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A Love-Hate Relationship

by Rebecca K. Oliver, SSWAA Executive Director

I have a love-hate relationship with fitness. As a youth, I played many sports. Starting in the 5th grade, I played basketball, volleyball, and softball which continued through high school. In college, I played intramural sports. And in adulthood, I joined a gym, took up running, and played in adult sports leagues. I truly have a love for sports and enjoy the feeling after a good, hard work-out. But, so many times, I dread the time, energy, and sweat that is required! And, if I'm being honest, as I have aged, I also hate the pain and soreness that often accompany my fitness journey.

Fitness is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Just about everywhere you look (social media, television, billboards) you will see advertisements for fitness gear and fitness products. In addition to fitness products, our “news feeds” are also often filled with the latest diet, tips for increased energy, or sometimes a medication or supplement that is touted as helpful for an “ailment” that may be related to health or fitness challenges.

The fitness industry seems to capture our attention, time, and money. Looking at some 2019 statistics, the fitness industry saw revenues in the United States of just over $35 billion. Worldwide, there are over 200,000 Health & Fitness Clubs. Over 40,000 of those are in the United States, with over 64 million Americans belonging to one of those clubs. It is reported that 6.1 million people participate in at least 2 fitness classes per month. The average American adult spends $155 per month on fitness for a lifetime total over $110,000. ¹

WHAT is physical fitness?

Varying definitions of fitness exist. A simple and direct definition is: “Physical fitness refers to the ability of your body systems to work together efficiently to allow you to be healthy and perform activities of daily living.”² Some other definitions added that fitness includes being able to perform the activities involved in one’s daily life without undue fatigue. So, for many professionals, that might mean that when physically fit, they are able to do their professional job, go home and cook dinner, clean up, and have enough energy left to play with their kids or go for an evening walk/bike ride.

While agreement varies on the components included in fitness, 5 well cited components include: cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition.

According to an article on Medical News Today, “Cardiorespiratory endurance measures how well the body performs during long periods of exercise. A person with high cardiorespiratory endurance can sustain high-intensity activities over an extended period without getting tired.”³ Part of cardiovascular endurance includes how well the body takes in oxygen and gets it to the body’s muscles and tissue. Without good delivery of oxygen to the body to complete the work, the body experiences fatigue.

The next two components are related to the fitness of one’s muscular structure. What is the difference between muscular strength and muscular endurance? “Muscle strength is the ability to exert a maximal amount of force for a short period of time. Think about lifting that heavy box when moving – that requires strength. Muscle endurance is the ability to do something over and over for an extended period of time without getting tired.”⁴

Flexibility is critical to fitness as well. Flexibility means having a full range of motion without pain. There are many health benefits associated with flexibility and 6 of them are outlined in the referenced article including fewer injuries, less pain, better posture and balance, a positive state of mind, greater strength, and improved physical performance.⁵

The final component of fitness is body composition. Body composition considers the make-up of one’s body, specifically regarding the percentage of body fat and muscle.

“There is no shortcut. It takes time to create a better, stronger version of yourself.” -Unknown

Many individuals prioritize physical fitness and carve out time that is devoted to improving their fitness and overall health. Many of these concepts can be applied to one’s professional life as well.

  • In a career such as School Social Work, it is important to be able to efficiently carry out the duties of our daily career without undue fatigue. Students, families, and colleagues are depending on us!

  • Endurance is key in offering services to students, families, and colleagues – meeting short-term and ongoing needs.

  • Strength of will is critical as we are often called upon to meet immediate needs and intervene in crisis situations.

  • Flexibility is in high demand as we bend and stretch to meet unexpected needs and to nimbly respond to job demands.

“Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most.” - Unknown

As we prepare to enter a new school year, how will you focus on your professional fitness? What time and resources will you devote to building your endurance, strength, and flexibility? What resources are needed to achieve professional fitness? What regimen will assist you in building your professional fitness?




Come flex your professional muscles with us at SSWAA’s Regional 2-day Workshop, October 4 & 5: Professionally Fit & Fabulous!

Coming Soon: Watch for part 2 of our Fitness blog which will reflect upon HOW fitness is achieved.


Rebecca K. Oliver is the Executive Director of the School Social Work Association of America. Prior to becoming the Executive Director, Mrs. Oliver served on the SSWAA Board of Directors and has over 20 years experience working as a school social worker. In her current role with SSWAA, Rebecca is able to support school social workers across the nation and advocate for the profession about which she is so passionate. When not working, Rebecca enjoys traveling with her husband Jon, singing, running, reading, doing home-improvements, and outdoor activities including walks with her two dogs, Abby & Buddy.

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