HUMAN HEALTH
Health, and fitness.


In a discussion of the effects exercise and physical conditioning, it is 
necessary to differentiate between health and fitness, and between fitness 
and skill. Health, in its narrowest definition, is the absence of disease; 
more broadly, it is the capacity of all body organs and systems for 
high-level function. Fitness relates to performance and survival. 
Usually, but not always, good fitness requires good health. Many exceptions 
are seen in sports competition. Sick but intensely motivated and 
competitive athletes often win contests and sometimes break world records. 
Olympic contestants suffering from infections, dysentery, influenza, fever, 
and broken bones often turn in superior performances. Conversely, very 
healthy people who are not conditioned are unfit for strenuous occupations.
Again, skilled performance usually implies good fitness and good health but 
there are too many exceptions to make the generalization acceptable. The 
superbly skilled basketball player who has less strength and endurance than 
his opponents can sometimes handily outscore them. The drama of the sick, 
wounded, and nearly exhausted star football player who reenters the game 
during the dying minutes and scores the winning points is played out 
regularly. This is not to say that the highly skilled player would not do 
better if he were more healthy and more fit; it is only to indicate that 
skill is a separate attributed.
HEALTH
In human beings, the extent of an individual's continuing 
physical, emotional, mental, and social ability to the cope with his 
environment.
Such a definition, gust one of many that are possible, has its drawbacks. 
The rather fragile individual who stays "well" within the ordinary 
environment of his or her existence may succumb to a heart attack from heavy 
shoveling after a snowstorm; or sea-level dweller may move to a new home in 
the mountains where the atmosphere has a lower content of oxygen, and suffer 
from shortness of breath and anemia until his red blood cell count adjusts 
itself to the altitude. Thus even by this definition, the conception of good 
health must involve some allowance for change in the environment.
Bad heath can be defined as the presence of disease, good heath as its 
absence particularly the absence of continuing disease, because the person 
afflicted with a sudden attack of seasickness, for example, may not be 
thought as having, lost his good health as a result of such mishap. The same 
might apply to a pregnant woman, perfectly healthy in the afternoons and 
evenings but suffering from morning sickness a few hours each day.
Actually, there is a wide variable area between health and disease. Only 
a few examples are necessary to illustrate the point: (1) it physiologically 
normal for an individual, 15 to 20 minutes after eating a meal, to have a 
high sugar content remains elevated two hours later this condition is 
abnormal and may be indicative of disease. (2) A "healthy" individual may 
have developed an allergy, perhaps during early childhood, to a single 
specific substance. If he never again comes in contact with the antigen that 
causes the allergy, all other factors remaining normal, he will remain in 
that state of health. Should he, however, come in contact with that 
allergen, even 20 or 30 years later, he may suffer anything from a milled 
allergic reaction a simple rash to sever anaphylactic shock, coma, or even 
death, depending upon the circumstances. (3) An apparently healthy 
individual may imbibe a relatively large amount of alcoholic beverage. After 
the alcohol reaches certain in his bloodstream he exhibits certain 
behavioral changes, and his condition is referred to as intoxication . During 
this period, and usually the morning after, he cannot be considered as being 
in good health. He may regain his normal heath in a few days or less; but 
frequent repetition of this performance, or daily ingestion of large amount 
of alcohol, even when no apparent behavioral or hangover effects are noted, 
insidiously converts a condition of good health to bad heath sometimes 
irreversibly. Thus it can be seen that, unlike disease, which is frequently 
recognizable, tangible, and rather defined, health is a somewhat nebulous 
condition, and somewhat difficult to define.
Moreover, physical condition and healthcare not synonymous terms. A 
seven-foot-tall basketball player may be in excellent physical condition 
(although outside the range of normality for height) but may or may not be 
in good health depending, for example, on whether or not he has fallen 
victim to an attack of influenza. The one-armed gymnast, the color-blind 
skater, or the pianist born blind all may be in good health; but are they in 
good physical condition? Again, this depends upon definitions, and 
definitions vary.
There are further problems in settling upon a definition of human health. A 
person may be physically strong, resistant to infection ,able to cope with 
physical hardship and other features of his physical environment, and may be 
considered unhealthy if his mental state, as measured by his behavior, is 
deemed unsound. What is mental health? Some say that a person is mental 
healthy if he is able to function reasonably well. Others hold that a person 
is healthy mentally if his behavior is like that of a majority of 
his fellows. A third group makes comparisons with an ideal; according to these 
physicians mental healthfulness may be approached but not attained. Still 
another concept stresses the changes in a person's behavior that take place 
with the passage of time as criteria of his mental health.
In the face of this confusion, it is most useful, perhaps, to define 
health, good or bad, in terms that can be measured, can be interpreted with 
respect to the ability of the individual at the time of measurement to 
function in a normal manner and with respect to the likelihood of imminent 
disease. These measurements can be found in tables of "normal values" 
printed in textbooks of clinical medicine, diagnosis, and other references of 
this type. when an individual is given a health examination, the examination 
is likely to include a series of tests. Some of these tests are more 
descriptive than quantitative and can indicate the presence of disease in a 
seemingly healthy person. such tests include the electrocardiogram to detect 
some kinds of heart disease; electromyogram for primary muscle disorders; 
liver and gall bladder function tests; and many types of X-ray techniques 
for determining disease or malfunction of internal organs.
