The traditional measurements of health (HDL, LDL, Triglycerides, bone density, body comp, etc.) have long been used to determine the relative health of an individual.
These markers, however, are not black-and-white. They tend to fall on a spectrum. Our assumption is that everything we measure can conform to this continuum, therefore it seems that sickness, wellness, and fitness are different measures of a single quality: Health.
The health I am describing has nothing to do with how you look, being tone, or having abs. The health I'm talking about is one that is associated with moving away from chronic disease. The markers we mentioned improving above are “the predictors, the cause, and the manifestation of chronic disease.”
Chronic diseases are responsible for 70% of all the deaths in the US. That means 7 out of 10 people die unnecessarily through life-style choices alone.
The other 30 percent are dying from accidents that come in four “-ic” variants: kinetic, genetic, toxic and microbic.
Kinetic: physical trauma, car crash, hit on a bike.
Toxic: environmental toxins, such as lead poisoning.
Genetic: genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis, you are born with it.
Microbic: virus, bacteria, prions.
Chronic diseases on the other hand are preventable and, in some cases, completely reversible directly by our choices and actions, or lack thereof.
You may be thinking to yourself, what about my doctor, aren't they treating this? Medicine has no effective treatment for chronic disease: It is symptomatic only.
The doctor gives you a drug to bring your cholesterol down, a different drug to raise your bone density. You might need bariatric surgery if you have morbid obesity. If you have paved-over coronary arteries, they can do bypass surgery. If you become glucose intolerant, the doctor can put you on insulin. But all of these are not fixes.
They are masking the problem. If you have persistent malignant hypertension, you should take an anti-hypertensive if you cannot get your blood pressure down otherwise. But how would you get it down otherwise?
What fitness professionals are providing is non-medical health care. When doctors treat those affected by accidents (the 30%), that is medical health care. If you are confused about the two, it is easy to distinguish by methods and tools.
If someone is cut open, given radiation, prescribed pills, injected with syringes, it is medicine. It is treatment by a doctor.
On our side, it looks like fitness. We have various methods and tools as well—and the prescription is universal.
It is not to treat disease; it is to prevent sickness
A Different Approach
The decrease in activity in the last 100 or so years has had the greatest overall effect on the health of our society. Technology has made it possible to sit for nearly the entire day.
What I am suggesting is that by increasing your activity you can begin pushing every measurable metric of your health in a positive direction.
What about nutrition? Don't get me wrong, I know that diet plays a huge role. But nutrition is largely connected to you psychologically, socially, and regionally. Asking someone to change how they eat is a much larger task than asking someone to increase their activity.
What I am saying is that even if you didn’t change anything about how you eat and just worked out 4-5 times a week, you would still be moving your overall health in a positive direction.
The Take Home
Health is not a static measure. You are always moving left and right on the health spectrum. The things that can have the largest impact on where you sit on that spectrum is your level of activity.