Being classed as physically fit holds both social and personal value to people. That’s why the fitness industry is one of the largest in the world and is valued at around $100 billion. With links to health and wellness, being physically fit has become a huge aspiration to people. You only need to search ‘#fitspo’ on Instagram to see this.
As with anything, there are both positive and negative impacts that come hand in hand with fitness culture. The positives are drilled into us. The benefits of exercise are widely documented with an unrivalled body of research behind them. There’s an overwhelming list. Reduced risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, joint pain and cancers for a start. Not to mention the positive impacts on mental health and sleep.
We’re stating the obvious here, but it’s important to set the scene before mentioning that amongst all the positive impacts of the fitness industry there are problematic pockets. Fitness culture can be intimidating. Yes, it can motivate, be rewarding, bring confidence. But it can also nurture unhealthy comparisons, feelings of insecurity, inadequacy and guilt. At the extreme end, it normalizes dysfunctional relationships with exercise and food. Fitness fads may come and go. We went from #thighgap to #bootygains. But what is consistent is an appearance driven notion of fitness ideals. Ones that aren’t tailored to an individual. Ones that don’t encourage inclusivity. Ones that undo all the positive work fitness culture can do for people.
So, amid all this noise. What really is fitness? And how can we find a definition and a value that suits us, encourages us to get involved, and plays the perfect role in our lifestyles?
The 5 types of fitness
A good place to start is acknowledging that there are five types of fitness.
Cardiovascular fitness tends to increase your heart rate. Technically speaking it’s our ability to take in oxygen and use it to produce energy for our muscles.
Muscular strength is a core component of fitness and is the amount of force a muscle can exert. Muscular endurance is the amount of time our muscles can work for without getting tired. In real life, you need both.
At number three we have the grossly underrated flexibility. This is the ability of our muscles to lengthen. Often used in conjunction with mobility, which is our range of motion with a joint. Again, you need both.
The point of this isn’t to overwhelm with all the things we need to consider regarding fitness. It’s to show the reductive view we’ve developed of what fitness looks like. Fitness means more than just how many squats we can do.
Defining Fitness Levels
At what point can we say we are fit? As with most things, the answer to complex questions like this is usually the same. It depends on the individual. Quantitative measures of fitness will differ between men and women. Between old people and young people. Between parents and people without children. The list goes on. The NHS guidelines suggest that people aged 19-64 need to do 150 minutes of activity a week that is moderate in intensity. Or 75 minutes that’s vigorous in intensity. What classifies as intense will be very different depending on the individual and their current fitness levels. Still vague.
Stripping it back, fitness is a physical state of health and wellbeing that means we’re suitable to fulfil a role or task. So, what determines if we’re fit or not is what we need to be suitable for. Fitness for professional athletes means being fit enough to qualify for the Olympics. Fitness for a first-time marathon runner means being fit enough to finish all 26.2 miles. Fitness for Melanie from Herne Hill means being able to stay on her feet all week at her job as a retail assistant and play netball with her friends at the weekend.
You know when you say a word so many times it loses all meaning? We’ve done that with fitness.
We can always be motivated to do better, but that doesn’t mean we’re not enough right now. Remembering that fitness is defined by the individual and not by the appearance of abs is a good start. It’s time to recalibrate our mindsets and understand what fitness means to us and the role it plays in our lives.
Fitting Fitness In
This is without a doubt the hardest part. When surveyed, most people believe that their fitness would be improved if they had more time on their hands. Relatable right?
Fitness has a different significance for different people. For some, it’s integral to their weekend. It’s part of their plan and they enjoy dedicating most of their free time towards their exercise of choice. For others, it’s something they will allow 30 minutes for, but no more. There are things they enjoy more to be getting on with.
Find your flow. Make it flexible. Make the most of those pockets of time you do have.
We’ll let you in on a little secret. Using Hussle’s Monthly+ pass and getting access to gyms, pools and spas at thousands of different locations across the UK helps. You’re not bound by one gym. You can use whichever one you like in a location that suits your day.
Exercising for Enjoyment
It’s way easier to make time for something you enjoy, than for something you don’t. Exercise doesn’t have to be something that fills you with dread and makes you want to avoid it. There are thousands of activities that count as exercise, ones you probably haven’t ever considered.
It can seem as though fitness is measured by how many miles you can run on the treadmill and how many kilograms you can lift. Not the case.
Group badminton classes. Dance workshops. Boxing bootcamps. There are thousands of options. With Hussle, you can get access to facilities you might not have had before that will allow you to find your thing.
So, when the gym feels like a place for only the most elite athletes. Remember that it’s not. Fitness is for everyone. It’s inclusive. And it’s individual. At Hussle we offer the flexibility and variety that lets everybody get involved and get fit against a definition that’s driven only by them. What is fitness? It’s up to you.