What Does Physical Fitness Look Like?

Fitness Friday: what does physical fitness look like? Certain physique or ability? (Strength, endurance, flexibility?).

In and of itself, fitness is your body/mind/spirit’s ability to deal with stressors, similar to resilience. When we think of fitness, we generally consider physical fitness. There are many ways to measure physical fitness: VO2max tests (and modified versions like the Bruce treadmill protocol, step test, etc), max sit up test and/or push up tests in 1 minute (or some other time measurement), 6 minute walk test, sit and reach test, etc. The test chosen depends on the person – their fitness needs, goals, and abilities (strength, endurance, flexibility, plus Amy accommodations they might need). . Form often fits function, and the same is true in physical fitness and sports, by default of training. The specific components and muscles you train, the more emphasized they become. This is why physiques will often differ between athletes for various sports (ex swimmer verses body builder).

The problem though is that we are all guilty of having a preconceived idea of what fitness looks like – in part because of the lack of diversity in representation – race, gender, body size, sexuality, ability, neuro diversity, etc. If your culture and media exposure is anything like mine, you likely picture a White, cisgender, heterosexual, thin and muscular, able-bodied, neuro-typical person. Is this who you pictured? That body type is the template against which many of us are judged and ranked, explicitly or implicitly, by self or other. Many of us fall outside of the template (it’s a lot of work https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jordan-cieciwa/fitness-model-workouts_b_2987568.html and sometimes/oftentimes it’s just not realistic or wanted), which can discourage participation in physical fitness and sports; we might feel as if we’ve failed before we’ve even begun. And the consequences of a lack of physical activity as well as sedentary behavior are significant – they can contribute to increased morbidity and mortality. The kicker  – that body type isn’t inherently physically fit or even healthy – you can’t determine a person’s health by their looks (some ‘beach bodies’ are only maintained through disordered eating and/or compulsive exercise)

Fortunately, there are athletes and organizations working to change perceptions (ex https://www.boredpanda.com/athlete-body-types-comparison-howard-schatz/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic and https://thesportsdaily.com/the-importance-of-promoting-diversity-in-sport/ ). Health at Every Size (https://haescommunity.com) works to expand acceptance and inclusivity of body diversity in the fitness and healthcare industry by shifting focus from how a person looks to how they feel (ex. interoception and self-directed goals). (Also see previous fitness posts and blog, including: http://wildwomaninthesuburbs.com/radical-self-love-on-body-diversity/ ).

Personally, my physical fitness goals are to have fun – competition and hierarchy are not motivating to me (and are often based on standards that are limiting and unhelpful), try new things/cross train to maximize my physical fitness across parameters (strength, endurance, flexibility), and, once Covid is no longer an issue, resume obstacle course racing. What are yours?

Professionally, I’ve also committed myself to HAES’ recommendations for body acceptance and inclusivity in the fitness industry (a personal goal of mine too), shifting focus away from weight loss and looks and toward feeling great and nurturing the body they have now. (https://lindobacon.com/HAESbook/pdf_files/HAES_Message%20for%20Fitness%20Profs.pdf) . And much of my clientele has various abilities and sizes – my professional work involves making physical fitness activities, including yoga, accessible.

How does the above challenge your understanding of fitness?

Wishing you all a happy Friday, full of body acceptance and love. #allbodiesaregoodbodies #bodylove #bodyacceptance #fitnessfriday #dismantleharmfulnorms #inclusion


Written by Dr. Allison Mitch, copyright protected, please cite accordingly.  Originally posted to social media on 7/10/20.    Image is from Pexels.

Please consider becoming a Patreon supporter to assist in making my work and educational efforts more sustainable.  https://www.patreon.com/ignitewellbeing