Physical fitness has been defined by several different organizations. The experts at the Centers for Disease Control workshop mentioned at the beginning of this chapter defined physical fitness as “a set of attributes that people have or achieve that relates to the ability to perform physical activity.” The World I health Organization has defined physical fitness as “the ability to perform muscular work satisfactorily.”
The American College of Sports Medicine has proposed that “fitness is the ability to perform moderate to vigorous levels of physical activity without undue fatigue and the capability of maintaining such ability throughout life.” The President’s Council of Physical Fitness and Sports has offered one of the more widely used definitions, describing physical fitness as the “ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and to meet unforeseen emergencies.”
Because modern-day tasks require so little energy expenditure, and because of the human tendency to equate leisure time with inactivity, some researchers would add three other reasons (in addition to providing In other words, a good level of physical fitness may no longer be needed to work in our technologically-dominated world, but it is needed to make the most of mental potentialities, to avoid many of the chronic diseases that plague Americans today, to feel good, energetic, and to make the most of what life has to offer.
The focus of fitness is not to have just minimal amounts of energy to barely make it through the day, but more to live an integrated, meaningful, joyous, and satisfying, “self-actuated” life. Rene Dubos spoke of health as a mirage. You can reach for it but never fully grasp it. Physical fitness is similar. Fitness is not so much a possession as a procession; not so much something to have as a way to be. One can never say, “I am physically fit.” Instead, one is always within the process, seeking to come as close as possible to a goal that in itself is unattainable.
One can objectively measure physical fitness by determining how much energy one has for doing what is enjoyable in life and experiencing all the natural adventure possible. From snow skiing to mountain climbing, country cycling to weekend backpacking, those who are physically fit have the energy to maximize their enjoyment of all the natural resources of their environment. Physical fitness has also been described as the ability to last, to bear up, to withstand stress, and to persevere under difficult circumstances where an unfit person would give up. Physical fitness is the opposite of being fatigued from ordinary efforts, from lacking the energy to enter zestfully into life’s activities, and from becoming exhausted from unexpected, demanding physical exertion. It is a positive quality, extending on a scale from death to ‘abundant life.’