Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.

Before the industrial revolution, fitness was defined as the capacity to carry out the day’s activities without undue fatigue. However, with automation and changes in lifestyles physical fitness is now considered a measure of the body's ability to function efficiently and effectively in work and leisure activities, to be healthy, to resist hypokinetic diseases, and to meet emergency situations.[4]
To exercise, work, do daily chores and play sports, you’ll need varying levels of cardiorespiratory capacity and stamina, muscle strength and endurance, footwork skills and speed. Training for one type of fitness often requires different types of exercises than training for another type of fitness. For example, strength training uses heavy weights and slower muscle movements than sprint training, which is performed with little resistance and high-speed muscle movements. These different types of fitness workouts recruit different muscle fibers and burn different amounts of fat and glycogen. It's best to focus on strength and endurance exercise during a sport off-season, and work on speed and recovery during the preseason and in season.
A comprehensive fitness program tailored to an individual typically focuses on one or more specific skills,[7] and on age-[8] or health-related needs such as bone health.[9] Many sources[10] also cite mental, social and emotional health as an important part of overall fitness. This is often presented in textbooks as a triangle made up of three points, which represent physical, emotional, and mental fitness. Physical fitness can also prevent or treat many chronic health conditions brought on by unhealthy lifestyle or aging.[11] Working out can also help some people sleep better and possibly alleviate some mood disorders in certain individuals.[12]
Possibly one of the most important parts of fitness training is flexibility and mobility. Flexibility is the ability of your muscles to stretch, and mobility is being able to move your joints and tissues through their full range of motion. Both are important to athletic performance and for avoiding injury. Muscles and joints that are flexible and mobile — as well as strong — are much less susceptible to sprains and other injuries.

Gymnasiums which would seem familiar today began to become increasingly common in the 19th Century. The industrial revolution had led to a more sedentary lifestyle for many people and there was an increased awareness that this had the potential to be harmful for health. This was a key motivating factor for the forming of a physical culture movement, especially in Europe and the USA. This movement advocated increased levels of physical fitness for men, women and children and sought to do so through various forms of indoor and outdoor activity, and education. In many ways it laid the foundations for modern fitness culture.[50]

Physical fitness has always been important part of life. It is theorised that when people left a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and formed fixed communities based around agriculture that physical fitness levels declined. This is not to say that levels of physical labour decreased but that the type of work undertaken was not necessarily as conducive to a general level of fitness. As such, regimented fitness regimes were either invented or became more common. This was especially the case in classical civilisations such as Ancient Greece and Rome. In Greece especially physical fitness was considered to be an essential component of a healthy life and it was the norm for men to frequent a gymnasium. Physical fitness regimes were also considered to be of paramount importance in a nation's ability to train soldiers and field an effective military force. Partly for these reasons, organised fitness regimes have been in existence throughout known history and evidence of them can be found in many countries.

For physical fitness activity to benefit an individual, the exertion triggers a response called a stimulus. Exercise with the correct amount of intensity, duration, and frequency can produce a significant amount of improvement. The person may overall feel better, but the physical effects on the human body take weeks or months to notice and possibly years for full development. For training purposes, exercise must provide a stress or demand on either a function or tissue. To continue improvements, this demand must eventually increase little over an extended period of time. This sort of exercise training has three basic principles: overload, specificity, and progression. These principles are related to health but also enhancement of physical working capacity.[24]
The US guidelines continue: For additional and more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.[14]
New (July 2011) guidelines in the United Kingdom include the following points: The intensity at which we exercise is key, and light activity such as strolling and housework is unlikely to have much positive impact on the health of most people. For aerobic exercise to be beneficial it must raise your heartbeat and make you sweat. The more exercise you do, the better. Everyone should do a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise but that really is the minimum for health benefits. If you can go beyond 150 minutes, you’ll gain even more health benefits. Sedentary time (time spent sitting down to watch TV, use a computer, read or listen to music) is bad for your health, even for those who are achieving 150 minutes of exercise a week. These guidelines, are now much more in line with those used in the US, also include recommendations for muscle-building and bone strengthening activities such as lifting weights and yoga.