Something the fitness industry doesn’t want you to know is that the underlying principles of physical fitness are neither mysterious nor complex. As with any field of specialized knowledge, there are oceans of nuance within which one could become immersed; however, the average person doesn’t need to know most of that. For most people, the minimum effective dose of knowledge can be boiled down to a very simple checklist.

As is often the case, less can be more. But just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. With that in mind, let’s look at the essential factors that pertain to most people. If you have medical conditions, then you will have to adjust for your own situation; however, most people can focus on this basic fitness equation:

Hydration + Nutrition + Activity + Rest = Results



woman smoothie healthy

Your body is mostly water. As such, every function of your body has a direct relationship to hydration.

The average American is chronically dehydrated. By drinking plenty of water, especially when exercising (and doubly especially when exercising in a hot place with elevated ambient temperatures), you can better maintain body temperature, ensure that energy is supplied to working muscles, access body fat and flush out toxins.


You aren’t necessarily what you eat, since many people have inflamed gastrointestinal tracts that cannot properly digest food. You are what you absorb.

Give your body high-quality, natural foods. Avoid highly processed foods as much as possible.

Hydration and nutrition together account for 75 percent of your success when getting fit. Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables of a variety of colors, nuts and seeds (where allergies don’t prevent their consumption), whole grains and legumes, a variety of natural fats and the high quality, natural proteins of your choice.


exercise man treadmill
A man exercising on a treadmill, public domain, CDC.

Activity is definitely essential. Without exercise, bones become brittle, muscles atrophy and reflexes diminish.

To get results, you don’t have to work out for long sessions, which can, in some instances, undermine progress.

You should, however, seek to challenge your body. The harder you exert yourself (with proper form), the shorter your sessions will be.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) formats can be adapted for cardiovascular, strength and plyometric training. If you are short on time, you can get your daily exercise done in only 15-20 minutes!

Also, progressive calisthenics uses body weight to create strength, endurance and mass without gym equipment. Between HIIT and calisthenics, you can bust through the time, money and space obstacles that seek to undermine your progress.

To create change in the body, you want to feel that you are exhausted, but not out of control. Focus on breath, proper technique and appropriate exertion levels in order to break a sweat, engage your body’s systems and enjoy the benefits of an active lifestyle.


sleeping woman rest
Image via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Rest cannot be overvalued: A huge number of Americans are sleep deprived to one degree or another, and in addition to undermining your general wellness, it also undermines your fitness results. Without adequate rest, your body cannot heal.

You will break down your body when exercising, but it will not become stronger until you rest. Fueling your body provides the material for the repairs that we understand as “strength” or “fitness,” but these changes happen only when you are asleep.

You must get enough sleep, or you will blunt the results of your training. Rest isn’t comprised only of sleep. Days between exhausted body parts counts too.

Simplifying your fitness practice will help you meet your goals. Focus on fuel, form and rest. They are what matter most and yield sustainable results!

info: Jack Kirven completed the MFA in Dance at UCLA, and earned certification as a personal trainer through NASM. His wellness philosophy is founded upon integrated lifestyles as opposed to isolated workouts. Visit him at and He is also a former staff writer for qnotes.

2 replies on ““The Fitness Equation””

  1. Jack,

    Your How to be Healthy infographic overlooks the harmful effects of loneliness, or its converse, meaningful interpersonal realtionships. As you no doubt know, the benefits of healthy eating, physical activity, and emotional balance are all boosted by a healthy social life.

  2. Jack I love that you’re taking a big picture view on wellness. We really need to move our communities’ view of health back from something that’s crisis based to focus on our daily behaviors. I would tho add a few big misses to your chart: 1. Smoking. An estimated 1/3 of LGBTQ people will die early from this. It’s HUGE for us. 2. Seeing that doctor when indicated. It helps us have all the cancer screenings and other wellness care that can avoid problems. and 3. I agree with Ben, social support plays a much bigger role in our health than in others, because we have so much less in some areas.

    Hope you agree with my additions and keep on bringing wellness into the spotlight!
    Dr. Scout
    LGBT HealthLink

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