Defining fitness

The problem

If you ask ten different people to come with their definition of the word fitness, you will most likely end up with a broad variety of answers. Those answers will most likely include, something about being strong, being fit etc. Now that my blog carries this word in its title, I think it would be appropriate to give my definition of it.

As I have written earlier I started lifting weights at a quite early age. My main focus at that point was to put on muscle and get stronger. When you start lifting weights almost anything you do, apart from really strange and idiotic use of the weights, will make you both bigger and stronger. You may have started out without any knowledge at all about the ‘iron-game’, which exercises to choose, and most importantly, the big WHY. But then, at some point you will realize, that progress kind of stalls. This will probably be the first crossroad on anybodies weightlifting-journey. Some people – probably most people – will stop at this point.

Others will start searching for information on how to break their plateau. At this point most will come to realize that most of the information is geared towards some goal. Having a goal is always essential, because without a goal or destination how will you know if you have reached it or are on the right way? But that is a almost endless topic I will return to in some later post. But the information about training/weight lifting/fitness is almost always divided into areas like building muscle(Bodybuilding), building strength(Weight lifting), building endurance(Long distance sports) – but which one of those should you choose? You may have started working out simply to be more ‘fit’. Where is the Fitness solution?

The answer is not totally straight forward and tends to stand or fall with your definition of the word. If your goal was only to pack on muscle, and you were not concerned about strength, agility, mobility then it would be ‘simple’ – find yourself a bodybuilding program assisted by a bodybuilders diet and you would be on your way. But are there parts of that solution, that would make you look more fit while you actually were making yourself less fit?

In my opinion, the answer to that question would be, yes. Further exploring our example, you would by only working on making your muscles appear bigger, omit the part of actually becoming much stronger, you might lose a big part of your agility and most likely along with it mobility. By doing so, I would make the bold statement of saying that you were actually on the road to making yourself less ‘fit’. Yes you would be better of than doing nothing – but apart from that obvious conclusion I will hold on to my statement.


Now to explain why I see it that way, I will finally give you my actual definition of fitness. Or the definition I have adopted as being most appropriate to the way I see it.

Fitness is the difference between the least and the most you can do.

We all start our lives without being able to do much with our bodies. Then gradually through life we adopt, learn and explore our abilities and the things we can do with our bodies increase. This will at some point in your life reach a maximum and then decline until the day you die when you once again are not able to do much with your body.


If you were an active teenager then maybe you were able to play soccer, run 3.5 km in 12 minutes, swim like crazy, play basketball and tennis do handstands and all sorts of different feats with your body. You may not have looked like a superhero or had the body of a model but you could do so many things with it. Now into your twenties you have been doing bodybuilding for 6 straight years and look like the most fit man on earth. Having only focused on the aesthetics you have now lost your ability to run – that would have been detrimental to packing on muscle, so of course you omitted it. Along with the loss of your running abilities, you lost your stamina and are no longer able to do any great harm, to other than yourself, in any sort of game that requires stamina or agility. You may look way better than in your teens, but effectively you have decreased the total amount of thing you can do well, with your body and therefore by my definition, actually made yourself less fit.

Now all this bashing of bodybuilding is only meant as an extreme example, I have done my share of bodybuilding and yes you are able to make yourself both bigger and stronger, and keep your stamina and agility along the way. But you have to take the conscious and deliberate choice to do so. The example could have been focused on extreme runners, powerlifters or something else, that is not the point. If your call in life is to run marathons or set world record benchpresses then by all means focus 100% on that. This article is aimed at people that are not shooting for world domination at any specific sport, they would have their goals in clear sight.

Think about your choices for keeping yourself fit. Your body was built to run, jump, lift, climb, wrestle and thousands of other things – make a conscious choice to keep these abilities for as long as possible and enjoy the incredible feeling of living life with a fit body!

One response to “Defining fitness”

  1. […] to go more bodyweight/gymnastics focussed then, is to gain more functional strength. Or as my definition of fitness explains, the more you are able to do with your body, the more fit you […]

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