Merriam-Webster defines physical fitness as “good health and strength achieved through exercise.” But what exactly does that mean?

In the real world, the definition of being physically fit varies from person to person. For some, it means meeting the physical activity guidelines to stay healthy. For others, it means being an Olympic athlete and among the fittest people on the planet. This wide range also exists within the military, where desk workers need to be active and fit enough to pass their Service’s physical fitness test, but Special Operations forces need to be in superior shape in order to operate as independent small teams in taxing environments.

Whether your goal is simply to stay moderately active or to achieve elite-level fitness, the basic recommendation is the same for all Americans: Each week engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular or cardiorespiratory activity (these have slight differences) plus two resistance training sessions to maintain muscle and bone health. The goal is to keep your heart strong and your body composition within a healthy range.

Along with supporting good physical health, physical fitness maintains other aspects of Total Force Fitness:

Staying active helps improve mental health and can reduce your risk of depression and anxiety

Activity helps with weight maintenance when paired with a healthy eating pattern

Having a fitness battle buddy builds social support. And for children it’s especially helpful while they’re growing and learning valuable social skills.

When it comes to improving and maintaining physical fitness, start by setting SMART goals based on what level you need to be at for work and what level you want to be at in your personal life. If a base level of fitness is where you need to be to perform optimally, great. Get moving and keep moving! If you have a more demanding job or your fitness goal is to be very fit, make your PT functional and align your workouts with your job tasks. Most service members will be somewhere in the middle, requiring regular exercise that helps them do more than simply maintain their health. No matter what your goals are, start with the basics by improving your muscular endurance. This creates the foundation for the higher-intensity resistance training you’ll need to do to improve your strength and power.

For more information about optimizing your physical performance, visit Human Performance Resources by CHAMP’s Training & Performance section at