Health is a dynamic process because it is always changing. We all have times of good health, times of sickness, and maybe even times of serious illness. As our lifestyles change, so does our level of health.
We strive toward an optimal state of well-being. As our lifestyle improves, our health also improves and we experience less disease and sickness. When most people are asked what it means to be healthy, they normally respond with the four components of fitness via cardio respiratory ability, muscular ability, flexibility, and body composition. Although these components are a critical part of being healthy, they are not the only contributing factors. Physical health is only one aspect of our overall health.
The other components of health (Greenberg, 2004, p. 7) that are just as important as physical health include the following:
- Social health-The ability to interact well with people and the environment and to have satisfying personal relationships.
- Mental health-The ability to learn and grow intellectually. Life experiences as well as more formal structures (e.g., school) enhance mental health.
- Emotional health-The ability to control emotions so that you feel comfortable expressing them and can express them appropriately.
- Spiritual health-A belief in some unifying force. It varies from person to person but has the concept of faith at its core.
Wellness is the search for enhanced quality of life, personal growth, and potential through positive lifestyle behaviours and attitudes. If we take responsibility for our own health and well-being, we can improve our health on a daily basis. Certain factors influence our state of wellness, including nutrition, physical activity, stress-coping methods, good relationships, and career success.
Each day we work toward maximising our level of health and wellness to live long, full, and healthy lives. The pursuit of health, personal growth, and improved quality of life relies on living a balanced life. To achieve balance, we need to care for our mind, body, and spirit.
If any of these three areas is consistently lacking or forgotten about, we will not be at our optimal level of health. We are constantly challenged with balancing each of these three areas throughout life.
As fitness professionals, we have a responsibility to guide and motivate others to improve their level of health and wellness. We can promote a holistic approach to health (mind, body, and spirit), not just encourage physical activity. As good role models, we should demonstrate positive health behaviours that assist in improving our own health and the health of others. If our focus is strictly on the physical benefits of exercise, we are doing a disservice to our clients and we are not fulfilling our professional obligation.
Benefits of Physical Activity
As fitness professionals, we spend a great deal of time inspiring and assisting others in their pursuit of improved health. Education is an important aspect of this. We must promote the benefits of regular activity and help people understand why they should be active.
Health Canada introduced Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living to help Canadians make wise choices about physical activity as a way to improve health. Scientists say you should accumulate 60 minutes of physical activity every day to stay healthy or improve health. The recommendations in the Physical Activity Guide are as follows:
- Endurance-On 4 to 7 days a week, perform continuous activity for your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. Time required for improvements depends on effort.
- Flexibility-On 4 to 7 days a week, perform gentle reaching, bending, and stretching to keep muscles relaxed and joints mobile.
- Strength-On 2 to 4 days a week, perform resistance exercise to strengthen muscles and bones and improve posture.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has also developed activity guidelines for improving health:
- Perform 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week for cardiovascular health. The 30 minutes need not be continuous.
- Performing 1 set of 8 to 12 repetitions of resistance training for the entire body is necessary to maintain and develop muscular strength and endurance.
- Flexibility training should be performed daily, including stretches for all major muscle groups, in order to maintain mobility.