Other tests give numerical results (or results that can be assigned 
numerical values such as photometric color determinations) that can be 
interpreted by the examiner. These are physical and chemical tests, including 
blood, urine and cerebral spinal fluid analyses. The results of the tests 
are compared with normal values; and the physician receives clues as to the 
health of his patient and, if the values are abnormal , for the methods of 
improving his heath.
A major difficulty in the interpretation of test results is that of 
biological variability. Almost without exception these normal values for 
variables are means or adjusted or adjusted means of large group 
measurements. To give these values significance hence the frequent use of the 
word standard rather than normal in describing them_ they must be considered 
as lying somewhere near the center point of a 95 percent; i.e., the 
so-called ordinary range or, with reservations, the range from normal to the 
upper and lower borderline limits. Thus, the 2.5 percent below the lower 
limit and the 2.5 percent above the upper limit of the 95 percent range are 
considered areas of abnormality or, perhaps, illness. Some areas have wide 
95 percent ranges blood pressure, for example, may vary considerably 
throughout the day (e.g., during exercise, fright, or anger) and remain 
within its range of normality. Other values have ranges so narrow that they 
are termed physiological constants. an individual's body temperature, for 
example, rarely varies (when taken at the same anatomical site) by more than 
a degree (from time of rising until bedtime) without being indicative of 
infection or other illness.
PHYSICAL FITNESS
General physical fitness is the capacity of the body to perform work, to 
resist disease and infection, and to resist the physical stresses imposed by 
such things as heat, cold, atmospheric pressure changes at altitude or under 
water, and accelerative forces of jolts and vibrations. General physical 
fitness is, thus, the capability of the individual to dominate his usual 
environment, and the degree of fitness that one requires is related to the 
degree of stress that he must be able to overcome. The Samoan who lives 
peacefully in a warm climate with abundant food at arm's reach survives well 
with a low degree of general fitness. If the Samoan were to be transported 
suddenly to the frozen north, he would be unfit for the rigors of trapping. 
To become fit as a northern trapper, the Samoan would need to acquire 
specific physical fitness; that is, the special body structures and 
functions required to perform under the new set of unusually demanding 
conditions. Specific physical fitness, then, is a readiness of each system of 
the body to meet special demands. If unusually heavy loads must be moved, 
strength fitness must be acquired. Muscles must be strengthened and 
nerve muscle coordination improved. If work is continuous, endurance fitness 
is needed. Short efforts of maximum intensity lasting less than 10 seconds 
require anaerobic fitness, the ability of the body to work without oxygen. 
Exhaustive efforts of longer duration require aerobic fitness, the ability 
to consume oxygen efficiently. The ability to make sudden changes in 
posture requires orthostatic fitness. Orthostatic fitness is dependent on 
how well the blood circulation can adjust to a quick change of posture such 
as standing up after laying down.
Rapidity of movement, accuracy, and agility require speed fitness, an 
attribute of the brain and the sensory and motor nervous systems. Limiting 
rapidity of movement is relaxation fitness. The ability to elongate muscle 
quickly. Relaxation fitness includes ability voluntarily to reduce excess 
tension in the nerve-muscle system.
Exercise.
The benefits of exercising are numerous. People who are physically fit are 
better able to carry out ordinary activities without fatigue or exhaustion 
and to resist disease, infection, and undue physical deterioration. Among 
adults, fitness of the heart muscles is often the major concern, and this 
can be achieved by raising the heart rate for brief periods. Jogging, 
sprinting, or exercising vigorously will achieve this, but even climbing 
several flights of stairs can accomplish the same purpose.
Physical conditioning is also important for individuals who require special 
skills in coordination, strength, and endurance. Athletes, for example, 
usually develop their muscles more fully. In most cases, the muscle tissues 
simply become harder and stronger as more fibers in the tissue are brought 
into use. Muscles do not increase in size unless they are deliberately 
forced to by repetitive contractions.
Physical activity is specially important during youth ,in order for the body 
to reach optimal size and functioning capacity in adulthood. There is 
however, no evidence that exercise prolongs life. Former athletes do not 
live longer than nonathletes nor are they immune to heart disease. The 
benefits of exercise cannot be carried for more than a few months or years. 
Even athletes who have attained a high level of conditioning will regress 
rapidly to a pre-training level once exercising stops.
The desirable amount of activity for fitness varies from person to person 
according to age, build, health, and gender. Too much exercise can cause 
wear on the joints, leading to particular disease in later life, but this is 
a condition found most commonly in top-ranking athletes. The pitfall of most 
beginners is over exercising. Many people experience stiffness after the 
initial day of exercise, but this harmless transient. Those who are 
overweight, past middle age, or suffer from heart disease should consult a 
physician prior to starting any exercise program.

BACK TO MAIN PAGE