Fitness is defined as a condition of total health and well being and, more specifically, the capacity to do different parts of activities, jobs and sports well. Physical fitness is usually achieved through regular physical activity, proper nutrition and adequate rest. The way in which we use our muscles and how our bodies respond to stress is called fitness. All of these elements contribute to fitness, but it is important for all of them to work together rather than working against each other. While it may be easy to see why fitness is important, defining what it actually is can be more difficult.
A good place to begin is with definitions of physical fitness from various sources. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (THLBI) provides extensive definitions as well as information on physical fitness. The institute defines physical fitness as that which contributes to good health, including an ability to move the body with minimal effort, an ability to remain balanced and still while exerting force, stamina, and an ability to sustain bodily functions without pain or restriction. In addition, it is defined as being well-controlled or using skills appropriately and professionally. Other sources that define physical fitness include the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office of the Public Health Inspector, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Aerobic fitness or cardio fitness involves the body's ability to exercise using the heart and lungs. This has been defined as the maximum amount of oxygen carried by the body. For those who participate in aerobics and other sports, aerobic fitness can be improved through increasing the heart rate, improving the endurance of the muscles, and reducing the fat content in the muscles. In terms of muscle building, bodybuilders commonly work on their arms and legs, whereas athletes focus on improving their aerobic fitness.
Flexibility, on the other hand, is defined as a synonym for strength. Physical fitness experts consider flexibility to be the main factor that contributes to good physical health, but it can also contribute to good mental health. When a person has good flexibility, he/she can easily be prone to injuries and stress, but the damage will be short term and will mostly be restricted to soft tissue. People with poor flexibility are more likely to sustain serious injury and stress over a longer period of time. Therefore, maintaining good flexibility can be an effective way to prevent physical stress and to maintain a healthy state of mind and body over the long term.
It is important to mention that exercise is an integral part of physical fitness. However, it should not be considered the only important part. For instance, while walking down the street, people can get injured by traffic congestion, uneven sidewalks, or substandard drainage. Exercise can also prevent certain kinds of disease, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, and high blood pressure. Another example of a common disease that is prevented by regular exercise is stroke. Regular exercise can also help alleviate some symptoms of depression.
As previously mentioned, exercise is an important part of physical fitness. However, there are other factors that can help improve fitness. For instance, a person who regularly exercises can use more muscles. This means that the person will be less likely to suffer from muscle atrophy after a rigorous workout. Muscle strength is also directly linked to bone density, so having a strong skeletal frame can protect against fractures and joint pain. Other physical fitness factors include cardiovascular fitness, muscle mass, and aerobic capacity, which are also directly linked to one's health.