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Common Health & Fitness Terms and Definitions

My Fitness Road - terms and definitions

Unless you're a total stranger to MyFitnessRoad.com, you'll know that I care a great deal about trying to unveil the complex exterior of fitness – primarily where Al is concerned.

But aside from Al, the broader community who in some way "has" or "will" become involved in fitness – it's useful to understand that there are many inconsistencies in the terminologies used by the Health and Fitness industries.

We're going to look at why it's wise to not simply take them at face value. We'll also try and clarify some of the more common examples along with an alphabetical list of those relevant to MyFitnessRoad and the Sensible Fitness Program (SFP).

(For additional explanations, please see the FAQ.)

Making Sense of the Inconsistencies

Over the years, I've found fitness definitions and terms to have a fair degree of variability among their meaning and use.

Now, you may be thinking: "why does he care?"

Fitness Definitions and Terms

Well, because I would consider my job half-done if I didn't. A lot of the reason why I run this Site is to 'help' those in need of guidance or information – however simple or complex.

Why should you get stuck with the same issues I did – if I can help you avoid wasting unnecessary time and money?

If I were to simply cherry-pick the topics I write about, I would be neglecting some very important parts about fitness. Doing the job right means going beyond merely prescribing my fitness program.

It extends to asking, listening and educating. The health and fitness industries are rather "noisy."

Confusing Fitness Definitions

Often, two exercise authorities or fitness coaches may use the exact same term to infer different concepts, or may mean the same thing using two distinctly different terms.


I've discovered that some people see a “push up” as a vertical dumbbell shoulder press, when others mean a chest exercise performed by pushing with the palms on a floor surface and raising the upper body.

I recall reading an article in a fitness magazine some years back which referred to a "skull-crusher" as an excellent isolation exercise for the triceps. I thought "good heavens!" What could the article be referring to in using such a horrific-sounding term? And why had I not heard of it before?

I was relieved to find out that it was a name for a rather commonly-done exercise but which I always referred to as the "laying triceps extension with an EZ bar."

Different strokes for different folks, right?

I think it's more a case that differences and inconsistencies will be commonplace in any global industry which is not internationally regulated. And so it calls for a commonsense approach by those who work in it.

Compound Terms


Well, there are no definite rules in the English language for whether terms should be written as separate words, together or hyphenated.

It’s therefore common to see compound terms written in three different ways – though intended to mean the same thing. Let’s consider:

Well-being – Wellbeing – Well being

We generally accept this term to signify happiness, health and prosperity.

But, what if I say to one of my clients: “Great job Paolo! You did well being that you’re a busy guy.” We have the words ‘well being’, but because they’re written separately, we actually have an adjective and a verb. Differently, however, well-being and wellbeing form a noun and convey a compound meaning.

So, free lesson for you, the reader. It’s usually better to make it obvious when you intend to form a compound meaning from two or more words. Life is so much easier when you read a passage and separate terms stand out.

A food-for-thought example:

As well-intentioned as I might be, I will not be successful at wellness unless I’m in-the-know about what works and reject those to-be-avoided behaviors like procrastination and laziness. Instead, I will use my common sense to adopt a common-sense approach.

Bottom line: beware of misunderstandings :)

The Quest for Industry Clarity

A little inconsistency can be tolerated, but at times it's been frustrating to operate in a field that has so many sporting bodies, authorities and standards.

I often discovered that I needed to have synonyms or definitions ready on the fly when I received frowns or questions like "what did you mean by that term – never heard it before?" One of those people was me when I first learned of the term "Health-Related Fitness."

Book, Websites and journals abound – and even after much reading and exploring, I still did not uncover much on the origin or a plausible definition of "Health-Related Fitness" (also referred to as Health-Related Physical Fitness). And this is but one example.

Because I'm generally a curious detail-oriented person, I like scratching beneath the surface to discover more about most things – and in this case the meanings and intentions of terms used in the fitness industry. The benefit is not just for my own clarity and enrichment, but for you interested readers and all those I interact with.

(There is a list of fitness definitions and terms further down the page, which will be updated from time-to-time.)

