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Does thin mean fit?


I have a friend who doesn't do any cardio workouts at all but still insists that she is physically fit simply because she is thin.  Is this possible?


Although maintaining a healthy body weight is important, it should not be confused with being physically fit.  There are many individuals who appear thin but actually have a high percentage of body fat relative to lean body mass and/or who have very little stamina or fitness.  There are different components that comprise the state of being physically fit.  In addition to a healthy body composition (i.e., percent body fat), they include:

  • Cardiorespiratory Endurance – the ability of the heart, lungs, and vascular system to work together to transfer gases (O2 and CO2) and waste products within the body during activity.

  • Muscular Endurance, Power and Strength – the ability of the muscles to contract and generate force repeatedly.

  • Flexibility – the range of motion around joints.

It is quite possible to be very active but slightly overweight and still be better off from the perspective of disease risk and quality of life than individuals who are thin but sedentary.  Simply being thin does not protect you from sedentary lifestyle diseases, nor does it allow you to participate at high levels in various activities that require physical exertion.  Only physical activity can train and condition your body.  A healthy lifestyle and fitness program should include the major physical fitness components as stated above.  They all contribute to a well-rounded, physically fit body.

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Our expert, Dr. Sharon E. Griffin, holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in the areas of exercise science/physiology.  She also holds a second M.S. degree in Nutrition and is a licensed nutritionist and an ACSM certified health and fitness instructor.

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