The terms “health” and “fitness” are thrown around very easily but is there a difference between the two? Which is more important? What do the terms actually mean?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of: “complete physical, mental and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
There are several factors that contribute to health including, energy and recovery, nutrition, exercise and movement, and reducing the impact of toxins. Our bodies are designed to promote health through adjusting and adapting to changes, and aiming for a state where all the systems of the body function efficiently.
When it comes to fitness, many definitions also mention health and therefore fitness could be viewed as a sub-category of health. Being “fit” can promote a healthy lifestyle, however, fitness is about meeting the needs of the environment and is therefore individual to each person. For example, an elite athlete could have a high level of fitness, but be performing with injuries or be struggling with mental health issues. In comparison, someone who has recently given birth would have different expectations of their body and fitness levels.
Generally speaking, and unfortunately, the fitness industry are focused on weight loss and muscle tone and therefore the aesthetics of our bodies. People can eat well and exercise, yet can still struggle with digesting food or energy fluctuations. Nutrition and exercise are essential factors but we need to view the human body as more than just fat and muscle ratios.
Health can be considered as a much broader term and will vary from individual to individual. As the definition of health can include being free from disease and injury, there are various lifestyle factors that will reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases. Having an average body fat % and body mass index (BMI), keeping your cholestorol, blood sugar, and blood pressure at recommended levels, practising good sleep and recovery, should all assist you in being healthy. However, this will also depend on your description of what you “feel” is healthy.
Essentially, there are differences between the terms health and fitness, but also plenty of crossover. Good nutrition should aid a healthy weight, exercising can maintain a high level of fitness, finding time to rest, recover and sleep will aid your mental health; combined together, these factors will aid in being healthy. Overall, health and fitness is about finding a way to live in a better state every day; this should mean feeling happy, pain-free, aiming to eat well, and find an enjoyable way to move often.