Who Calls the Shots?


Your answer is as good as mine.

It seems like us wellness coaches and health and fitness professionals work more like the way tropical fish move about in an aquarium than synchronized swimmers would travel through water. My take is that whether independent, governmental, global or private – health and fitness will continue to have its grey areas in what the standard of excellence and degree of acceptance is.

Nevertheless, as long as the various centers of excellence and certifying authorities around the world (and there are many), if we A: work to high standards and B: do not deliberately conflict with one another, but rather collaborate, I think we can get along.

That way, we professionals can at least be recognized as experts in this universe of work.

List of definitions and terms relevant to fitness, and to this site

Getting back to the specifics of the page, below is a list of common terms, fitness definitions, and their "generally-accepted" explanations.

Included are some terms that I use frequently across this Site and in my work. (The list will be updated and more examples will be added with time.) Please note, these terminologies and explanations in no way represent a universal catalogue. It would be close to impossible to distinguish and list all known health and fitness terms in use around the globe, much less standardize their meanings and applications.

My hope is that the list will contribute towards the integrity of this Site, providing clarity for you to better understand and enjoy your sojourn here with me – or indeed to be helpful to you in whatever other health and fitness endeavors you may have.

Keep in mind that – unless otherwise indicated – these are my definitions.


Previously coined by me as the "average everyday person."

Al has become the namesake of the typical individual I advise and work with.

 Al (short for Alexandra/Alexander) is my gender-neutral avatar. A busy professional who struggles to balance healthy habits with a livelihood, family and social commitments, and almost always ends up forfeiting fitness at the cost of failing health.

Al invariably rationalizes this by pointing to a lack of time and/or know-how. There's more about Al here.

All-round Fitness

This term generally refers to: 

Physical fitness including components such cardiovascular health, muscular strength, favourable body composition (ratios of fat, bone, water, and muscle), flexibility and balance.


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "diet" as:

"Food and drink regularly provided or consumed; habitual nourishment." 

So far, so good. However, I usually do my best not to use the "D" word at all in my fitness vocabulary, simply due to decades of adverse associations of prescribed restrictive regimens to reduce one's weight – courtesy of deprivation, depression and re-lapses.

Because of the obvious pain of restricting calories and these negative connotations connected to "dieting," the Sensible Fitness Program (SFP) has never employed any such principles or techniques. It's therefore not only convenient for me but also grounded in truth that I use the term "eating plan." In fact, I hate the term diet so much, that I did a whole page on it called how not to diet.

Eating Plan

In the realm of SFP:

Eating Plan" is a long-term sustained protocol which is practical, enjoyable and allows for flexibility, whatever the eating preference (Keto, Paleo, Vegan, Traditional Western or other) – while aligning with the individual's fitness goal/s.

Conventional dieting for weight loss, by definition, has a start and an end-date, followed invariably by regression. SFP's principles, on the other hand, provide eating enjoyment and versatility – thereby ensuring long-term adherence.


A desired or improved state-of-health and well-being with increased stress-coping skills and the ability to efficiently perform aspects of physical activity, sport or leisure occupations.

Is there a difference between "Fitness" and "Wellness"?

Although they’re certainly related, fitness focuses on the nuts and bolts of your physical condition and capacity. It fits within the larger realm of your lifestyle – your existence. In practical terms, the Sensible Fitness Program (SFP) was conceived to deliver a sustainable lifestyle of superior wellness.


A general state-of-being or condition associated with freedom from disease and illness.

However, according to the WHO, and in my view a more rounded definition is:

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Here's a very useful graphic representation of the main differences between fitness and health (as shown by Optimum Health Solutions).

Fitness vs Health

Health and Fitness Industries

The health and fitness industries comprise an extremely broad range of businesses, opportunities, services, products, vendors, practitioners, professionals and opportunistic charlatans involved in facilitating – to varying degrees – the achievement and/or maintenance of wellness.

Health-Related Fitness

According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness (PCPFS):

"Health-Related Physical Fitness consists of those components of physical fitness that have a relationship with good health." 

