Dictionary of Common Fitness Terms

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This article was edited and updated on October 23, 2018.

  1. Burn: Lactic acid build-up in the muscles while exercising. This is a good thing as it means muscle building is happening.
  2. Cardiorespiratory: The circulatory and respiratory systems supplying oxygen to skeletal muscles during sustained physical activity.
  3. Cardiovascular system: The heart and blood vessels transporting nutrients and oxygen.
  4. Cool down: Lowering the body temperature following exercise.
  5. Dehydration: Excessive loss of body water while exercising.
  6. DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness): Muscle soreness that appears 12 to 48 hours after exercise. It is not known exactly what causes it, but it does go away.
  7. Endurance: The body's ability to resist fatigue.
  8. Endorphins: Hormones that are manufactured in the body and released during exercise; they contribute to a natural feeling of well-being.
  9. Exercise, Aerobic: Increases the body's need for oxygen by using large muscle groups continuously for at least 10 minutes. Anaerobic means “without oxygen.”
  10. Exercise, Isometric: An exercise in which the muscles exert force but do not visibly change in length. For example, placing hands together and pushing.
  11. Exercise, Isotonic: An exercise in which the muscles exert force and change in length as they lift and lower resistance. For example, bicep curl with free weights.
  12. Flexibility: The amount of movement possible at a joint, defined as range of motion.
  13. Heart rate: Work done by the heart usually determined by beats per minute.
  14. High impact: Activities that place more stress on the bones and joints. Examples: running and step aerobics.
  15. Hyperextension: An extension beyond the normal anatomical position, an unnatural bend of the joint. Hyperextension can damage the joint.
  16. Muscle Cramp: A sudden, involuntary contraction of a muscle or a muscle group.
  17. Overtraining: Going beyond the natural limitations of your body — doing too much.
  18. Perceived Exertion: A subjective rating of how hard you're working, based primarily on how laboured a person’s breathing is while also evaluating the level of fatigue. 2
  19. Range of Motion: The full distance and direction a joint can move.
  20. Repetition: One complete movement of an exercise. For example, one bicep curl.
  21. Resistance training: Using weights and bands to increase the body's strength, power, and muscular endurance.
  22. Set: A fixed number of repetitions of an exercise. For example, 10 bicep curls.
  23. Stretch, Ballistic: A vigorous stretch which uses a swinging motion suitable only for highly conditioned athletes, generally not used with older adults.
  24. Stretch, Static: A stretch that is held for several seconds without movement.
  25. Warm up: Light movements intended to get the body ready for physical activity.

See also:

I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.

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  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. 

  2. See also: Perceived Exertion Scale: How to tell when You're in the Zone