The Definition of Fitness for Sports

There is no single definition of fitness or sports fitness. It has different meanings depending upon your goals and/or the sport for which you are training. The basic question, "What is fitness?", is answered here for athletes and non-athletes.

The General Definition of Fitness

For the general public (nonathletes), physical fitness has been defined as:

*A set of attributes (qualities) relating to people's ability to perform physical activity.(1)

*A state of well-being with low risk of premature health problems and energy to participate in a variety of physical activities. (2)

*The ability to meet the ordinary as well as the unusual demands of daily life safely and effectively without being overly fatigued and still have energy left for leisure and recreational activities. (3)

Experts agree that physical fitness has many dimensions and levels. It has been further broken down into two categories of components that, collectively, help define it:

*Health-related: cardiorespiratory (aerobic), muscular strength and endurance, muscular flexibility, and body composition.

*Skill-related: agility, balance, coordination, power, reaction time, and speed.

Any definition of fitness may include health-related and/or performance-related components, and they are not mutually exclusive--they overlap. You cannot develop power without training for speed and strength. Agility is comprised of speed, strength, power, flexibility, reaction time, balance, and coordination (skill), so sports training to improve one component also improves others.
Endurance Fitness

The Definition of Fitness for Sports Training

Defining fitness for each specific sport is important. Fitness training for each sport, each team, and each athlete is be different. Sports fitness training programs are designed to condition athletes specifically for the unique demands of their sports by building the proper combination of components.

In light of how fitness components are generally defined by experts:

1. Do not overanalyze. Fitness components overlap. There is no need to conduct training activities intended to develop each fitness component independently. Overanalysis can cause paralysis for fitness training as well as for skill learning.

2. Synthesize. Conduct fitness training activities that also develop sport skills and techniques.

3. Capitalize on transfer of training. Decide which training activities best transfer to sport performance regardless of whether they are classified as skills or fitness components.

4. Beware of new terms and new fitness training "research". New buzz words or terms usually mean the same thing as commonly understood terms, but with a slightly different spin or from a new perspective. Find out exactly what the term means before you change from effective regimens to "revolutionary" new training methods.

5. Decide on your own fitness definitions. Make your own educated decisions about what fitness components or combinations of them you should strive to develop for your athletes.

6. Know how to measure. When you decide what sport fitness means for your athletes, find ways to evaluate it as you have defined it.

7. Have confidence in your fitness training program. Remember that buzz words and popular workouts may not fit with a textbook definition of fitness. Take what you read in magazines with a grain of salt. If you have confidence in your training program, your athletes will, too.

Related Pages:

Agility Fitness

Endurance Fitness

Physical Demands

Power Fitness

Strength Fitness

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1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1996). Physical Activity and Health: A report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: USDHHS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

2. Howley. E.T. & Franks, B.D. (1997). Health fitness instructor's handbook (3rd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

3. Hoeger, W.W.K & Hoeger, S.A. (2006). Principles and labs for fitness and wellness. (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thompson Wadsworth.

4. United States Department of Health and Human Services, President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. (2000, March). Definitions: Health, fitness, and physical activity. Retrieved August 29, 2008, from

5. Ary, D., Jacobs, L.C., & Asghar, R. (1985). Introduction to research in education. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.