Physical fitness, within the realm of Health-Related Physical Fitness, is therefore a set of measurable characteristics, or "Components."

Broken down, the 5 Health-Related Fitness Components are:

1. Cardiorespiratory Fitness

2. Body Composition

3. Muscular Strength

4. Muscular Endurance

5. Flexibility

These terms and components will be covered in more detail on the future pages: Definitions of Health-Related Fitness and Health-Related Fitness Components.

Holistic Health

According to St. Catherine University:

"Holistic health is an approach to wellness that simultaneously addresses the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual components of health. As a field of practice, the approach appears to draw from many disciplines, religions and cultures to heal people, communities and the environment."

Physical Fitness

A physical state with the ability to perform sporting activities, occupations and other daily activities generally supported by appropriate nutrition, physical exercise and sufficient rest.

Physical Health

A physical state whereby an individual is free from illness and is able to perform habitual daily activities without restriction.

Note that physical health is but one of several components which make up the "enviable" state of wellness or well-being. Among the relevant dimensions of physical, cognitive, spiritual, emotional, social, intellectual and environmental health – physical health (or absence thereof) is the most visibly noticeable.

Before modern medicine, we might have considered someone physical healthy if they were not ailing from an illness or disease. In modern times, however, definitions can range between the absence of illness all the way through to a specific fitness level.

The Sensible Fitness Program (SFP)

This is MyFitnessRoad's flagship offering.

SFP is a lifestyle program which sees fitness as a permanent part of "normal" living. It employs efficient physical exercise strategies and eating plans which include nutrition-dense food and favorite meals. It does not substitute or supplement them. The aim is a sustainable solution, enabling fitness on all fronts – efficiently. By definition, the program is not intended for those who opt for a one-dimensional life devoted entirely to fitness or extreme sports. However, it's perfect for Al. 

SFP goes to the heart of simplifying fitness and removes unnecessary obstacles. It is specifically intended for the “Al” community so they may finally address their seemingly hopeless plight, and in the process get them on the road to a healthier and happier future, thanks to a smart and sustainable plan.

SFP is the busy middle-aged professional’s only real solution for sustainable wellness.

Physical Fitness Program

An integrated regimen of physical activities catering to one or more specific need/s such as functional, skill-related and/or health-related fitness.

The Sensible Way

A purposeful, content and healthy existence  can only be achieved by sensible means.

My wellness approach has always been grounded in a sustainable lifestyle, which is why it's based on real food and simple but efficient workouts. This means there's time and space for living a guilt-free, fulfilled, meaningful and giving life – with body, mind and spirit in harmony. In short, overall happiness and well-being.

In fitness-specific terms, the Sensible Way enables SFP’s permanent solution. The program’s ultimate deliverable is functional fitness + a body to be proud of, but not at the cost of the other important parts of your life.

In fitness-specific terms:

The sensible way = real food and simple workouts = a sustainable lifestyle = overall happiness and well-being.

But for that outcome, your approach needs to employ behavioral aspects derived from common sense, reason and simplicity – blended with a clear desire, commitment, effort, the curiosity to learn, and the willingness to evolve. You must of course also make time for leisure, for relaxation, and for your inner-circle and community.

To afford a lasting situation, you need to deliberately and proactively practice balancing elements of these behaviors in your day-to-day living whenever opportune, necessary or appropriate.

Without “sensible” in your daily approach, you will neither fully achieve nor maintain any intended outcome, whether it’s playing the guitar, learning a new language or changing your physical condition.

Skill-Related Fitness

While the 5 Health-Related Fitness Components (mentioned above) are universally important to fitness, Skill-Related Fitness Components are highly-relevant to athletes.

The chief difference between health and skill-related fitness, is that while anyone can benefit from frequent cardio, aiming to improve towards running a five-minute mile requires specific consistent effort. Similarly, golfers need to target and work on all stance and swing skills to perform at the highest levels. But crossfitters and strongmen can get away with focusing most of their effort on power, balance, and strength.

