Does Supreme Physical Fitness Equate to Great Health?

Highly fit people are more likely to be in better health than people who are not physically fit.  Great fitness and great health seem to go together naturally. Hence, we often refer to physically active people as being “into” Health and Fitness.   I realize some of you might be thinking “Where is this MOTO (Master of the Obvious) headed with this blog?”

Well, I felt the need to write this article because I think far too many people use the terms “Health” and “Fitness” interchangeably because their vision of a healthy person is someone who is physically active, lean and strong.  Such a person is fit, but he/she may not necessarily be healthy.

 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.

 Here are four hypothetical fit people. Are any of them healthy?

1. A lean and fit person may be in peak physical condition, but may have  some serious psychological and /or social issues that compromise their well being and happiness.  Would we call this person healthy?

2. A socially adept, fit athlete with no major psychological issues may be able to maintain a high fitness level while partaking in one or more unhealthy behaviors. (ie. cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, illegal drug use, taking unnecessary nutritional supplements,  or eating the Standard American Diet)

If we know the athlete practices any of these habits – would we call this person healthy?

3. Let’s say we had no knowledge that this socially popular, mentally and physically fit athlete practiced any unhealthy behaviors and was able to perform his grueling sport at a high level.  Yet his arteries were slowly rotting away, or he had an early stage of cancer that was non-symptomatic, but steadily growing.  Would he be healthy?

4. What about the  50 year old male athlete who  was diagnosed with CAD and was taking statin drugs and blood pressure medication., yet he often finished first in 5-K races for his age group.  Would we call him healthy? 

 My answer is “no” in all four of these scenarios.  None of these fit people are healthy – at least not as healthy as a moderately fit person who is in a state of physical homeostasis, has no major psychological or social issues and does not have any unhealthy habits.

So the degree of physical fitness someone has does not necessarily match the degree of health someone is experiencing – and vice versa.

Suzanna McGee is a life-long athlete who once competed in natural bodybuilding contests and like most bodybuilders, consumed dangerous amounts of animal protein.  A few years ago she discovered the film Forks Over Knives and has since decided to become both healthy and fit.  As she has gotten healthier eating a Whole Food Plant Based diet, Suzannah, at age 50, claims to be fitter than she has ever been.  She is another athlete who is demonstrating that she doesn’t have to risk her health in order to maintain high athletic performance.  Click Here for Suzanna’s story in her own words.

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