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First Appeared in:
The Sunday Oregonian, Health, Fitness & Beauty, February 8, 1998, pages 2-3.

Oregonain Health and Fitness article

These Days, Fitness is Defined by Each Individual

by Nancy McCarthy

Special Writer to the Oregonian

For many people, a new year inspires a new determination to become physically fit. But what does "fitness" mean?

Fitness, say the experts, is a state of mind. While weight, muscle tone and nutrition do play a part in keeping fit, nowadays fitness is much more than that.

"Fifty years ago, fitness meant weight loss," said Patti Paxson, owner of Resort to Fitness, a health club devoted exclusively to women. "it's different now; we have a lot of fit women here that are carrying some weight, but they are fit physically, mentally and spiritually.

In essence, being fit is feeling the best about yourself, others say.

"It's feeling like you're at your optimum level of energy," said Tony Tully, a trainer at 24-Hour Fitness Hollywood Center.

"You have to feel good about yourself," Tully added. "Fitness for each person is different. Everybody has a different background, everybody has different needs."

Someone may look fit but may be metabollcally unhealthy, said Gretchen Newmark, a licensed dietician in private practice. If people think that exercise is all they need to be fit, they could be fooling themselves, she added. Over-exercise and undereating could result in injuries or ailments ranging from stress fractures to amenorrhea, the absence of menstruation.

"Somebody could look incredible and be an Olympic athlete, but on a health level, they could be a disaster." Newmark said.

Reducing stress

Stress reduction also plays a big part in being fit, said Rick Allen, a Portland chiropractor who treats sports injuries and performs sports massage. From 50 to 80 percent of those who visit physicians complain about stress, Allen said. The key to long-term health is a proper balance -- physical, chemical, emotional and spiritual, Allen said.

"Stress can take the form of a tight upper back and neck and digestive problems. The whole body changes. We work best when we have regular rhythms -- sleeping, waking, meditation and prayer. They all are important," he added.

Fitness means different things at different ages, noted Erika Krieg, fitness director at 24-Hour Fltness in downtown Portland. "For a senior citizen, it may be being able to reach behind your head to comb your hair. For a person of 25, It may mean body composition, and for someone in between, fitness could mean the ability to go hiking with the kids on the weekend.

The effort to become fit shouldn't become drudgery. Think of the benefits fitnesss brings besides weight loss -- extended life, increased strength, improved blood flow and an increased lung capacity.

It means improved self-esteem because you're doing something for yourself," said Edna Flscher, fitness director at Resort to Fitness.

When a person decides to set goals to become more fit, several things need to be considered, the experts say. Here are a few suggestions:

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