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Physical fitness isn’t simply about how you look or winning on the athletic field. It’s about your ability to meet the ordinary and unusual demands of your life, safely and effectively, and still be able to enjoy leisure activities. Being physically fit means being able to meet all your obligations for work, school, family and fun. And that requires taking care of your body, so that you don’t end up hurt or exhausted.

What is Fitness?

Physical fitness is divided into two kinds of components: health-related (necessary for improving and maintaining overall health) and skill-related. Health-related components are:

Why Does Fitness Matter?

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, physical activity is important because it reduces your risk for illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and even cancer. Physical activity also improves psychological health—30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise can be just as effective for reducing mild anxiety and depression as taking medication in some cases. Being physically fit will make you feel better now, and keep you feeling good in the long run.

So How Do I Get Fit?

Whenever you exercise, think about FITT: frequency, intensity, time and type. If you haven’t been exercising at all, but you’re young and healthy, start with the Surgeon General’s minimum recommendation for exercise to start getting physical. That’s moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes, all or most days of the week. To put it in FITT terms, you might take a walk (type) for 30 minutes (time) every evening after dinner (frequency) at a brisk pace (intensity). After a while, it will become easy for you. The principle of overload means that the demands you place on your body have to increase in order to keep developing and improving. You can achieve overload—and keep it interesting—by altering any part of FITT. You can change the type and try a bike ride. You can increase the time, and walk 40 minutes. You can change the frequency, and add in a morning walk a few days a week. Or, you can change the intensity, and either walk faster or jog. The principle of progressive resistance says that those increases should be gradual so that your body has time to adapt. For instance, if you started lifting weights, you’d start with light weights and each week you might add two-and-a-half or five more pounds. You wouldn’t jump from 50 pounds to 150 pounds in one week—it could lead to injury. Make sure you lift only what your muscles can handle.

And How Do I Stay Fit?

Exercise adherence is an important part of physical fitness, because 50 percent of people who start exercising quit within six months. Don’t let it happen to you! Tips for keeping fitness a priority:

More Info

The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports is a great resource.

Listen to Your Heart

Listening to compute your heart rate is important in planning your exercise program.

On the Field

Skill-related fitness components are important on the athletic field, and on the occupational field for people in jobs like the police force, fire department and military.

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