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The difference between health and fitness

Hadyn Luke posted this on Monday 13th of August 2018 Hadyn Luke 13/08/2018

Tags: Anatomy and physiology

difference between H and F large

Health and fitness are often talked about in the same way but there is a difference.

People who exercise regularly – whether taking part in competitive sports, attending fitness classes or working out with a personal trainer – are often presumed to be both fit and healthy.

However, a gym fanatic who is a heavy smoker, doesn’t get enough sleep or struggles to manage stress, could see the quality of their health affected.

What is the definition of health?

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”.

Our bodies are designed to promote health through adjusting and adapting to changes through a process called homeostasis. This controls the stability of our internal functions (see our blogs on The Central Nervous System, The Endocrine System and Key Hormones).

What makes us healthy?

Being free from disease or injury is just one aspect of health. Our overall health can be affected by our physical fitness but also by our mental wellbeing.

Exercise can boost endorphins, increase confidence and improve mental health (see our blog on Exercise and Mental Health, Yoga and Mental Health and The Benefits of Swimming). It can benefit all of us in one way or another, including those with specific disabilities (see our blog on: Exercise for Those With Mobility Issues).

Wellbeing can be promoted by other areas of your life, including:

  • Ensuring you have a good work/life balance
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Having a strong network of friends and family and spending time with them
  • Having someone to love and being loved
  • Enjoying hobbies and pastimes
  • Taking time to relax, having time to yourself
  • Owning a pet
  • Spending time outdoors

While we all have concerns, worries and issues that we face in daily life, what’s important is how we deal with them.

What’s the definition of fitness?

Many definitions of fitness also mention health, as being fit usually does promote a healthy lifestyle. However, fitness is about meeting the needs of the environment and is personal to each individual. For example, an elite athlete would have a high level of fitness, whereas someone who has recently given birth would have different expectations of their body and fitness levels.

Fitness Programmes for Older Adults is currently number nine in the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2018, recognising the benefits this can bring to our rapidly ageing population, including those with restricted movement 

Additionally, some people are naturally active in their job; not only those in the fitness industry, such as personal trainers, fitness instructors, dance teachers and athletes, but also those in careers such as fire fighting, landscape gardening, agricultural work, bike courier.

The components of fitness

Both fitness and health are best promoted by a range of different kinds of exercise and movement. Fitness blogs have listed and grouped these in a variety of ways; here’s our top eight (in no particular order): 

  1. Cardiovascular endurance
  2. Muscular strength
  3. Muscular endurance
  4. Muscular Power
  5. Agility
  6. Flexibility
  7. Balance
  8. Co-ordination
  9. Body Composition
  10. Speed
  11. Reaction Time

Following a particular training regime can have an impact on other areas of your fitness, for example someone training for lifting heavy weights will not be able to develop their cardiovascular fitness as much as an endurance runner and vice versa.

Many regular gym goers focus on some areas of fitness but neglect others, such as working on CV fitness, muscular strength and endurance and body composition, while neglecting areas like balance, agility, flexibility and co-ordination.

More recently, there has been increased interest in functional training (see our blog on Functional Training), with the focus on making it easier for individuals to carry out everyday activities.

Conclusion

Whether you are a personal trainer or the person being trained, it’s helpful to have an awareness of the difference between health and fitness, an understanding of the various components of fitness, and the importance of promoting wellbeing and mental health.

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