Would you rather be fit or healthy? Ideally, of course, you would like to be both fit and healthy but, while we often use the terms interchangeably, there is a difference and it is important.
Fitness is what you get through exercise, practice and training. Fitness allows you to perform a certain task or tasks like walking or running a certain distance at a certain speed. It allows you to lift, climb or jump. Training gradually increases the stresses on your body, making it stronger and able to perform at a greater capacity. Usually, as you work at fitness, your body responds with health and vitality, unless you are unhealthy.
Health is very different. Health is your ability of your body to resist and recover from illness or injury. It is the ability of your body to withstand or counteract the various forces that life puts upon us. We must recognise, however, that health is not the presence or absence of symptoms.
If you are vomiting, are you unhealthy? Maybe, but vomiting is usually just a healthy body eliminating a toxic food. Likewise, if you get a temperature, are you unhealthy? You might be but usually raising your temperature is just your body’s way of activating your immune system to help you fight an infection. The temperature is a sign of health, rather than disease.
While you can train for fitness, you can’t really train for health.
We have all seen the tragic stories of marathon runners dropping dead in sight of the finish line. Sadly these runners are extremely fit but not healthy. Likewise, there are many elite athletes who are always injured. They are fit and exercise constantly, but they are not healthy. Their inability to handle the stresses of their sport or their training tells us that exercise is not the whole answer to health. Exercise is something you do to enhance a healthy body, but it can accelerate the damage to an unhealthy body.
Health isn’t how you feel, it’s how well you can respond to or resist external forces (some people call these stressors, as long as we understand that stresses come in many forms, physical, chemical, environmental and biological, as well as emotional). It turns out that when you are able to respond to all external forces, you feel terrific also.
Modern medicine doesn’t really test for health, it tests for early signs of disease – two very different things. Medicine tries to compare your measurements to a population average and if you are outside the 90% of a “normal” population, it tries to return that measurement to “within normal limits” whether or not those normal limits has anything to do with actual health – let alone optimal health.
I hope that one day your doctor will spray flu virus in your face to test whether or not you get sick and how long it takes you to recover – or the psychologist will yell at you for half an hour to test how well you respond to emotional abuse and the chiropractor will test how much you can lift to see what sort of condition your back is in.
Simon King, a musculoskeletal therapist at the Naturality Wellness Centre tests your health by checking how your muscles respond to external forces. By testing every important muscle and joint in your body, he tests resilience and robustness – safely and efficiently, without any discomfort or risk of injury.
While this treatment usually leads to dramatic and often instant relief of pain, the real benefit comes later, with less injury and illness in the future.
Sadly, there is no way to test your own muscles to see how they respond to external forces. If you try to test yourself, your body will just move in a way that hides the weakness or it will let you know it can’t do something so that you avoid that activity or movement in the future but a good clue you have a problem is a recurrent or persistent injury. Only a trained specialist in muscle reflexes can isolate the muscle or muscles to be tested and find the best solution to bring your body back to optimum health.
If health is as important to you as fitness, you ought to have your muscle reflexes checked. Initially to return you to full health and then routinely, at least every 6 months – just like having your teeth checked so that little weaknesses and niggles can be identified and fixed before they become bigger problems. In health, above all else, prevention is much easier than cure.
Simon King is an expert in Afferent Input and using Afferent Input to help patients treat and prevent musckuloskeletal injuries.
Over thirty years in practice, Simon has always strived to understand the true origins of disease and ill health. Fascinated by muscle testing and the connections between nerves and muscles, he set about learning all he could about Applied Kinesiology and eventually became a diplomate of the ICAK in 1996. He has gone on to teach hundreds of practitioners the principles of Proprioceptive Medicine and Afferent Input.
Simon is available Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. His specialties include sports injuries, sports performance enhancement, chronic pain and disability.