When we read the terms health and fitness, we often times intertwine the two as one entity. You’ll see it all the time in magazines or hear it thrown around in small talk conversations, but we must realize there are differences. Often times we may neglect the health of our body by putting ourselves through extreme fitness(speaking of the general public). Many people have it in their minds that athletes are healthy because they are fit. Physical activity is a necessity of life, not just six pack abs or attractive biceps, but for our well-being, longevity, increase bone density, prevention of a catabolic state through strength training, and decreased injury. Let’s be aware of how we can optimize our fitness without undermining our health. It seems that everywhere I turn people are training at an “Olympic” level, with no plans to go to the Olympics.
Health: a physiological state in which there is an absence of all disease and maintains a biological balance between a catabolic (breakdown of muscle tissue/organs) and anabolic(growth of muscle tissue/organs) state.
Fitness: a bodily state of being physiologically capable of handling challenges that exist above our resting threshold of activity.
Exercise: a specific activity that stimulates a positive physiological adaptation that serves to enhance fitness AND health, without neglecting the latter, but to enhance the former.
The balance of catabolism and anabolism
The human body is a dynamic organism that carries out a continuous balance between the breaking down and building up of our organism. Your pH levels, hormone levels, electrolytes fluids, exercise programs are all designed to find a precise balance for optimal growth or it will begin to breakdown. There are hundreds of activities thought of as exercise, such as weight training, calisthenics, running or yoga, but many may not qualify as exercise by definition. For instance, running long distance at a moderate pace puts the the body in a high catabolic state if done often and may cause injuries through asymmetries in the body; or doing squats with poor flexibility/mechanics may cause harm to the structure of the body when we think we are working the specific musculature; Or even preforming an activity that may cause wear-and-tear on a body part. Be aware of the balance of the system and find variety as often as possible.
A few laws for optimization
– Lift heavier weights/objects comparable to current ability and strength 2-3x for 30-45min (bodyweight counts). Complete complex movements that our ancestors performed (squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, twisting)
– Sprint really fast every once and awhile (every 5-7days) with proper warm up ( these short bursts increase human growth hormone which is only increased through intensity not duration). If you don’t want to sprint, then row, bike, swim, jump, hike uphill. But it must be high intensity for a very short time and done for multiple repetition (you get to exercise less🏻)
– Quality movement without pain. If there’s pain, stop and fix the problem through flexibility or soft tissue work.
– Play sports or an activity that’s unconventional to standard norms of fitness (volleyball, tennis, playful wrestling with your kids, etc). This will decrease chronic stress of our normal lives and give the body a different perspective of movement.
– Move as often as possible at a low intensity state (gardening, walking, chopping wood, yoga, hiking, swimming, golfing (without a cart), etc. Doing this barefoot (if possible) or with minimalistic footwear will increase strength, balance, flexibility, and blood flow to the feet, helping to decrease inflammation. Many new clients I see have problems with plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the bottoms of the foot) and barefoot will help that.
The quest for longevity
The purpose of the body from a DNAs standpoint is merely to function as a system in order to carry it forward to the future. If we place ourselves in a state of catabolism, while battling with the stressors of life, the body is headed towards a downhill slope. In our species hunter-gather days, health was important only to a degree of survival such as disease, evading predators, trauma and childbirth, regardless of fitness levels. As we evolved intellectually, especially with technology, longevity then become an issue from a different direction. Problems began to develop because we found ourselves in modern day circumstances that did not track with evolutionary biology. We must combat these problems by avoiding any additional stressors to our everyday stressors in life.
The quality of life will suffer if we don’t continue to incorporate forms of exercise that support desirable adaptations without the wear and tear consequences. Fitness level does not always determine heathy levels, so be mindful if the mechanical system(your body) is operating optimally.