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Stop Chasing “Health”

November 12, 2010

Pretty snappy title coming from a personal trainer tasked with helping people get stronger and improve metabolic functioning, or, “healthier.” Hear me out before you watch that cut dog video on youtube!

First, what is health? That’s the absence of sickness. That’s it, that’s all. Arthur Jones pointed out over 20 years ago, “super-health” is an impossibility, a fantasy.” If you’re not healthy, you’re diseased; if you’re healthy, you’re…healthy. In our society, we tend to judge health by absence of disease and/or by a variety of metrics (blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body composition,lacking cancer). What often gets mentioned, but isn’t qualified, is the physical ability component. How many times have you heard the story of a marathoner/triathlete drop dead of a heart attack? “He was so healthy!” is often heard in response to this news. Point of fact, one can be quite unhealthy and still physically active, so let’s further qualify ourselves and our efforts here at Efficient Exercise.

The Species State Triumvirate

Instead of health or disease, let’s define 3 levels on a spectrum:

  • Sickness: Characterized by disease, poor blood lipids, insulin insensitivity, excessive body fat…you haven’t been taking care of yourself and your cells are PISSED!
  • Wellness: Characterized by lack of disease. In this case, you can get out of a chair, don’t die walking up stairs, don’t have pharm reps trying to sell you statins at your front door, don’t have to drill new belt notches. This is progress.
  • Fitness: Characterized by lack of disease and markedly improved physical performance. The latter tends to augment the former: for example when a person engages in an intelligent exercise program (like that here at Efficient Exercise) HDL tends to improve, as does glucose sensitivity. So while a person might have had “health” before, exercise has helped move them toward a place of even lower risk. It’s not “superhealth,” it’s merely being as healthy as possible (AHAP?).

The takeaway is that one should be chasing fitness. Health is too vague, measured by the average that, if you look around, is nothing to aspire to. We’re here to help you to fitness…make sure that is your goal!


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