ESL Slang: 30 English Health and Fitness Vocabulary Words

Head, shoulders, knees, toes.

Okay, so you know where each of those body parts is located.

But when you get to the gym or watch an exercise video, the English slang in workout words can be confusing.

This post is exactly what you need to improve your English vocab and get fit at the same time.


30 Slang Words and Phrases for English Health and Fitness 

Let’s start with the idea of fitness.

Frequently fitness is shortened to fit. A person who has strong muscles and little fat on his or her body is called fit.

It makes sense that if people are physically fit then their bodies have a pleasing shape. A healthy person who is fit is said to be in good shape.

However, someone who gets out of breath running up the stairs might admit to being in bad shape. Once they start exercising, they are working on getting back into shape.

To get into good shape, you have to do workouts, which basically means physical training or exercises. Jillian Michaels is the workout video queen.

ESL Slang for your Workout Routine

The slang words used in workout videos can be tough (difficult) because like fit, the words can be short versions of longer, more technical terms.

Learning slang is best done by watching English media made for native speakers. For example, online programs like FluentU have authentic videos (including workout videos) filled with English slang for you to study. Listen to the context in which native speakers actually use this vocabulary.

The abdomen is the belly area between your chest and hips, just above and just below your navel. Abs is simply the short word for it.

Here’s an idiom for you: six-pack abs. That means someone whose belly muscles are so well defined that his or her abs look like the top of six pack of soda (or beer). The muscles are so tight that they ripple.

That leads to the next slang word: ripped. Lots of English word experts debate whether ripped comes from ripple, as in little breaks on water, or rip, as in cut cleanly. Either way, ripped means very clear muscle definition.

The word tone has to do with sound waves in music and something similar in exercise. Muscle tone has to do with how tight or loose muscles appear. Someone with good tone has those defined muscles. Someone with weak muscle tone does not have much strength. To say someone is toned is a more formal way to describe someone as muscular.

A great exercise to build muscle tone in your abs is called the crunch. A crunch is forcing two things to come together. Here, a crunch means to lean forward and tighten your ab muscles. Sit-ups are sometimes called crunches.

If you are going to repeat an exercise like a crunch, you are doing reps. Reps are just short for the word repeat. You might repeat an exercise 10 times, take a break, then do another ten. You might do two sets of ten reps. Sets just mean group.

If you are trying to exercise to lose weight, you are trying to shed pounds. That literally means to get rid of fat. But if you want to lose fat fast and are going to exercise very hard, you are on a shred. That means you are trying to tear the fat off your body and build muscle in an intense workout.

The fat around the side of your body is sometimes called a spare tire. In other words, you look like you are wearing a tire around your middle. If you are trying to lose weight, you might say you are trying to get rid of my spare tire.

At the beginning of your workout, you do stretching exercises to loosen tight muscles. These are called warm-ups because you literally are warming your body. At the end of the workout when you are very heated, you do more stretches to cool down your hot muscles.

Your workout gear includes all the tools you need for your exercise. Doing Pilates or yoga: your gear includes a mat. Doing weightlifting: your gear might be barbells. Playing tennis: you will need a racquet. A water bottle should always be part of your gear.

English Vocabulary Running Tips

Running is also called jogging in English. Regardless of which word you pick, jogging is one of the least expensive (cheapest) forms of exercise. All you need are a good pair of running shoes.

A whole new set of English words becomes important when you run for exercise.

You might want to do a fun run. That’s a race that is all about having fun and less about finishing first. A fun run is most often a 5K, meaning the course goes for five kilometers.

Color Runs are becoming hugely popular. Runners wear white T-shirts and become covered in yellow, purple, blue, and pink chalk while going through the course.  Color Runs are advertised as the happiest 5K on the planet.  Chances are good that a Color Run is scheduled for your city.

Mud Runs are very, very challenging. Usually, they involve working as a team to get through an extreme obstacle course.  Getting everybody on your team through the events is part of the game. On Tough Mudder courses, you might have to swim through ice or haul logs up steep hills. The Dirty Girl Runs are just for women.

Want to have a leisurely run through your hometown while being chased by zombies. Then the Zombie Run might be just for you. (A zombie is a character you might see in a horror movie or a haunted house. Zombies are people raised from the dead by witchcraft.)

To get ready for any of these runs, you have to train. A training routine simply is the plan you have for preparing for a race.  You want to build up your endurance meaning you want to work on running farther and farther. Dedicated runners try to improve their time, meaning they try to go farther in less time. The speed that you run is called setting a pace. Usually, you would describe your pace as minutes per mile or kilometers.

You want to build your strength so that you do not get tired or wear yourself out. That’s another way of saying you have exercised so hard that you are exhausted.

Healthy Living English Idioms

Once you are exercising, there are lots of useful English idioms for being healthy:

Clean Bill of Health: That means someone has been to the doctor and the doctor says he or she is healthy. Some word experts think this phrase dates back to the time when a ship captain would have a paper stating that no one on board had the plague. Otherwise, the ship would not be allowed to dock at a port.

Fit as a Fiddle: You are really in good health. Fiddle is another word for violin and fit is used to mean suitable or acceptable. In the 1600s in England, you were fit as a fiddle if you were dressed nicely for a party.

New Lease on Life: You have been sick but are feeling much better. A lease is the length of time you can rent something, say an apartment or a car.  To get a new lease on life means you have new opportunities for better things.

Prime of Life: You are in the best health of your adult life. You are not young anymore, but you are still strong and now wise. New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter is said to be in the prime of life as he retires.


So get out there and enjoy your workout. You have a lot of new English vocabulary words to try out along the way.

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe