We are assailed with words and images relating to wellness, fitness and health and the concepts frequently merge and whilst they defiantly overlap, they are also concepts in their own right.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as, “… a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” They define wellness as, “…the optimal state of health of individuals and groups.”
That these can exist independently is evidenced in top level sport; Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history, has spoken about his struggles with mental health, substance abuse, and depression. He revealed that he had suicidal thoughts and later admitted himself to a rehabilitation centre. Another swimmer, four-time Olympic medallist Amanda Beard, has spoken openly about struggling with depression, poor self-image and self-harm. Both these athletes were extremely fit and in the popular sense ‘healthy’ but clearly, they were not ‘well’.
Fitness specifically refers to physical health, and is the ability to complete a physical task, or the lack of a physical ailment.
Health focuses more on diseases, genetics, and illness.
At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the Olympic diver Greg Louganis struck his head on the springboard during the preliminary rounds, leading to a concussion. Having been diagnosed as HIV positive, his fitness and mental strength allowed him to overcome health issues, injuries and in the 80’s poorly tolerated antiretrovirals.
Wellness, on the other hand, refers to the balance of a spectrum of health-related elements in one’s life. Most wellness wheels represent six or seven dimensions of wellness, including intellectual, emotional, physical, occupational, environmental, spiritual, social and financial. When a person is balanced and well, all these areas of life are considered and prioritised in daily lifestyle habits.
Our goal is to be fit, healthy and well. For over 3000 years human culture has understood the interlacing of breath and wellness. In yoga and Indian medicine prana is the Sanskrit word for ‘breath’, ‘life force’, or ‘vital principle’. Similar concepts exist across cultures; Latin, Islamic and Sufic ruh, the Greek pneuma, the Chinese qi, the Polynesian mana, the Amerindian orenda, the German od, and the Hebrew ruah. The one common translation is breathing – which is what we do at HybO2.
At HybO2 we provide hyperbaric oxygen which helps repair damage to body tissue and aids recovery of injuries. There is a significant body of research relating to the use of hyperbaric oxygen and depression and other forms of mental illness. If we achieve physical and mental health and fitness we are on the road to wellness.