the sense of both efficiency and intensity - but what about continuity? And how do we set the bench marks at which we would declare that some person X is "fit" in respect to some activity? Would it be running a marathon? Would it be the ability to do 50 straight pushups? If X can do the former, but not the latter, would we say X is fit, fit as a runner?

          Then there is also a notion of space which needs to be considered. If X spends her day in the cubicle farm, she might be quite adept at moving her body around said farm! Yet she might not possess any characteristics which we would typically associate with the condition of being fit.

          So being fit must start out as a certain kind of physical condition, pertinent to physical activities of some kind. But we need to define what kind, since skating one's chair around the cubicle farm is a physical activity, too! We might say something like "physical activities commensurate with the natural conditions of human beings," and saying that would certainly pass the Primal test! I think that this might be a touch restrictive, though, since there are many activities which might be used as measures of fitness which are not commensurate with the natural conditions of human beings, for example, riding a bicycle.

          Then, once we settled on the kinds of physical activities, we would need some kind of benchmarks. After all, both Profs. Rob and our other colleagues mentioned that they might seem fit to others, but thought that they themselves could improve. This brings at least two things to mind. One is that how we ascertain levels of fitness is to some extent an external standard: X is fit if X do y amount of activity z. So if z is pullups, and y is 5, then some woman X is fit if she can do 5 pullups. She might not feel fit herself. Perhaps she feels she ought to be able to do 10 (however she comes up with that notion). If X cannot do any pullups, though, we might be entitled to say she is not fit, regardless of how she feels about it herself. This is important, since being fit seems like something different than being satisfied with the flavor of a food or liking a particular kind of movie. If X loses her breath going up a flight of stairs, but can push herself around on her wheeled office chair in the cubicle farm, and accepts this as her lot, then the fact that she declares herself fit doesn't seem to be worth much.

          I will leave aside for now the obvious problem of who determines which activities in what amounts! I will also leave aside compensation problems (X can run a marathon, but can't do a pullup)...

          At the same time, though, there is something internal about defining fitness. This has to do with the inherent capability each individual has - our "potential for fitness" if you will. Here, a person might pass the external test, but not be "fit for himself." For example, someone like Prof. Kavadlo might do 5 pullups. But if that is all he ever did, he would be well below his fitness potential. However, if he does them one-handed, he would be "fit for him." For X, 5 pullups is fitness; for Al, it is not.

          I think the best way to figure this out, then, is to look at fitness as a virtue in the old Aristotelian sense. The way Aristotle understands virtue, it is a mean between extremes - the extremes in this case being unfit and, I guess, "hyper-fit" (Aristotle notes that for some virtues, the extremes aren't as easy to identify as they are for others). The mean is a human mean (we don't care what it means to be fit for gods or dogs). And it is relative to the individual's capacities, opportunities and the standards set by people who know about the thing in question. In terms of fitness, then, it would look something like what has already been said: fitness is the virtue of being able to move one's body, commensurate with human physical activities of a certain kind, over a certain duration, and with a certain intensity.

          Of course, virtue theory is notoriously vague on the finer details! And I'm not sure I did much better here! But at least I think we can say that it includes external and internal components, and it depends on the potential of the individual in question.


          • #6
            It depends on the individual. For someone sedentary it will be different compared to an athlete or person whose job requires them to have a level of physical robustness.

            I don't think fitness is a definitive thing, its a grade scale from unfit - to base fitness - to high level of fitness.


            • #7
              mobility, stability, agility -- that's what I consider to be 'fitness.'

              These require strength, flexibility, and cardio/pulmonary fitness.


              • #8
                To be able to save my own ass, or somebody else's, if it came down to it. Being able to jump for the first beanch of a tree and start climbing. Be able to push the car out of the ditch/ snow. Be able to bodily haul myself/ someone else up off a cliff. Fend off an unarmed mugger/ rapist. Be able to maintain CPR for the 20 minutes it could take the ambulance to get here. That sort of thing.
                Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, steak in one hand, chocolate in the other, yelling "Holy F***, What a Ride!"
                My Latest Journal


                • #9
                  I think fitness is strength of mind and body.


                  • #10
                    I have two benchmarks for what I consider "acceptably fit" to be for me.

                    1) Being able to go about my ordinary life activities without getting winded. To include climbing multiple flights of stairs, hauling heavy grocery bags home from the store on foot and wrestling suitcases into and out of overhead bins.

                    2) Being able to have INSANE amounts of fun without my body getting in the way (getting winded is completely acceptable). I should be able to jump into a 5k, a climbing gym, a trampoline play-scape, a hike or a bike ride without thinking twice and without my body telling me, "No, you can't do this, you need to stop." Doesn't mean I have to be GOOD at any of those things, just that I can have fun playing around with them at any given time!


                    • #11
                      Fitness is a measure of adaptation to environment.

                      Think about the word... "fit", like a key fits in a lock, like a nut fits a bolt. Fit makes no sense unless you have something to fit to. In the case of animals, what we fit to is our environment. If you are able to thrive in your chosen environment, you fit that environment, and you are fit. If you struggle, if you can't get by, you don't fit and are unfit. It is subjective in that environments differ and can overlap (so my fitness may not be the same as my neighbor's, even though we live in the same city), but objective in that it can be quantified using standard measures of success for a particular environment.

                      E.g. I am quite fit for my predominant environment, as measured by the fact that my income is decently north of median. Of course, my predominant environment does not place high demands on a body, physically. As long as I can sit in a chair and use my eyes/fingers/brain and especially mouth I'm good. Lose those and my fitness would fall dramatically.

                      If, on the other hand, my success (at least from a self-evaluated perspective) included periodic marathon runs, well, my fitness by that measure sucks because I can't run marathons and never will.

                      There are no one-size-fits-all fitness standards. The US Army may have a standard. An NFL team may have a standard. An office job in Reseda may have another standard. Those standards can be mutually exclusive even, but they are all valid measures of fitness.


                      • #12
                        I thought about it once while riding a jeep in Death Valley National Park with my parents. The jeep had a mechanical failure. I realized that I could leave the jeep behind and walk however long it took to get to civilization (it was winter thank goodness) but they could not. To me, that is fitness.

                        People sometimes respond to the question with "fit for what?" Well, I'm fit for not being dependent on an automobile to save my ass in the desert, but maybe less fit for sprinting and squatting 110 pounds on my back.
                        Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.


                        • #13
                          I will settle for my blood pressure in the normal range, unmedicated.


                          • #14
                            As I suspected, being fit means differnt things to different people. Which, I find, is strange as it's used as something definable that we are all supposed to understand, as 'I'm gonna join a gym and get fit'. Maybe just joining a gym makes you fit

                            I totally agree with Him and Philosopher Dan that that 'Fitness' really means fit for purpose, in the UK we use Fit in the same sort of way you use cute in the US, though I get the feeling it a bit more base, meaning for shaggable than good-looking We are a crude people in the working classes

                            For this though I really want to stick to physical fitness in terms of moving your body and other masses through space and time.
                            You know all those pictures of Adam and Eve where they have belly button? Think about it..................... take as long as you need........................


                            • #15
                              mark put up a great post a while back with some definitions/numbers to go by:

                              Physical Fitness Standards | Mark's Daily Apple

                              he also points to a couple of references about saving your own life. completing most of these use to be a goal for me; now they're just a decent i guess i'll always have my own moving definition of fitness.