What Does the Word "Fitness" Really Mean?

Let's examine what exactly we mean when we refer to ‘fitness,' or when we talk about someone ‘being fit.’ Or, in my case, what I mean when I say that I am going to ‘get you fit.'

Brock Armstrong
5-minute read
Episode #345

Definition #3

The third definition is the most interesting to me: “The degree of adaptation of an organism to its environment, determined by its genetic constitution.” As convoluted as that may sound, I think it comes the closest to defining what I believe is at the root of our quest for fitness.

The idea that the most important aspect of our fitness endeavours is that we must become (and remain) fit enough to adapt to our environment, to the extent that is possibly based on our genes, sounds perfect to me. Now don’t get me wrong, if you want to go beyond simply adapting to your environment, I am right behind you (after all, I have been seen at the start line of an Ironman triathlon or two) but as a baseline, this is an extremely noble goal. Let me explain.

If we first focus our fitness goals on such activities as:

  • Walk, run, or cycle to our workplace or perform errands
  • carry a heavy load of groceries, a child or supplies home
  • get around our office building or apartment without the need for elevators
  • stay on our feet for an entire work day without the need to sit down
  • move large pieces of furniture to clean behind
  • (as strange as it sounds) squat or sit on the ground without the need for a pillow or lumbar support

If we are all able to perform these environmental activities, we would raise the national fitness average considerably—plus none of these activities require a gym membership, an expensive outfit or a coach chasing you around a park with a stopwatch.

Now, I don’t want to go all ‘survivalist weirdo, living in a bunker’ on you but just to put it in a little more perspective, let me ask you this: if a particularly un-cute dog was chasing you, would you be able to lift your own bodyweight over a fence to avoid getting your shoes nibbled? If your home was on fire, would you be able to lower yourself off of your balcony or roof to safety? If your car broke down in the middle of nowhere (with no cell service), how far could you powerwalk to get help? Not to mention the all important question: in a zombie apocalypse, could you outrun one of those fast moving Zombies from the movie, 28 Days Later?

Not to mention the all important question: in a zombie apocalypse, could you outrun one of those fast moving Zombies from the movie, 28 Days Later?

All joking aside, there have been many reports of people actually losing their lives in emergency situations (such as building evacuations) due to a bottleneck being created in a narrow exit or stairwell. All it takes are a couple people who don’t fit this definition of fit to jeopardize the safety of the group at large.

Adapting to our environment as opposed to finding, purchasing or inventing tools to help us avoid our environment is a perfect place to start in our quest for fitness. Then, once that basic level of fitness is met, we are free to layer on the chiselled pecs, thigh gap, revolved triangle pose or other feats of physical marvels. Let’s just view those as what they are - outliers, bucket list items and personal goals that while undeniably cool, exciting and admirable are well above and beyond the minimum effective dose of what I would suggest that we refer to as ‘fit’.

Now, please don’t take this diatribe as an indication that this friendly neighborhood Get-Fit Guy is going to stop talking about cutting edge fat loss research, wicked new workouts to make you shredded or the best new devices on the market to assist you in your athletic goals. Simply take this as a quick reset of our collective mindset and cause you to take a minute to reevaluate your desire to sculpt your glutes or blast your abs… at least until you are willing and able to climb the stairs to your office, lift yourself over a fence, or simply get off the floor without using your hands. Seriously, try it! You may be surprised how easy or hard it is.

For more info, tips, and to join the conversation, head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy or twitter.com/getfitguy. Also don't forget to subscribe to the Get-Fit Guy podcast on Apple Podcasts, StitcherSpotify, Google Play or via RSS.


About the Author

Brock Armstrong

Brock Armstrong is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute. Do you have a fitness question? Leave a message on the Get-Fit Guy listener line. Your question could be featured on the show.