Specific or task-oriented fitness is a person's ability to perform in a specific activity with a reasonable efficiency: for example, sports or military service. Specific training prepares athletes to perform well in their sports.

Examples are:

  • 100 m sprint: in a sprint the athlete must be trained to work anaerobically throughout the race, an example of how to do this would be interval training.
  • Marathon: in this case the athlete must be trained to work aerobically and their endurance must be built-up to a maximum.
  • Many fire fighters and police officers undergo regular fitness testing to determine if they are capable of the physically demanding tasks required of the job
  • Members of armed forces will often be required to pass a formal fitness test - for example soldiers of the US Army must be able to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT).
  • Hill sprints: requires a level of fitness to begin with, the exercise is particularly good for the leg muscles. The army often trains doing mountain climbing and races.

In order for physical fitness to benefit the health of an individual, an unknown response in the person called a stimulus will be triggered by the exertion. When exercise is performed with the correct amount of intensity, duration and frequency, a significant amount of improvement can occur. The person will overall feel better but the physical effects on the human body take weeks, months, or even years to be noticed or fully developed. For training purposes, exercise must provide a stress or demand on either a function or tissue. To continue improvements, this demand must eventually increase little over an extended period of time. This sort of exercise training has three basic principles: overload, specificity, and progression. These principles are related to health but also enhancement of physical working capacity (Blair, 1993).

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