Health Vs. Fitness: And Everything In Between!

Health Vs. Fitness: And Everything In Between!

Oct 06, 2020Kareen Jaber

It’s not uncommon to confuse fitness with health. The two are intricately intertwined. In reality, fitness constitutes a large chunk of a healthy lifestyle. Before we go any further, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves: what does a healthy lifestyle look like? How can I know if I am considered healthy, fit, both or neither?

What is health and is there one global standard?

Health is defined as your physical, mental, and social state of being. It is determined by your genetics, environment, relationships and education. One must make the distinction between standard health and optimal health. Historically speaking, health has been standardized as the absence of disease, focusing mainly on obesity scorings, BMI ratings, and longevity rankings as a means of measure. However, a more recent approach to optimal health quantifies it in terms of high physical energy and a high vibrational mental state. In other words, how truly alive are you and are your body and mind in sync? Do you practice mindfulness and how does that bring you mental clarity, an improved mood, and a strengthened immunity? When you experience such a state of being, your physical, mental, and social state are in unity, and you are able to dodge and bounce back from illnesses/injuries very rapidly, manage stress efficiently, and age gracefully! Eating right for your body, being physically active, managing your weight, and managing your stress levels are all key factors in determining your overall optimal wellbeing. It is fundamental to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Global standards of optimal health hang loosely as the latest wellness trends & research prove that health is quite subjective and relative.

So if health is subjective, how do I make the right decisions on a daily basis?

In today’s age, health is largely determined by our education and awareness. That’s right! Knowledge is power and the vast majority of the modern world’s population has been kept in the dark when it comes to living healthy. This is largely due to an ever-increasing, fast-paced globalized consumerist economy, distorted false mass media and profit-centric industries. Online grocery-picking and food delivery services have made the decision-making process swift and simple and we should thank technology for that. But do we ever stop to ask how varied and healthy are the options we are given? Why are kids swamped with sugary drinks, cereals and confectionary as a staple diet? Why are we not told at a young age what GMO, MSG and additives mean? And most critically, why have we lost 93% of variety in our food globally? If this comes as a surprise to you, let’s take a look at the main ingredient in every salad bowl: Lettuce. In 1903, around 500 varieties of lettuce existed. By 1983, there were just 36 left. Today when visiting your local grocery store, you will probably find just 4 types. The same goes for all the vegetable and fruit families. What are the implications of this on our health? In a nutshell, it means that maintaining a well-varied nutrient-rich diet is becoming more challenging as we continue to eat from an ever-shrinking variety of soil-depleted natural foods and where processed foods make up a large bulk of our diet. Fret not! There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and thankfully due to health activists and wellness advocates there is a growing awareness of this health epidemic and the tides are turning in our favor!

Does fitness really matter?

Now that we have established the notion that health is a lifestyle rather than a number on a scale, and a mindset rather than a list of healthy consumable foods in the right portions, let us turn to the importance of fitness. It is no surprise that one of the most effective ways of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is by being physically active. However, this is proving to be a real challenge given that the bulk of a typical day is spent behind a desk in a sedentary job, on a blue screen while we lounge on a couch, or in the driver’s seat as we commute in heavy traffic. It has become rather easy and affordable to monitor our level of activity thanks to the rise of tracking devices such as the Apple watch and Fitbit, to name a few. If one is to analyze their results, the findings will show that yes some activity is better than none, but for a sizable portion of the population, is that one hour of physical activity, be it a morning jog, a yoga class, or an intense PT session enough to compensate for the remaining 23 inactive hours of the day?

This brings up an interesting yet widely overlooked topic: Yes we work out to burn calories, look good, and keep disease at bay. But more importantly, we must focus on fitness as a tool to increase the physical mobility that our body so desperately needs to ensure that we don’t lose out on our range of motion (ROM) as we age, and to enable us to carry out daily tasks without injury.
As for those more physically apt, fitness is regarded as a tool to breaking personal limits and reaching new heights in physical and mental performance and capabilities. Basic functional movement and radical cardiovascular performance lie on two different extremities of the fitness scale. Wherever you may lie, it is important to understand that our differing body types and predispositions mean that not all workouts are suitable for everyone and no one workout will be suitable for the same individual over their lifetime.

When is a good time to start?

A common misconception is that one must first lose any excess weight before they begin working out so as not to further bulk up. The truth is that being active speeds up the process of fat loss, whilst increasing muscle tone and cardiovascular health!

So the answer is Now! Now! Now! It is never too late to start working out. No matter your age or fitness level, there is a workout just for you. It is advisable to start with the basics and work your way up. Dynamic pilates on the Megaformer, for instance, does wonders at improving core strength and targeting physical imbalances and asymmetries. Monday Fitness, a Verdun based studio, which offers this unique workout amongst other semi-private group classes and one-on-one private sessions, focuses on customized programs for all fitness levels. This means that beginners and athletes alike, as well as injured and senior populations, all get to enjoy the benefits of working out with a motivating team and a boost of feel-good vibes!

How do I keep it up?

Leading an active and healthy lifestyle both require one common denominator: Discipline. For those who find it challenging to stick to a routine, one common solution would be to make the activity fun and the goal achievable. Recent research shows that one bio-hack to creating successful healthy habits is to pause and celebrate small wins along the way. Programming your mind by rewarding yourself for little achievements, will positively reinforce good habits.

Lastly, it is only mature of us to realize that health is a progressive journey, where change isn’t going to happen overnight. With the right awareness, a determined mindset, a good dose of willpower, and a supportive environment, optimal health and fitness can be successfully achieved, and will prove to be your greatest wealth!

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