Health and fitness are often viewed as synonymous, but the two have distinct differences. For example, an elite marathon runner can have many injuries and mental health issues and still be fit.
Moderate to vigorous activity on most, preferably all, days of the week provides many benefits, including healthy blood pressure and cholesterol, lower inflammation, and improved blood sugar levels. It also improves muscle strength and endurance.
Physical Health is one dimension of total well-being and encompasses your body’s ability to function. This includes exercise, a healthy diet, and proper rest.
Health-related components of fitness include muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, and body composition (a combination of muscle mass, bone density, and fat percentage). Regular exercise promotes strong muscles and bones and improves respiratory and cardiovascular health, allowing you to stay active as you age and reducing the risk of disease.
Experts recommend doing moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity on most days of the week to maintain and improve health. Studies show that physically fit people have lower rates of disease and death, regardless of their body weight. This is because physical fitness reduces the risk of chronic diseases and conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and increases resilience to injury and illness. It also helps to manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduces the risk of cancer and depression.
Mental health includes emotions, thinking, communication, and learning. It’s also important for relationships and contributing to your community or society. People with healthy mental well-being can cope with life’s stressors, maintain close and supportive relationships, and make good decisions.
Everyone has concerns that affect their mood, thinking, and behavior from time to time. However, a mood concern becomes a mental illness when it regularly causes distress and interferes with daily functioning.
Symptoms of some mental illnesses can mimic those of other medical conditions and it’s important for any person with concerns to be seen by a health care professional for evaluation. Depending on your diagnosis, your treatment plan may include psychotherapy (talk therapy) or medication.
Research shows that regular physical activity has a wide range of health benefits including boosting your mood and mental health. Some of the best activities to improve your mental health include cardiovascular movement, yoga, and team sports. It’s also important to get enough sleep and have a balanced diet.
In addition to exercise and nutrition, the health and fitness journey is about more than your body; it’s also about your social life. Studies show that people with strong ties to family, friends, and community are healthier than those with fewer connections. Those with healthy relationships have a lower risk of heart disease, depression, and high blood pressure.
To bolster your social fitness, prioritize your relationships with loved ones by making time to reconnect with them regularly. Join clubs, attend events, or volunteer in your community to surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Make sure to steer clear of unhealthy habits that can damage your relationship with others, such as alcohol consumption or excessive gaming.
These social habits can help boost your oxytocin levels, the “cuddle hormone” that helps reduce inflammation and promote healing. This can improve your mental health and happiness and may even help you live longer. These are called the social determinants of health (SDOH). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines SDOH as the nonmedical factors that shape what it means to be healthy in a society.
Financial health refers to the ability to manage expenses, prepare for and recover from financial shocks, have minimal debt, and build wealth. It underlies all forms of economic hardship including food, housing, and energy insecurity but has been overlooked in social determinants of health research and interventions.
To improve your financial health, set savings goals and track expenses on a budget. Consider working on a side hustle or taking on additional work to bring in extra income. Save money and pay down debt to create a solid emergency fund. Ideally, you’ll have enough money left over to give back or invest in the future.
Our network conducted 16 financial SELF-empowerment groups on topics such as building and fixing credit, eliminating debt, and encouraging entrepreneurship to help participants become more financially healthy. We surveyed members at baseline and every three months for a year on their economic security, self-rated health, depressive symptoms, employment, debt, savings, and financial planning.