Most people believe being healthy and being fit are one and the same. In reality, they can be separate states of physical being. You can be really fit, and not very healthy, and you can be very healthy and not very fit. The best benefits are found with trying to get a balance out of both sides, this requires us to identify the difference between fitness and health.
So let’s define the difference. Health has been defined by the World Health Organisation as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It includes aging well, longevity, quality of life, freedom from pain etc.
Fitness, on the other hand, is defined as a set of attributes that people have or achieve that relates to the ability to perform physical activity. Fitness is made up of many components, and the following factors need to be considered when discussing fitness levels:
1. Endurance (Cardiovascular and Cardio-Respiratory): This is your body’s ability to use and deliver oxygen to your body.
2. Stamina (Muscular Endurance): This is your body’s ability to store, process, and use energy.
3. Strength: This is the ability of your muscles or a muscular unit to apply force.
4. Flexibility: The ability to maximize the range of motion of a joint.
5. Power: The ability of your muscles to maximize their force in a minimum amount of time.
6. Speed: The ability to minimize the amount of time it takes you to accomplish a task or movement.
7. Coordination: The ability to combine several different movement patterns in a single distinct movement.
8. Accuracy: The ability to control a movement in a given direction or intensity.
9. Agility: The ability to minimize the time going from one movement to another.
10. Balance: The ability to control the centre of gravity of your body in relation to your support base.
Fitness involves activity of some sort that stimulates various systems of the body and maintains a certain condition within the body. Health, on the other hand, involves every system of the body and is only achieved through a lifestyle that supports health. For instance, if a client of mine tells me that they have neglected to eat properly, ignored the fat content, and ate mostly processed foods, all the exercise in the world couldn’t possibly correct the damage done from such a lifestyle. Exercise won’t remove the damage from chemicals, or improve immune system damage or weakness from depleted foods. Only sound nutrition can support good health. Of course, fitness can ALSO support health and WILL improve health if it is part of a WAY OF LIFE. Our health is mainly the result of thousands of daily nutritional decisions.
As you continue on your personal health journey, or if you are just getting back on track, ask yourself this simple question: “Am I on the road to becoming fit and healthy, or just fit?” If your answer is “just fit,” try incorporating other aspects of wellness into a more comprehensive plan that revolves around the combination of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. If it is simply healthy to get the doctor off your back, ask yourself what can I do to achieve more and live life to the fullest? Healthy is good but if you can’t walk up the stairs without puffing and being tired all day, or enjoy a holiday, whats its worth? Talk to your Exercise Physiologist and ensure you are addressing both sides of the equation, set both health and fitness/performance goals. Then step back and watch as you thrive.