What does it mean to be fit? Locating a discrete definition is somewhat hard. According to the dictionary, fitness means: “the quality or state of being fit.” (The definition of “fit” is: “sound physically and emotionally.”) should you locate those words somewhat vague, you are not alone.

And that’s sort of the point, according to exercise specialists. Fitness does not have to imply that you are an ultra-marathoner or which you are able to perform one pull-up or one hundred. Fitness can mean different things for different men and women.

“For me personally, fitness is first and foremost about feeling good and being able to move without pain,” says that the certified strength and conditioning specialist Grayson Wickham, a New York City–established physical therapist and the creator of Movement Vault, a freedom and movement firm. He explains that physical fitness is about feeling healthy and being in adequate shape to do the activities that you would like to do and live the lifestyle that you would like to live. Can you perform with your children or grandkids? If trekking the Inca Trail is on your own bucket listing, can you do it? Can you really feel good after a day spent gardening? Have you been able to scale all of the necessary stairs in your life without becoming winded or needing to take a rest?

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Michael Jonesco, DO, an assistant professor of internal and sports medicine in the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, agrees. “Since medical school, I have learned that physical fitness is simply defined as your body’s ability to perform tasks. Nowadays, there are more tools available than ever for fitness fans to track, quantify, and follow along.”

For instance, you’ve got body mass index (BMI), resting heart rate, body fat percentage, VO2 maximum, 5K or marathon personal records (PRs), 100-meter-dash occasions, and bench-press maxes, he states. “These are objective measures we use to gauge progress (or measure ourselves against the guy or girl on the metaphorical squat stand or treadmill next to us).”

But physical fitness shouldn’t solely be quantified with any of them or other tests or evaluations, he adds. It’s considerably more complex. You wouldn’t, for example, use one variable (such as blood pressure) to quantify somebody’s overall health, Dr. Jonesco says. Blood pressure is a useful test to monitor for cardiovascular disease, however, it does not indicate whether someone has cancer or dementia.

“Physical fitness should be considered a balance of lots of the aforementioned steps, but also many more subjective steps, too,” Jonesco explains, including “your outlook not just your own body, but also your attitude toward your health and wellbeing.”

Traditionally, specialists have defined five important components of physical fitness: body composition (the relative proportion of fat and fat-free tissue within the body), cardiorespiratory or aerobic fitness, flexibility, muscle strength, and muscular endurance, as stated by the American College of Sports Medicine. However, you can’t dismiss the effect of nutrition, sleep, and mental and emotional health on fitness either, says Jeffrey E. Oken, MD, deputy chief of staff in the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois.

That means looking fit doesn’t mean you really are.

“Some people obsess on their physical look and numbers, however, are motivated by low self-esteem and criticize the defects of bodily appearance. Some forfeit rest and sleep so as to attain additional success but, in turn, push their own body into illness or burnout,” Jonesco says. “Fitness is a truly a spectrum of physical well-being that must balance our physical and emotional motives”

When all of the components of fitness are balanced, both emotionally and physically, we receive the maximum benefit.

Read on to learn all about why being fit is such an important part of your wellness and well-being, now and throughout your entire life.

Being Fit Boosts Energy, Mood, Sleep, and Your Immune System

Since fitness is your state of being physically able to live the happy, satisfying life you need — the first and most obvious payoff of attaining wellness is the elevated quality of life.

Research links fitness to:

  • Increased energy levels
  • Better work-life equilibrium, according to a study in the November/December issue of the journal Human Resource Management
  • Stronger immunity
  • Sounder sleep

Some research suggests that increasing your fitness through exercise might help mild to moderate depression as much as medicine.

Physical activity can also be linked to improved focus and productivity. A study published in the May 2015 problem of this journal Psychophysiology suggests that this is because exercise increases the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain.

The mental health and psychological health benefits of physical fitness are a few of the most significant ones — and frequently have the largest effect on somebody’s quality of life, Jonesco says. “The satisfaction of pushing your body and seeing it respond breeds, not just a more powerful, faster, leaner body, however a more peaceful, satisfied, and confident mind.” If you are physically healthy, you know firsthand exactly what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it, and you also become permitted to reach your own, career, and relationship goals in a way you wouldn’t otherwise.

What is more, you can’t deny the effects of fitness on helping individuals attain (and maintain) healthier weights.) That is because increasing your exercise level through physical activity not only burns calories, it builds muscle. And the stronger, wholesome muscle you have, the more calories you burn every day at rest, Wickham states. A fitter body equals greater metabolism equals healthier weight.

Exercise and Sleep Have a Very Intimate Relationship. Here is How They Both Play a Role in Total Physical Fitness

Consider it this way: Even a marathon runner who fits in multiple strength-training workouts per week can throw off their fitness by eating a diet of highly processed foods that are low in nutrition and high in saturated fats and sugars. In the same way, somebody with a stellar workout and diet habits can sidetrack their fitness by not adhering to a consistently healthy amount of sleep every evening.

Sleep is incredibly important to keeping your body functioning optimally, explains W. Christopher Winter, MD, the president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Virginia and the author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It. Slacking when it comes to sleep may undermine your fitness goals.

The advantages of keeping both sleep and physical activity in check? Staying active helps your sleep, and adhering the seven to nine hours of sleep each night advocated by the National Sleep Foundation helps you maintain the energy that you will need to really stick to your exercise targets and keep active.

Staying Fit Benefits Long-Term Health in Big Ways

While the instant gratification of fitness is awesome, you can not forget that you can not detect lots of the greatest advantages of fitness for decades, or even decades. (Patience, patience)

By way of instance, studies regularly associate physical fitness with improved longevity. Based on a study published in the October 2013 issue of Lancet Oncology, as soon as your body becomes healthier, it lengthens its chromosomes’ protective caps, known as telomeres. Thosetelomeres are responsible for determining how quickly your cells era. That means keeping them in top shape (being fit) can help lengthen your life.

What’s more, enhanced fitness drastically reduces the chance of chronic diseases that develop over the course of many years, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer. And also a fast expanding body of research indicates being healthy may help prevent dementia, too. “The 1 thing that will help prevent just about any kind of disorder is fitness,” Wickham says.

And along with those advantages, fitness will be able to help you stay better and more powerful over the years. One out of every three adults age 60 and older suffers from acute levels of muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, based on information published in the November 2014 issue of this journal Age and Ageing. Further research shows that the illness contributes to fat gain, very low mobility and function, drops, and sometimes even death in elderly adults, but that exercise helps prevent this effect of aging.

“The explanation really comes down to evolution. Our genes and bodies have evolved to become more active and mobile,” Wickham explains. “When you give your body exactly what it needs, it rewards you by being it’s very best.”

Why Being Fit Helps With Chronic Disease Management

Getting regular exercise and keeping your body healthy helps reduce your risk of chronic problems, like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and type 2 diabetes. However, what about the chronic problems that do show up? Across the board, physical activity and keeping fitness usually help.

You may need to alter your exercise routines or take specific precautions depending on your symptoms, according to information from the Mayo Clinic. (Be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program and discuss any restrictions or alterations you must be aware of.)

However, for many people, regular activity can help with such conditions as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, back pain, arthritis, obesity, and cancer. And maintaining wellness also will help ward off further conditions you might otherwise be in danger.

Here’s How Much Physical Actions You Should Do

So how can you make fitness part of your overall lifestyle — and reach your individual fitness objectives? Jonesco recommends beginning with meeting the national guidelines for physical activity.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends that, for overall wellness, adults should aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity weekly. (18). The HHS guidelines also note that performing more than those quantities of action will yield extra health benefits. And also the guidelines recommend that adults perform muscle-strengthening exercises (of moderate or greater intensity) to all the major muscle groups at least 2 days per week.

Research proves that aerobic exercise is important for cardiovascular health. (The intensity you choose should be determined by your current fitness level and your physician’s recommendations.) Examples include walking, biking, running, and swimming.

And other research shows that strength training offers other important health benefits. A study published in the February 2015 issue of this journal Obesity shows that, compared with cardiovascular exercise, resistance exercise is more effective at preventing the accumulation of abdominal (visceral) fat, which is linked to the development of chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. And also a 2019 study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise discovered that individuals who regularly strength trained had a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, or death related to heart disease in comparison with individuals who didn’t strength train — and those benefits were independent of whether or not they regularly failed aerobic exercise.