The 6 Skill-Related Fitness Components are:

1. Agility

2. Balance

3. Coordination (hand-eye and/or foot/eye)

4. Power

5. Reaction Time

6. Speed

Sustainable Wellness

From the MyFitnessRoad perspective:

Sustainable wellness is the goal of the busy middle-age pro (AKA Al). In simple terms, it's an ongoing state where one is able to juggle the challenges and commitments of a pressured professional and socially-connected life, while being in tip-top shape.

As I often talk about, most individuals (around 90%) only dream about this enviable and prosperous lifestyle. However, even with all of all the free workout stuff around, scientific advances, hyper-sophisticated apps and supplements, there still so few people in shape. Ever wondered why? The answer is simple.

None of them employ a sensible approach. The majority are stuck procrastinating between indecision and overwhelm, and therefore distract themselves with the closest/easiest distraction – staying perpetually "busy" – but with all of the wrong activities. Having evolved to expecting instant gratification also doesn't help modern-day humans.

Unfortunately the vast majority of conventional fitness offerings are complex and require you to trade your life (as you know it) for being in great shape. In other words, you can't have both – at least not over the long term. I disagree, and it's why I created SFP – a simple and efficient means to achieve (and stay) in excellent physical condition, and still have a life. 

Sustainable Wellness is therefore the holy grail.

I’m both pleased and proud to be able to vouch for SFP first-hand, since it is the very lifestyle I lead. In other words, I use my own product.

Wellness or Well-Being?

Good question! I have lost sleep over the years contemplating this.

The health and fitness industries use these terms interchangeably, and with uncoordinated vagueness. And I’m probably also guilty. I sometimes even use the concept "overall," "total" and "360-degree," when perhaps "well-being" would suffice. Some even talk of "holistic" to infer a complete or rounded state-of-being.

Having carefully (over several years) considered my own modus operandi, contributions and areas of expertise, here’s my take:

To broadly distinguish the terms, you could say that wellness is more practical, where well-being would be more idealistic or utopian.

So for purposes of completeness and accuracy (because I tend to be painfully perfectionistic), I am going to settle on using these terms to mean s-l-i-g-h-t-l-y different things. Because if you think about it specifically, wellness is a partial overlap or subset (if you like) of well-being, which is probably more holistic.

Wellness is the desired and deliberate state of being physically and mentally fit and healthy. Well-being is the perceived existence of a condition of complete health, prosperity and contentment.

Generally, I see the two existences as similar. But whereas wellness relates more to the work, well-being is the ultimate prize.


Wellness means overall well-being.

It is an ongoing process and a life-long journey, not a one-time event. Health Promotion and Wellness, along with many other campus offices, encourages and supports Northwestern students in taking action on all eight interconnected dimensions of wellness in order to build everyday habits, which improve quality of life. It may also help individuals live longer, manage current health conditions, and support recovery from illness, injury, and addiction.Use these links to explore the eight dimensions of wellness and campus resources related to each:

As reported by Ardell DB. Definition of Wellness. Ardell Wellness Report. 1986;18:1–5 Wellness is a dynamic, ever-changing, fluctuating process (13). It is a lifestyle, a personalized approach to living life in a way that allows you to become the best kind of person that your potentials, circumstances, and fate will allow. The past is history; the present and future lie in the choices you make today. Don’t worry about getting it perfect; just get it going, and become the best kind of person you can be. https://umwellness.wordpress.com/8-dimensions-of-wellness/

Wellness is such a broad term and how we think about wellness is affected by our culture and our life experiences. We believe wellness is conscious, self-directed and evolving; holistic and multidimensional; positive and affirming; and inclusive.

All dimensions of wellness need our attention for us to truly flourish. There doesn't have to be a balance among all dimensions. Instead, the goal is to find a personal harmony with the dimensions that is most authentic for you. You can't get there passively, it requires active awareness, acceptance and commitment. It is our hope that the following information about the eight dimensions of wellness will help you get started or refine your wellness plan.

Let's keep the conversation going

I'd love to hear any thoughts you may have on this page or any specific terms covered. I am always open to any feedback, so feel free to suggest, critique or ask away. And if there any terms you might want to know MFR's opinion about, throw those in too.


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