Fitness vs Health

The problem is that we have equated fitness to mean health, and health to mean fitness, and neither is accurate nor true.

fitness-vs-healthFitness can be gained in a relatively short period of time.  The predominant research today in performance has nothing to do with health, its all about fitness. HIIT (Hi Intensity Interval Training) programs which are most heavily researched lead to quick gains, and in a society where yesterday is still too late, quick gains are a must.  Problem though is that fitness gains do not equate with gains in health. In fact the opposite is often the case… the results from intense training come at the cost of your health.  I ain’t making this up, the reverse J chart correlating cardio-vascular disease and training intensity has been shown to be both reliable and valid.  Therefore, athletes who suffer heart attacks, strokes, or die during competitions are not a genetic oops, but the outcome of an athlete straining to deliver a performance way beyond their capacity.

Put another way… you may be fit enough to finish a marathon, but not healthy enough to deal with the strain of the effort. Sounds paradoxical but it isn’t.

That’s the problem when two different metrics – fitness vs health – are confused and substituted for one another as if equal.

Unlike fitness, health cannot be gained or lost quickly. Why is it that despite not exercising for a decade (typically in the mid 20s for most) we do not suffer any real health setbacks or diseases? Because the health of our youth manages to hold on. We lose the health of our childhood over decades, not a weekend at Bernie’s.

Equally health takes a long time to regain once it has been spent. Yes, spent. Not keeping up proper sleep, proper eating, proper exercise over one, two or three decades depletes our health asset column. Once our balance sheet inverts and our health liabilities grow larger than our health assets, disease should be no surprise to anyone… you should predict and be able to predict that you will end up injured, chronically in pain, fatigued, or end up diagnosed with a disease simply because you no longer have the assets to keep your body operational.

Balance sheets are used to identify the ‘health’ of a company, well it ain’t any different for you and I.  If our life balance sheet is overleveraged, with a few our of assets depreciating to the point of becoming impotent, then why should it be any surprise that your health fails? There will be no foreclosure or bankruptcy proceedings when it comes to health, there is simply impairment, then dysfunction, which leads to disease and finally death.

By our mid to late 30s, once our health asset column is coming close to our health liability column it starts… aches, pains, nagging niggles that won’t go away. So what do we do? We pop an anti-inflammatory, take a few pain killers, get a massage, an adjustment, tape over the injury, fill a prescription for a medication that will reduce our signs and symptoms. Because the signs and symptoms are managed, we interpret it that we are once again healthy, that our health asset column has been restored and off we go.  We sign up for an obstacle race, start to train for a half or full marathon, or take on the immensity of an iron distance triathlon. The fact that we are not cured nor healed of our aches and pains matters not, as we simply progress to stronger and stronger ointments, potions, pills, and treatments, to continue to manage our ills.

When we really start to breakdown, when medicine no longer has a cure for us… all of a sudden we wake up and realize that the years of neglect and then the years of leveraging the remaining health assets using a variety of health care instruments to prolong our denial of dwindling resources hits us like a 2 by 4 in the back of the head.

Is that what you are waiting for? A reality check from a hospital bed?

Do you need heart palpitations in your 40s, arrythmias and a pacemaker in your 50s, TIAs or a full blown stroke or early onset dementia in your 60s or will you wake up today?

For your sake, for the sake of your spouse, your kids, your family, your own life, I implore you to wake up! Stop buying what everyone is selling you desperately as a quick fix solution, and start to reinvest in your health, in you, in your vitality and your longevity.

The fitness craze is only that… a craze of protein powders, HIIT workouts, compression clothing and gym memberships designed to make you look healthy, but fail to actually make you healthy. If you want health, you have to pursue health, not fitness.

Health is a different form of fitness, its not tolerance, its capacity.