What Are Health, Fitness, and Exercise?

Google “define fitness” and here’s what you get:

the condition of being physically fit and healthy
“disease and lack of fitness are closely related”

I’m not thrilled by that definition.  Something similar happened when I went searching for clear definitions for health and exercise (though health was seemingly clearer in my mind).

Health and Fitness are often linked together.  We tend to assume that if someone is fit they are also healthy or that as the level of a person’s fitness increases, so does their health.  Think of health and fitness as two separate conditions the human body can be in.  We’re either healthy or we aren’t and likewise we can be fit or not.  Is there a direct link between the two systems?  Can you think of someone who is fit but unhealthy or vice versa?

The Balancing Act

Our bodies are dynamic.  They continuously balance between the states of catabolism (breaking down) and anabolism (building up).  We externally apply factors that affect the two states.  The best definition of health, then, should take into account the catabolic and anabolic processes.

Our adaptive bodies are subject to numerous obstacles each day.  We are exposed to temperature fluctuations, pathogens, mechanical work, and many other challenges.  If we are well equipped to survive our body must be able to adapt to these ever changing demands.  In essence, that’s what fitness should be all about.

The most meaningful definitions of Health and Fitness I’ve come across are from Dr. Doug McGuff.  They are as follows:

Health: A physiological state in which there is an absence of disease or pathology and that maintains the necessary biological balance between catabolic and anabolic states.

Fitness: the bodily state of being physiologically capable of handling challenges that exist above a resting threshold of activity.

The Connection

How does exercise fit into the equation then?  Google’s definition leaves me wanting something more.  Exercise should be more than just any old physical activity right?  It is obvious that some forms of physical activity can produce positive changes in our bodies and that others can also undermine our health.  Based on this concept, Dr. McGuff offers this definition for exercise:

Exercise: A specific activity that stimulates a positive physiological adaptation that serves to enhance fitness and health and does not undermine the latter in the process of enhancing the former.

The Takeaway

Do you think that fitness and health are linked?  I’m of the opinion that it is possible for health and fitness to rise together, at least to a certain optimum point.  Situations could be created where as a person’s fitness level increases, health declines and maybe you can think of some examples where this is the case.

This is the situation we wish to avoid.  We do this by maintaining the balance between the building up (anabolism) and breaking down (catabolism) of the body’s cells.

What Do Health, Fitness, and Exercise Mean To You?

And do you think that your exercise activities support and enhance your health and fitness?  Have any other definitions of health and fitness you’d like to share?  Throw them in the comments!

Note: Dr. Doug McGuff has a thought provoking book, Body by Science, if you’re interested in further reading on Health and Fitness.

The O-Board Says…

5 Rounds of:
3 Cleans Every 2 Minutes

400m Run
5 Cleans
6 C2B Pullups or 2 Muscle Ups

Posted by: Stets