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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 05-08-2008, 08:37 AM   #1
Matthew Cooper
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Who/What Defines Fitness?

Sorry, it's a little long...

Text copied from: http://www.naafa.org/documents/policies/fitness.html

"The President's Council on Physical Fitness defines five components of fitness: cardio-respiratory or aerobic endurance; muscular strength; muscular endurance; flexibility; and body composition, or the ratio of fat-to-lean body mass. Despite the findings of the National Institutes of Health, reported in March 1992, that permanent weight loss is elusive for fat people and despite evidence that fat people who exercise can achieve impressive levels of cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility, fitness experts persist in believing that a person must have a low fat-to-lean body mass ratio in order to be considered fit. As result, most fitness professionals promote weight loss and the achievement of an athlete's conditioning as the primary goals of physical exercise. This focus on an elusive component of fitness ignores those components that are achievable through behavioral changes. Fat people are thus set up for failure in their attempts to achieve fitness and are discouraged from pursuing exercise to improve health, increase self-esteem, and reach higher levels of cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility.

The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance asserts that individual fitness can be achieved despite a relatively high ratio of fat-to-lean body mass and affirms that fitness is a desirable and attainable goal for most fat people. Different physiques and levels of fitness are appropriate for different people. NAAFA demands that fat people have the opportunity to become fit in an environment safe from prejudice and harassment."

This is what I recently found on the Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) website. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it these statements (and the statements made on the website as a whole) sound more like people just complaining, not actually wanting to accomplish anything.

Throughout the website, this association's main focus is probably 98% on dieting alone (and how it doesn't work). People have known this for ages. If you diet and don't step up your physical activity (ie: exercise!) then as soon as you stop your diet, you're going to gain all the weight back.

It all depends on how you excercise. The question is though, how much excercise. The NAAFA says that conditioning and weight loss are primary goals in working out. That's a true statement. The next statement. "This focus on an elusive component of fitness ignores those components that are achievable through behavioral changes. Fat people are thus set up for failure in their attempts to achieve fitness..." is not quite as true. Becoming more fit does not require that you lose weight and/or become more conditioned; however, there are not many people who are fit (conditioned) that do not experience weight loss. Therefore, if you are striving to become more fit, you will (under normal circumstances) naturally lose weight.

This leads to a whole can of worms on this topic... so I'll just open it up to discuss:

Should fitness include a definition of fat-to-lean body mass? Why or why not?
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Old 05-08-2008, 09:25 AM   #2
Steven Low
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Re: Who/What Defines Fitness?

No, because being lean doesn't mean you are fit. Case in point, anorexia.. not putting people that have anorexia down or anything but they are VERY lean and are not considered fit.
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Old 05-08-2008, 09:27 AM   #3
George Mounce
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Re: Who/What Defines Fitness?

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Originally Posted by Steven Low View Post
No, because being lean doesn't mean you are fit. Case in point, anorexia.. not putting people that have anorexia down or anything but they are VERY lean and are not considered fit.
Bingo.
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Old 05-08-2008, 10:22 AM   #4
Eric Machus
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Re: Who/What Defines Fitness?

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Bingo.
It is an interesting question.

When I reflect on those I think of as "fit" they are usually relatively lean. However, when I think of what it means to be fit I do not think of leanness, rather I think of excellence in some sort of athletic/fitness requiring endeavor. Due to my biases I tend to think of cardiovascular activities but I usually consider excellent weightlifters and gymnasts fit.

I would say that in my experience leanness tends to be correlated with fitness; that leanness is a likely indicator of fitness, so much so that if you were creating criteria or a screen to identify fit people you would likely include it as one criterion. I think if you examine the top 10% of any "athletic" pursuit those who are lean, or not overweight, predominate.

However, leanness is not a sufficient or necessary condition of fitness. So, no, I would not include it as part of the definition of "fitness."

