People often say things like:
“Without your health you have nothing”
“Health is everything”
“There's nothing as important as your health”
“Nothing is worth losing your health over”
Yet when you look at their lifestyle choices, they don't necessarily reflect that…
I wonder if my biases are creeping in (I'm sure they are) but I do think it's worthwhile revisiting what we mean when we say “health”.
I can still recite the definition word for word that we learnt back in my University days; it goes something like this:
“Health is more than just the absence of disease or infirmity: it is a complete state of physical, mental and social well being”
This is a useful start-point as it alludes to health being something more aspirational than just not being ill or sick.
I also like the word “complete”: “health” actually comes from an olde English word meaning “whole”.
(I'm more troubled by the phrase “well-being” as it's become overused and poorly defined)
Completeness/wholeness is significant as so often health is reduced to a conversation (or judgement) about the weight you see on the scales, what you see in a mirror, how fast you can run or how many press-ups you can do.
Don't get me wrong - these things are important, but there is much, much more to health.
Health also often gets confused with “fitness”.
To me, fitness is about your ability to perform a specific role or tasks - i.e. fitness for a purpose.
You need a level of fitness to be healthy, yet it is also possible to be very “fit” by some metrics, yet extremely unhealthy…
I believe it's important to be “fit for life” and that we get to decide what that life looks like for each of us.
Hopefully you're already thinking about what health means to you?
Here's how I think about it and why it's so important to me:
Health, and becoming healthier, is the foundation for how I perform in every area of life.
Without doing anything else, if I improve my health I will become a better father, partner, friend, entrepreneur/business owner, coach.
It enhances my experience of life on every level.
I have more physical and mental capacity to handle things - planned and unplanned
I can do more fun stuff!
I can be of better service to others
How does it make me better today?
More energy, more confidence, more optimistic and I'm a better person to be around
How does it help me in the future? If I am healthier, the likelihood is I will live a longer, happier life and more importantly my quality of life should remain higher, for longer. (Personally I'm not interested in pursuing a longer life whilst trading off quality). I should also be less likely to experience serious disease and if I do, stand a better chance.
Another thing I find fascinating about health (and fitness) is that it's never “done”. It's not a project with a defined end date. It's (cliche alert!) an ongoing journey where some of the parameters move with the seasons and phases of life. Embracing that, I believe, is a crucial element to improving your health and fitness rather than battling it - which I've done a lot of, by the way!
I said earlier in the email that the official definition was a useful start-point, but we need to make this personal and relevant, so I'd like to leave you with two questions:
What is your definition of health?
What does it mean to you?