What is Wellness?
What is wellness? It’s a question I hadn’t pondered before, mostly because my personal training clients come to me with their goals – their version of wellness. It’s a personal thing I suppose.
During my recent visit to Technogym we discussed the question what is wellness? We saw the Technogym interpretation of wellness as a six-point compass and the idea that health, fitness and wellness are very different things that combine to create true ‘wellness’.
If we investigate wellness further by deconstructing each of the three constituent parts, we can build a picture of wellness and a roadmap to achieving wellness as outlined by Nerio Alessandri and his team….
The World Health Organisation defines health as…
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
What makes this definition interesting is that mental and social well-being are also given priority.
Picture an incredibly driven, successful, fit individual. A person who trains very hard and rarely takes down time. Their work-life balance is skewed and they are under high stress due to their highly-paid job. According to their fitness they may appear to be the epitome of health, but their lack of social interaction and high stress levels indicate that they are unhealthy according the the WHO definition.
Having seen and felt the effects stress has on health first-hand, I would agree. Stress is incredibly harmful – in periods of stress I have seen my health take a nosedive.
Defining fitness is tough – it is a very difficult concept to define as it is specific to a persons needs and requirements. A marathon runner has very different fitness requirements to a sumo wrestler, for example. In the non-athlete population, a firefighter has very different fitness requirements to an office worker. We are individuals and our activities have different requirements, making it very difficult to truly define fitness.
It has led to a whole host of definitions of fitness but the most complete explanation can be found when you describe the components of fitness outlined by Tancred in 1995.
- Strength – the extent to which muscles can exert force by contracting against resistance (e.g. holding or restraining an object or person).
- Power – the ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements. The two components of power are strength and speed. (e.g. jumping or a sprint start).
- Agility – the ability to perform a series of explosive power movements in rapid succession in opposing directions (e.g. ZigZag running or cutting movements).
- Balance – the ability to control the body’s position, either stationary (e.g. a handstand) or while moving (e.g. a gymnastics stunt).
- Flexibility – the ability to achieve an extended range of motion without being impeded by excess tissue, i.e. fat or muscle (e.g. executing a leg split).
- Local Muscle Endurance – a muscle groups ability to perform sustained work (e.g. cycling).
- Cardiovascular Endurance – the heart’s ability to deliver blood to working muscles and their ability to use it (e.g. running long distances).
- Strength Endurance – a muscle’s ability to perform a maximum contraction time after time (e.g. continuous explosive rebounding through an entire basketball game).
- Co-ordination– the ability to integrate the above listed components so that effective movements are achieved.
To simplify fitness, we will define it as ‘the physical ability to perform the tasks in your daily life’. This is open ended but allows enough flexibility to fit the definition to anybody regardless of their daily tasks – from marathon running to typing.
In the modern world we tend to have an Americanised view of fitness – the pursuit of bigger, faster, stronger, leaner. A striving for something better. The irony is that in our pursuit for physical performance and perfection we often make ourselves less healthy (ask Paul Chek if he believes most bodybuilders are healthy).
What is Wellness?
Wellness to me suggests a complete and rounded approach to health encompassing excellent physical fitness, sound mental and social health and nutritional balance.
This image shows the technogym wellness pyramid – the diagram has pride of place in the staff canteen!
The nutritional balance is interesting to me – it has to be balanced to allow for the occasional unhealthy treat, and here’s why…
…There is no real health benefit to alcohol – not that couldn’t be gleamed from other means, anyway. However, alcohol is usually consumed within a social setting, meaning that there are certain circumstances when the consumption of alcohol could be argued to be beneficial. If it would be stressful to avoid or led to a reduction in social interaction, then maybe some alcohol would be a good thing.
Wellness is a state of both being and doing. Being happy and doing the things to make you healthy. Taking the time to work on your fitness and eat well, but also allowing yourself to relax and enjoy leisure time. Remember the balance in life.
As I mentioned in a previous post, seeing the Technogym Wellness Village has inspired me to look at my own life and identify areas where I can improve my wellness. It has started with me taking more time out from work. I am focussing more on working smart rather than hard and enjoying more relaxation time, allowing me to focus more intently when I am working.
So how you can determine your wellness? My suggestion is you start by breaking your life into two sections and assessing each individually…
Are you taking enough down time? Are you maybe using your brain enough? Sitting down in front of crappy TV isn’t using your brain! When was the last time you read a book? Took a course? Learned a new skill? Remember being healthy isn’t merely not being sick. There is more to it than that.
Are you exercising regularly and eating well? Is your training varied and testing enough? Are you challenging your body? Do you eat your 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day? Are you avoiding processed foods and drinking plenty of water? Do you take the correct supplements?
Take a look at your life and see how you can improve your wellness. Looking at your life as a whole certainly makes this process easier. Looking at your life in black and white can certainly help you identify areas for improvement.
In an upcoming post I will outline a roadmap to achieving wellness, including how I am going about the process….