I also think your "can of worms" comment is accurate. We have to consider the speaker and its audience. I expect the President's Council on Physical Fitness is primarily concerned with increasing the general health of the population with an eye to increasing economic productivity and reducing healthcare costs and not decreasing Fran times or developing muscle-ups and front-levers. Therefore, if you want your definition of "fitness" to result in less heart attacks, lower medicare/medicare/health insurance costs and generally "healthier" people, as opposed to merely faster/strong/"fitter" athletes it would be wise to include a measure of leanness.

Sorry, as Twain said, I didn't have time to write a short post so I wrote a long one.
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Old 05-08-2008, 10:38 AM   #5
Tim Luby
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Re: Who/What Defines Fitness?

I suppose "leaness" is a byproduct of fitness, not a measure of it.
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Old 05-08-2008, 11:01 AM   #6
Matt DeMinico
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Re: Who/What Defines Fitness?

I don't really think that "lean body mass to fat ratio" means anything about fitness, but I also don't think that you can be a tub o' lard and still be fit.

It's one thing to have a decent amount of fat on you, and it's another thing to be fat. If you've got a decent amount of fat on you, but are in good shape, nobody is going to label you as "fat", but in their article, they keep saying "fat people". Sorry, "fat people" are not fit, "fit people who happen to have some extra fat on them" are fit.
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Old 05-08-2008, 11:07 AM   #7
Michael Houghton
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Re: Who/What Defines Fitness?

Just from the other side...If you play in the NFL as an offensive lineman, weigh 330lbs, can run a 4.9 40 yard dash, are you fit? Those guys are all fat, but playing that much football during a season, you are incredibly in shape by the end of the season. I think that the fitter you are, the leaner you are, but I do think you can be fat and be fit too.
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Old 05-08-2008, 11:08 AM   #8
Veronica Carpenter
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Re: Who/What Defines Fitness?

I suppose it all depends on how you define "fit"

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Old 05-08-2008, 11:17 AM   #9
Lewis Dunn
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Re: Who/What Defines Fitness?

"Should fitness include a definition of fat-to-lean body mass?"
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Originally Posted by Steven Low View Post
No, because being lean doesn't mean you are fit.
Hmmm, there may be good reasons for answering "no" to the original question, but this can't be it. Being [fill in any of the other four attributes listed by the Council] doesn't mean you are fit. I don't think the Council was suggesting that any one of those 5 attributes alone implies fitness. Saying that fat-to-lean body mass shouldn't be included because of anorexics is like saying that strength shouldn't be included because there are obese alcoholic smokers who can deadlift a zillion pounds.

This really comes down to one's own definition of what "fit" means, and I would say that my definition would include something about body fat percentage. I personally really don't know anyone that I would call fit that has excessive body fat. In other words, all of the "fit" people I know have what I would call a favorable fat-to-lean body mass.
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Old 05-08-2008, 11:18 AM   #10
Jason Staples
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Re: Who/What Defines Fitness?

No. After being around enough elite athletes with BF% in the high teens and low twenties, there's no way I could say that. We had an OL who was about 16% BF, had a 33 inch vertical (we had to test completely flat-footed, so that was IMPRESSIVE -- the guy used to do one-leg box jumps with us WRs and DBs on a 40 inch box). He ran a 4.9 40, sub 12 minute mile and a half, etc. all at 315-25.

Just because his BF% was above 15 doesn't mean he was any less an athlete than I was at 4% -- in fact, I think he was probably "fitter" than me even though I was much lower in body comp.

I would say its a criteria of fitness, but it is certainly not a necessary one (a sine qua non as it were). Just like a certain time in a mile doesn't mean a person is in shape (but it is an indicator if put alongside other criteria), the lean/fat ratio can tell something about a person's fitness, but it certainly isn't a necessary indicator.

A polythetic definition of fitness is really the best (only) way to go.
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Last edited by Jason Staples; 05-08-2008 at 11:44 AM..
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