These strength workouts should aim one or all of the body’s basic muscle groups, like the legs, core, back, hips, chest, or arms. Lifting weights, working with resistance bands, or doing body-weight exercises are good choices and should be employed to match, and improve, your current physical fitness level.

“There is no doubt in construction to these guidelines within a month or so,” Jonesco notes. And do recognize that the guidelines leave a good deal of room for personalization. This is on purpose because the most crucial facet of a work out is keeping this up. “You must delight in a specified action if you expect to continue to get motivated to perform it on a regular basis,” he says. If you do not like jogging, that is fine. Try swimming or take an indoor cycling class.

And the HHS physical activity guidelines stress that a movement is better than none, and however short a spurt of activity is, it may still count toward your weekly goals. The bottom line is that adults ought to be moving more and sitting over the course of their days.

That may sound overwhelming but not if you expand how you consider exercise outside time spent at the gym, Wickham says. Instead, think about all the movements you do as a workout. “Even individuals that are exercising regularly often aren’t moving throughout the afternoon,” he states.

A study from investigators at Northwestern University found that women who meet current activity guidelines sit as much as those who don’t work out.

Rather than focusing on getting all of your day’s (or week’s) action in 1 go, Wickham advises integrating movement and activity into your daily life. Consider breaking up long stints of sitting together with any activity that requires your body through its entire selection of motion, feels great, and helps you dive back into anything else you were doing with renewed energy.

And don’t forget about extending. While specialists are debating the benefit of stretching after a workout (stretching before exercise is no longer advised), extending through the day is a fantastic way to ease tight muscles, relieve anxiety, and also market the flexibility you want to execute both in the gym and in life, based on Wickham.

Again, the gym is all about giving your body exactly what it needs to thrive. Just be sure to listen.

Resources We Love

Favorite Orgs for Essential Fitness Info

American Council on Exercise (ACE)

ACE is a nonprofit exercise specialist and health-coaching certification company. The group’s mission is to educate exercise professionals and trainers and connect people to all those professionals.

American Heart Association (AHA)

AHA was founded in 1924 with the assignment of combating heart disease and stroke. Today, the nonprofit’s mission statement is “To be a constant force for a universe of more, healthier lives.” The company funds research, advocates for efforts to enhance health, and helps provide health services and advice to those who need it. You’ll find information on the website about physical activity, nutrition, healthy lifestyle habits, and how to balance everything.

Favorite Online Community for Fitness

Health at Every Size

Health at Every Size describes itself as a movement supporting individuals of all sizes to adopt healthy behaviors. On the site, you’ll come across a site, podcasts, books, online and in-person support classes, and more to help everyone meet their fitness goals.

Favorite Fitness Podcasts


Hurdle, created and created by New York City-based editor and private trainer Emily Abbate, tells the stories of inspirational men and women who have gotten where they are now — in part — thanks to finding a fitness or health clinic. Check it out for lots of fitness inspiration.

The Strength Running Podcast

Yes, this podcast is all about running, but it is also about the way to maintain different aspects of your fitness if you’re a runner. Episodes cover nutrition, running while vegetarian, training, dealing with failure, trauma prevention, supplement usage, and much more.

Favorite Instagrammers Who Will Inspire Fitness


Holly Davidson is a personal trainer with experience in yoga, high-intensity interval training, suspension coaching, kettlebells, boxing, freedom, and weight reduction and dietary management. She’s written two books on health and fitness. She claims meal is an essential component of a healthful lifestyle, and nutrition is an important element of any training program. And we could not be in love with her message: “I would like you to fall in love with becoming active,” she writes her website. Follow her on Instagram for reminders of how to keep fitness fun.


Joe Wicks is a fitness expert with a subscription online fitness and nutrition program to get stronger, leaner, and more healthy. Follow him on Instagram, where he shares inspiring success stories, healthy eating options, and how remains fit. His Instagram summary pretty much sums up what to expect: “On a mission to inspire a new person each day to exercise and cook a nutritious meal.”


Kirra Michel is a New York City-based personal trainer, health coach, and yoga teacher. You will discover more about her yoga classes, workshops, and guided meditations on her website. On Instagram, follow her inspirational updates concerning yoga, remaining active, and staying emotionally well.