What is fitness?
The most common definition of fitness used today comes from the medical world. It is defined as a human’s state of physical health as a result of proper nutrition and exercise. Given this definition, a fit person would have excellent endurance, cardiovascular fitness, strength and flexibility. A body builder, figure competitor, marathon runner or professional athlete would, by this definition of fitness, fall into being the fittest individuals on the planet.
In ecological terms, the concept of fitness is much broader. The term is loosely defined as the ability for a living thing to adapt to harsh or changing environmental conditions. In other words, the more fit an organism is, the more likely they will be to endure stress and live long enough to generate healthy offspring. As a biologist and environmental scientist who has studied ecosystems for the past 12 years, this more holistic version of fitness is the one that makes the most sense to me. This definition goes beyond the physical condition of a living thing and looks at other aspects that might be degrading the overall condition (or health) of that organism.
By this definition, the fittest individuals would be those that have mental stability, emotional intelligence, physical fitness, spiritual connection, and a high level of self-awareness. These are the types of individuals that focus on disease prevention rather than disease management.
In modern society, stress can present itself to humans in a variety of ways – both physically and mentally. Factors relating to jobs, money, poor health, insecurities, anxiety, unexpected circumstances, kids, relationships, and many more can contribute to a person’s individual stress level. No matter where we live, stress is always going to be a part of our lives. In order to have the tools necessary to manage this stress effectively and to avoid preventable diseases for the rest of our lives, achieving a high level of holistic fitness (including aspects of spiritual, financial, emotional, physical and mental health) is extremely important.
The Concept of Sustainable Fitness
Establishing this level of holistic fitness is one thing, but establishing and maintaining it for the rest of one’s life is another. In order for a human being to be sustainably fit, a relative balance between mind, body and soul must exist (see diagram below).
The concept of sustainable fitness goes beyond the traditional approach which only considers physical health. I wholeheartedly believe that in order for a person to achieve maximum physical fitness of the only body they have, a balance between physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health is required.
The path to sustainable fitness is an extremely empowering approach to holistic health and seeks to eliminate self-destructive behaviors, negative self-talk, chemical toxins, sickness, and imbalance. It’s a dynamic mind-set that continuously focuses on adapting to any financial, physical or time-related constraints that you might have – either presently or in the future. Sustainably fit individuals also contribute to the overall health of our planet because they are more aware of their actions, and often have lower carbon footprints.
Achieving a sustainable level of fitness
Now that you know what sustainable fitness is, and that you’re in the right mind-set to implement it into your daily life, head on over to my blog and check out my post entitled “8 Ways to Achieve Sustainable Fitness.” This post offers strategies and tips that will help you achieve and sustain a maximum level of fitness.
You can also read about Anna’s own experience of making her own fitness sustainable, and how healthy individuals contribute to a healthy planet here. She also offers several ways for YOU to make your fitness sustainable.
Thanks for reading!
Karen Simpson is a full-time environmental scientist, and part-time holistic fitness coach at Sustainable Fitness. She is a competitive athlete, loves to cook with whole, real-food ingredients, and is a huge advocate for eliminating toxins from our bodies, minds and world. You can contact Karen through her website or shoot an e-mail to karen [at] sustainablefitnesslife.com.