Physical fitness refers to one's overall measure of physical, bodily health; it is typically made up of things such as cardiovascular endurance and body composition, as well as overall muscular strength and stamina. Fitness is often broken down into two categories. These are general fitness, also known as health related fitness, as well as specific fitness, also known as performance, or skill related fitness.
General fitness refers to one's overall levels of health, such as those measures mentioned above, including overall endurance. Specific fitness, on the other hand, refers to one's ability to perform specific physical tasks, as related to one's occupation or when playing sports. There is no standard definition for fitness, whether one is referring to general or specific fitness, and different measures or skill levels might lead to different conclusions. Cardiovascular measures as well as body composition measures are some of the most commonly used definitions for determining whether or not someone is physically fit.
When cardiovascular endurance is used to determine one's fitness level, the heart rate is the measure that is often used. Resting heart rate, as well as the maximum heart rate that one achieves, are important when determining cardiovascular health; a measure of the amount of time it takes the heart rate to return to its resting pace after exercise is a good indicator as well. Body composition is another measure of fitness; this refers to one's weight as well as Body Mass Index, or BMI. Genetics play a large part in body composition, which is why a BMI analysis of the percentage of fat versus muscle in the body is a more accurate measure of body composition than just weight.
Other measures of physical fitness are more subjective, such as muscular strength, flexibility, or speed. Skills required to perform a certain job, or play a sport, will also differ for each individual situation. One person's standards of fitness may be drastically different from another's, but they may be equally physically fit. Achieving good fitness takes regular, persistent work; it does not happen overnight, but instead happens gradually over a period of time, generally with a combination of aerobic, strength training, and stretching exercises. A physician or a trainer at a gym may be able to offer specific fitness tests designed to give an individual a clear picture of his or her areas of strength, and where he might need to improve.