Exercise and cancer

Defining fitness and physical activity levels

March 24, 2022 Word for Word Media 0Comment

What does fitness mean to you? Biokineticist, Wendy Vermaak, explains the 12 principles of fitness to help you measure your fitness.

There are many examples of what we would deem as fit and we often measure ourselves against that standard. 

If you are fighting a cancer diagnosis, undergoing treatment or recovering from treatment, your view of fitness might be more relevant to you at your current state as a person, as opposed to comparative to some elite athlete. 

Let’s compare different examples of fitness. For instance, would you say that a Comrades Marathon runner is fit? What about Arnold Schwarzenegger as a professional body builder? What about an Olympic sumo wrestler versus a gymnast. I’m sure you would agree that all of these examples display fitness, though don’t function with the same types of fitness. This brings us to the 12 principles of fitness. 

12 principles of fitness

Cardiovascular endurance

Best described in the case of a marathon runner. This is where the body and heart’s fitness condition can withstand long stretches of highly aerobic exercise.

Muscular strength

This refers to the capacity of the muscle to perform a required physical task. This might refer to an activity of daily living, right up to the optimal capacity of performing at Olympic sports level.

Muscular endurance

This would best be described by those who have muscular strength, such as those who perform gym and muscle building exercise but can do this performance for longer durations of time, as well as frequently, without tiring.


Could best be described by an athlete doing a quick short burst of performance. For instance, long jump or Strongman competitors.


Think about the rugby wing sidestepping, zig-zagging and dodging around opponents in their dash to the try line.


This is the ability to perform the movement for your chosen activity as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Reaction time

This is required for any timed athletic competition or for any race, be it running, Moto GP, or horseracing jockeys.


A great example would be dancing, or a rhythmic gymnast.

Static balance

The ability to maintain your balance whilst staying still. For instance, balancing on one leg.

Dynamic balance

This is the ability to maintain your balance whilst moving as well, such as when moving quickly across stepping stones, or a rickety bridge, or on a tight-rope.


Yoga is what often first comes to mind as the activity that has a large focus on flexibility and muscle stretching.

Body composition

This is referred to as a component of fitness in that muscle and bone (healthy body weight) versus fat (where too much can be unhealthy body weight) has an impact on your physiological health, tolerance, and capacity for performance of physical activity. This would be a factor whether underweight with healthy tissue (e.g. muscles and bones), and/or overweight with unhealthy tissue (excess fat).

How do you measure up with each of these components? 

As can be seen with these various components, there are different elements to being fit. Many activities whether recreational or structured sport, require quite a few of these components for safe, enjoyable and beneficial physical activity. 

The World Health Organisation recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, but also stipulates that any exercise, no matter how little, is still better than none. 

Perhaps you need a different challenge or to vary things a bit? 

A biokineticist is a specialist healthcare professional who uses exercise and movement to treat and prevent ill health, whether for prevention, or during cancer treatment, or post treatment recovery. They can advise you on a scientifically-based, individualised programme to suit your current level of fitness and guide you to better, fitter health. The programme would guide on specifics according to the principles of fitness: F = Frequency, I = Intensity, T=Type, and T= Time. To find a biokineticist, visit biokineticsSA.org.za

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To find a biokineticist near you, go to www.biokineticsSA.org.za