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Being Fit is Not Same as Being Thin

Courtesy Alan Cleaver via cc/Flickr

As a kid, the next best thing to receiving someone at the railway station was to stand on the weighing scale installed at the platforms with their blinking light bulbs and wheels. With bated breath we would wait for the magical card to pop out and reveal the mystical figure that could put us to shame or make us glow with the new found ‘lightness’.  For me however more often than not, my ascend to the pedestal was followed by a remark by my brother who believed that instead of the card displaying my weight, what I would be handed by the machine would be a remark that read, “Please stand one by one!”

Those words still haunt me when I stand on a scale. The fear of being overweight is not however my lone problem. It is a universal phenomenon. From birth till death people regardless of their age, gender, location, colour or creed strive to be healthier, fitter, more beautiful and thin. And although all the words I have mentioned are totally different attributes from each other, they are almost always used as synonyms as most people believe that being fit, healthy and beautiful can be achieved by being thin. The shunned word is FAT and to avoid this stigma to be used against their name, many take the route of exercising or the more hazardous route of synthetic fat dissolving drugs, miracle surgeries like liposuctions or crash diets.

The reality is, your weighing scale maybe revealing more than just the fact that you are fat. Your total body weight, the one you see on the bathroom scale is not just the measure of the fat content of your body. It is also the weight of the lean mass – the muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments. Therefore, a person who looks thin as a stick may have the same weight as a visibly plump person. What this reality check also tells us is that being fit is not same as being thin.

According to the US Department of Health, Physical Fitness is defined as a set of attributes people have or wish to achieve that lets them perform physical activities in a better way. Overall physical fitness therefore has nothing to do with weight of a person, but everything to do with the state of the following attributes,

  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness -   It is the ability of the body’s circulatory and respiratory system to supply fuel during the continuous physical activity. Activities like walking, jogging, and swimming help improve the cardiorespiratory fitness of the body by increasing the heart rate. The activities as seen are not strenuous but rhythmic movements that help increase your stamina.
  • Muscular Strength – It is the ability of the muscles to exert force during an activity like lifting or pushing. This strength can be improved by lifting weights, taking the stairs etc. Again the focus should not be on strain but building the strength gradually.
  • Muscular Endurance – It is the ability of the muscles to keep taking a strain without getting tired. Dancing and bicycling are excellent activities to improve muscle endurance as these help you keep performing without feeling fatigued.
  • Body Composition – It is the total body mass including the fat, muscles, bones and other parts of the body. Your aim should be to ideally to reduce the fat mass and increase the muscles mass of the body. Again, your body weight on the scale may not differ when you change fat mass to muscular mass, but your overall fitness will be hundred times better.
  • Joint Flexibility – It is the range of movements your joint can do without feeling pain or fatigue. The knees, shoulders etc. endure a lot of movements everyday and to keep them and other joints fit you can perform activities like swimming, bicycling, stretch exercises etc.

So the next time you exercise, keeping in mind that you are not exercising to achieve a size zero figure (I wonder if Kareena Kapoor ever got a card reading ‘You do not exist’ from the weighing scale) but you are excercising to achieve overall physical fitness.

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6 Responses

  1. those labels ‘thin’, ‘fit’ are greatly subject to fluctuation from one civilization to another. no one can tell you what’s right for you because no one knows. stay away from those who claim to know what’s best for you. just be very sensitive to how you feel, how you react to different substances and situations (which in itself is a very fluid and alive thing, it is not always the same) and you’ll be fine.
    you are a living universe, not a dead model or an unchanging label. be constantly aware of the ever changing reality of you and around you.

    • I agree completely to your idea of being sensitive to how you feel about yourself and not what others feel about you. Most people judge themselves from other’s point of view which is where the problem lies. Thanks for highlighting the point.

  2. A very good, informative piece! Keep writing.
    What you said about ‘fat’ people, it’s the same with thin people like me. We too have to face comments and keep worrying about how to gain weight. We cannot change our genetically aquired body structure. Doctors always assured me, if you feel fit, you are fit!

    • Exactly Anita, The over importance we give to being thin or being fat is wrong because much of it is genetical. What should be important is being fit.

  3. Thanks for the encouragement Padmini, It is good to know you liked my first post.

  4. atula,

    this is a well structured article about fitness. keep sharing more of your thoughts with us.good luck.