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How to reap the benefits of being fit and active

by Kelly Menke, Concordia Plans Health and Wellness Educator
Couple riding bikes

What does it mean to “be fit?” Let’s start with a couple of expert definitions.

The American College of Sports Medicine defines “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 MEET UNFORSEEN EMERGENCIES.” (Source: )

Per the “Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine,” it can also be defined as “one’s ability to execute daily activities with optimal performance, endurance and strength WITH the management of disease, fatigue and stress, as well as to reduce sedentary behavior.” (Source:

Now that you have some guidance from the experts, how do you define your own fitness? 

Let’s unpack this a bit.

Components of being physically fit:
  • Cardiorespiratory fitness: This can help reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.
  • Muscular strength: Training for strength supports bone structure and density, as well as allows muscles to work in unison, thereby more efficiently.
  • Muscular endurance: The ability of a muscle to continue exerting force without tiring.
  • Body composition: The relative amounts of muscle, bone, water and fat an individual has. A person can potentially maintain the same weight, but radically change the ratio of each of the components. THE SCALE ONLY TELLS PART OF THE STORY!!!
  • Flexibility: Important because it improves the ability to link movements together smoothly and can help prevent injuries.
NOTE: Fitness is an important piece of the overall “Health and Wellness” puzzle. Although mental, emotional, and physical health can be directly affected by one’s fitness level, on its own, it does not equate to HEALTH. Which, according to the World Health Organization is, “A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” (Source:

Benefits of physical activity

According to the Center for Disease Control, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Being physically active can improve your brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles and improve your ability to do everyday activities.

Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits, such as reduced health risk, stronger bones and muscles, improved ability to do daily activities and PREVENT FALLS, and manage chronic health conditions and disabilities. This infographic offers a great visual of the variety of benefits associated with being active.

Physical activity vs. exercise

As a health coach, I always heard, “I’m active.” And I’d always ask for more details, “How are you active? Are you busy with various daily activities, or do you plan regularly, structured movement?” There’s a difference. And, while they’re both important for overall health, it’s important to understand the goal of exercise vs. physical activity.

Not all physical activity is considered exercise. Exercise is a subcategory of physical activity and is considered planned, structured and purposeful physical activity. The goal is to increase physical fitness. General physical activity aims to reduce the time being sedentary, complete tasks, and so on. (Source: https:


Aerobic exercise – walking, jogging, cycling, swimming

Resistance training – exercises with dumbbells, weight machines, kettlebells, resistance bands

Recommendations and Tips
  • Weekly: Aerobic activity
    • 150 minutes (30 minutes, 5 days) of moderate intensity 
    • 75 minutes (25 min +, 3 days) of vigorous intensity
  • Weekly: Resistance Training
    • Each major muscle group (i.e., chest, back, legs, etc.)
    • At least 2 (non-consecutive days)