Health Versus Fitness

Health Versus Fitness
Christine L. Foutch Naturopathic Physician Rock Island, Illinois

Christine Foutch is a practicing Holistic Physician in Rock Island, Illinois, specializing in Holistic Nutrition and Biomechanics. Holistic medicine is the art and the science of healing that addresses the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. The practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and alternative therapies... more

For Educational Purposes

National Council On Strength & Fitness
NCSF CPT-Physical Fitness & Health

Many people believe that health and fitness go hand in hand together, but this is not always the case.

Health is a disease-free state of well-being that allows an individual to experience improved quality of life and independence.

Fitness is criteria based on a measure of physical performance.

A person does not have to be fit to be considered healthy, nor is a person guaranteed health because they are fit. Of course, the two are interrelated, but there are distinct differences.

Differences can be seen in emotional, psychological, and physical assessments. A person may score high on health-related components of fitness, but they may experience high stress on the job, eat an unhealthy diet, and have hypertension and hyperlipidemia (abnormal high levels of fats in the blood). This person would be considered fit, but not necessarily healthy.

On the other hand, an individual may not score well on assessments for physical fitness, but eat very healthy, get enough physical activity to maintain functional performance levels, have low blood pressure, and have a reasonable lipid profile. In this case, the person would be considered healthy, but not physically fit.

Physical fitness is broken down into two categories: health-related physical fitness and performance-related physical fitness. The first category includes factors that affect health, while the second category has to do with performance.

The health related components include:

  • Cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Muscular strength
  • Muscular endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Body composition

The performance components of physical fitness include:

  • Power
  • Speed
  • Coordination
  • Balance
  • Agility

Each of these plays an important role in human performance and should be considered a secondary health component.

The health-related components of fitness are the foundation to a person's overall well-being.

Cardio respiratory fitness is the single most important health related component of fitness. Low total body oxygen is a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

On the other end of the spectrum, high levels of cardio respiratory fitness are associated with positive health, including improved self-reported quality of life.

Muscular fitness is the body's ability to produce and sustain force. Muscular strength is defined as the body's ability to exert a single maximal contractile force, while muscular endurance is the ability of muscle tissue to sustain the force output or apply force for an extended period of time.

Flexibility is probably the most undervalued and least emphasized component of health-related fitness. Flexibility is actually one of the most important components of physical fitness.

Flexibility is tied to joint function, movement capabilities, and the risk for injury and chronic pain. Most importantly, it is associated with functional decline and can lead to disability in older adults.

Body composition is defined as the ratio of fat mass to fat free mass or lean mass. Most people incorrectly view body composition as the amount of fat an individual has on their bodies. It is often expressed as a percentage of body fat, but the important factor is the ratio.

The more lean mass a person maintains, the better their overall ability to manage caloric balance and body composition.

Individuals who maintain high levels of body fat dramatically increase the risk for disease and premature mortality.