Fit is as fit does

Single definition of 'fit' is hard to nail down

Single definition of 'fit' is hard to nail down

July 18, 2005|By KRISTIN WILSON

When Waynesboro Area YMCA members ask Corry Eagler what it means to be physically fit, she replies, "As long as your body responds well to movement and is able to be challenged, then you're probably fit."

Dr. Matthew Hahn, family practitioner at the Hancock-based Tri-State Community Health Center, says people aren't fit unless they are physically active every day of the week.

An 18-year-old in the Army is fit only if they can run two miles in 15.5 minutes, says Hagerstown-based National Guard recruiter Sgt. Amy Fasulo.


And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that an American adult is not fit unless he gets 30 minutes or more of physical activity at least five days each week.

Clearly the definition of fitness changes depending on who is giving the advice.

Still, no one disagrees that fitness is the key to living in a healthy way.

"Many of the most common diseases are related to lack of exercise and poor eating and being overweight," says Hahn, who designed the annual Health Olympics, encouraging participants to make healthier lifestyle choices and exercise more often. "Exercising most days of the week is necessary to be healthy."

Multiple measurements

With all of the information about diet, fitness and healthy lifestyles flooding the self-improvement market, it can be difficult to answer the basic question of what it means to be fit.

"I don't think we all have to shoot for looking like a super model," says Corry Eagler, sports and fitness director with the Waynesboro Area YMCA. "You can be in the best shape of your life and you're not going to be real thin."

Eagler stresses that fitness cannot be determined simply by someone's appearance. Someone can be very thin, for example, and still be considered out of shape and unfit.

Being fit means getting regular exercise and eating well.

The best measure of physical fitness is taken through body fat readings, Eagler says. The YMCA stays away from the sometimes misleading body mass index (BMI) measurement. BMI readings give a weight status based simply on height and weight calculations. Someone who is very muscular might be considered overweight using the BMI method, Eagler says,

Body fat readings can be taken through hydrostatic underwater weighing, with bioelectrical impedance or with fat calipers. Regardless of the method, body fat readings determine how much body fat and lean muscle mass is in the body. More body fat means a person is less fit, Eagler says.

Bioelectrical impedance considers individual factors such as weight, height, age and gender and a small electric current is passed through the body to determine fat content. Fat calipers measure the thickness of skin folds to give an estimation of body fat. Both measurements generally can be taken at doctors' offices, fitness centers and gyms, Eagler says.

Fit how?

There are different kinds of fitness.

"When you think of fitness, you're normally thinking of just physical and not the nutritional aspects," she says.

Information from the CDC says there are five components to total physical fitness: cardiorespiratory fitness (or the fitness of the heart and lungs), muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition and flexibility.

Therefore, to be truly fit, exercises must target each of those five areas, Hahn says. It's important to get a mix of cardiovascular exercise, strength training and endurance fitness, for example, he says.

"People are looking for all sorts of definitions" when it comes to fitness, Hahn says. "The much, much bigger issue is just being physically active. I want people out there doing it."

Fitness and daily activity is important for everyone regardless of age and health status, Hahn adds.

"Fitness for an elderly person may be the ability to continue their daily activities. Whereas fitness for an 18-year-old may be to play sports for two hours at a time," he says.

Ashlyn Shockey, 28, of Zullinger, Pa., decided several years ago to change her definition of fitness.

"I had no desire to be fit," she says. "I thought after getting married and having kids that that was OK. I was very unhappy."

Her body also was not performing well. "I felt very unattractive, tired, sluggish, lazy I guess," she says.

Three years ago, Shockey started working out regularly and changed her diet habits. She got rid of the fried and high-fat foods and replaced them with natural, fresh foods. Now she has lost almost 50 pounds and says her life is totally different.

"It's a good feeling," she says. "You get a high off of being fit. I enjoy it very much. Now I have more energy."

Just the facts ...

- More than 50 percent of American adults do not get enough physical activity to provide health benefits.

- At least 25 percent of adults are not active at all in their leisure time.

- More than 60 percent of older adults are inactive.

? Source: CDC

CDC recommends regular activity

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