Fitness is not Health

Fitness and Health Are Not the Same

Most of us think that if we are fit we are healthy.  But fitness and health are actually two separate things. You can be fit but still very unhealthy.

Fitness is Not Health

Movies, advertising and TV shows all depict physical fitness as health.  We have been brainwashed into thinking that being fit is the epitome of health and we should exercise excessively to get fit. We all know people who are fit and look great on the outside, but secretly inside they are a mess.

I have read the pulses of thousands of people and I see a common thread with marathon runners, triathletes, long-distance runners, gym-junkies and aerobics queens… many of them have weak hearts (in Chinese medicine terms) and many of them have anxiety or depression, are exhausted and can’t sleep as a result. Do these sound like healthy people to you?

Just the other day I was taking pulses at an event and met a young couple (in their 30s) who were distance runners.  I took their pulse and they were shocked to hear that their hearts were weak. But despite their physical fitness they had anxiety, sleep problems and fatigue. ‘How can that be when we run so much and are so fit?’, they asked. My answer included the following points:

Fitness is not health.

Excessive exercise actually weakens your heart over time – just like it would weaken any other muscle you overuse.

There’s a school of thought in Chinese medicine that your heart only has a certain number of beats in it over your lifetime and excessive exercise uses up your heartbeat quota faster.

People who have anxiety, fatigue and can’t sleep aren’t healthy and all of these symptoms strongly point to a weak heart in Chinese medicine.

‘But we feel so good after we run!’ The reason for this is that your body releases high levels of endorphins after exercise – this is the ‘feel good’ hormone that makes you feel good for a while.  But paradoxically, while excessive exercise releases endorphins it also claps out your heart making it weaker and contributing even more to your health problems.

I know this is a hard thing to hear and it just doesn’t make sense considering what we have always been told.

But if you are fit and still have health problems like fatigue, anxiety, depression and insomnia doesn’t this tell you something?

Now I am not saying that you can’t be both fit and healthy.  I am simply saying that they are two different things and one doesn’t always come with the other.

When they interview people who have reached 100 years of age and ask them what is the secret to a long healthy life you never hear them say: ‘I ran 10km three times a week’; or ‘I went to the gym every day’; do you?  They always say things like they slept a lot, didn’t overeat and took it easy and didn’t stress too much.

In the West we focus on looking good on the outside.  The Chinese focus on looking good on the inside as well.

So What is the Answer?

The answer is to do light to moderate exercise (like walking, gardening, yoga and tai chi) and seek acupuncture treatment!