Fitness – not just a measure of your waistband!

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7 p.m. : You’ve put in a long day at office and are wrapping up work to head home. Your back and neck are achy from sitting so much, your eyes are strained from looking at a screen the whole day, your pants are strained from the (second) samosa you ate mid-meeting. Now what do you see as you drive home?

“Lose 10kgs of fat in 1 month” “Build a 6 pack in 6 weeks”

Hands up if you’ve come across a gym advertisement in the past week that looks like the one above. Accompanied by impossibly good looking models flaunting impossibly perfect bodies that look nothing like you or me.

Hands up if, after looking at these ads, you’ve felt disappointed with your own body. You resolve to start gymming but feel disheartened by these toned bodies.

Why is fitness always linked to looking a certain way? And more importantly, only with looking a certain way (read : thin)?  

Fitness is more than aesthetics.

Back in the day, we needed to be fit to simply survive. Fitness meant being able to outrun predators (or risk becoming prey!), it meant being able to climb and jump, it meant dealing with extreme climatic conditions. It meant getting better and stronger everyday in order to survive.

Unfortunately for most of us today, our ‘fitness demands’ are to be able to sit at a desk for 8+ hours a day, sit in traffic for a couple more and then sit on a couch at home. And marathon sitting is not doing your body any good.

Our lifestyles today set us up to be overweight, susceptible to disease, and have a dysfunctional relationship with food. We have never had so much access to yummy, fatty, unhealthy food. Or gyms selling us bogus weight loss plans!

Being overweight is by no means healthy, and wanting to get on a fat loss program is a great step, but becoming thin does not make you fit. The ‘naturally thin’ woman you envy could be weak and injury prone. The skinny man you meet may suffer from poor immunity and fall sick frequently.

Which brings me to, what does it mean to be ‘fit’?

This definition for me has changed so much in the past 16 or so years. As a trained athlete, I used to associate fitness with sports and performance. Today as a coach who works with people who predominantly do desk jobs and are not looking to win Olympic medals, this is what fitness means to me.

  • Fitness is my body being able to do all the activities I need/want it to do, without any pain
  • Fitness is being able to sit down on the floor and get back up without using support
  • Fitness is resilience; not falling sick often and being able to recover from injury
  • Fitness is being able to fall asleep easily at night and wake up feeling refreshed
  • Fitness is being able to carry a gas cylinder up three flights of stairs to my elderly neighbour during a power shutdown
  • Fitness is being comfortable with my body
  • Fitness is carrying my own suitcases with ease when I travel
  • Fitness is NOT dragging myself to a gym for an hour each day, zoning out and doing the same exercises I don’t enjoy, only to spend the rest of day sitting at a desk

You know what I want to see on gym advertisements?

“Move like a child again’, “Be the strongest version of you’, “Learn to be patient and listen to your body’, “Fix your relationship with food and ditch fad diets’.

Nothing sexy about it. But it gets the job done.  


What have I missed on this list? What does fitness mean to YOU? Comments are always welcome 🙂

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