When you hear the word “fitness” or “fit” what comes to mind? For many, toned bodies, six-pack abs, and “clean” diets are some of the first images that we think of.
Thanks to diet culture and toxic fitness culture, the meaning of “fitness” has become so convoluted over time. Fitness and being “fit” is often so closely linked to ideas related to vanity and how a body looks. But, where did this link come from? Why is this important to consider? Most importantly, what does “fitness” even really mean?
Have you ever looked up #fitness or #fitnessinspiration on Instagram? You were most likely bombarded with images of individuals flexing their abs in the mirror, eating the latest trendy “clean recipe”, and maybe even sharing some fitness tips in the caption. Even more concerning, a good amount of individuals sharing this type of content on social media do not have credentials in the area.
Today, we are constantly surrounded by body ideals in the media and on social media. As a result, the idea of the ideal athletic body is more prevalent than ever. For anyone, the message that fitness has a particular look can be both harmful and confusing. For athletes, it can be particularly challenging as they may feel like they need to to fit both the body ideal for their sport AND that set by the rest of society.
There is so much pressure for athletes and active individuals to achieve this body “standard”. It doesn’t help that often times, messages around body shape and weight in sport can be paired with the promise of enhanced performance. However, the practices required to achieve these body types for some individuals can lead to negative impacts to performance and to health.
The messages and advice around fitness and “getting fit” in media are often focused on strategies to shrink your body. Not only do these messages promise enhanced performance, but also promise improvements to your overall health.
Exercise and nutrition are very important aspects of a training regimen and our health. However, there is a point where we can be overdoing things.
Some of the practices that fitness culture promotes under the guise of “health” include:
-Cutting out food groups
-Not taking rest days or the ‘no days off” mentality
These practices can lead to decreased performance, fatigue, injuries, hormonal imbalances and more. I don’t know about you, but this sounds like OPPOSITE getting “fit”.
This is one of the reasons to be cautious when it comes to seeking advice through social media. It is very important to seek out credible, individualized advice from those with credentials in the area.
With such a focus on achieving a slimmer, toned body in the name of fitness, it can also be easy to lose sight of the true meaning of fitness. The word fitness has become a poorly veiled word to describe how a person or athlete appears visually. However, fitness does not have a look and has nothing to do with the appearance of a body.
The true meaning of fitness is one related to performance in sport or in training. There are many, many ways to measure fitness that do not involve a scale, a measuring tape, or the use of BMI.
Fitness can be measured by your speed, power, output, flexibility, heart rate, VO2max, mental state and mental health. It can also be measured with metrics specific to your sport or training and your progression in any of these areas. Fitness and being fit is related to your health, NOT how much you weigh or whether or not your arms are perfectly toned.
There is so much more to fitness than just looking a particular way. It is time to reclaim the meaning of fitness in a way that can help athletes and active individuals enhance their performance AND support their health.
If you enjoyed this blog post, check out our new podcast “Mind Your Fitness Podcast” where we cover topics like this! Listen now on Spotify, Apple, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.