Section 6: Health and Wellbeing

Becoming a fitness professional entails more than helping people to lift heavier weights, run faster or cycle longer distances. People are also looking to improve their overall health and wellbeing, which covers a range of areas.

Total Fitness

To be considered ‘healthy’, a person should embody the components of total fitness:

Physical fitness The wellbeing of the body systems, including the heart, lungs, muscles, bones and joints. It covers health-related and skill-related components.
Mental and emotional fitness The wellbeing of the mind; a positive mental state and harmony between the mind and emotions. It includes a person’s ability to manage stress.
Medical fitness Being free from injury, chronic disease and illness.
Nutritional fitness Having access to healthy food; eating a healthy diet with a balance nutritional intake for fuel, growth and repair.
Social fitness Having healthy interactions and relationships with others.

Factors that affect health and wellbeing

An individual’s potential to lead a healthy lifestyle is very much influence by a number of key factors, some of which can be controlled and some that cannot.

Non-controlled factors

  • Genetics – some individuals are more susceptible to illness and mental health issues that others.
  • Age – at birth, our immune systems are weaker than that of a grown adult, however our ability to recover from illness and injury is quicker in our youth. As we move into old age, our body’s systems deteriorate, increasing the risk of illness and injury.
  • Gender – at different stages of life, men and women suffer from different illnesses.

Controlled factors (lifestyle behaviours)

  • Activity levels – evidence has shown that a a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a wide range of health conditions and diseases across all the body’s systems including mental health.
  • Diet – it is important to eat a balanced diets that aligns with the government’s healthy eating guidelines. A poor diet increases the risk of illness and disease.
  • Smoking – cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 that are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and 400 other toxins (harmful substances).
  • Alcohol and drugs – exceeding the government guidelines for alcohol intake increases the risk of certain diseases, such as fatty liver disease and hepatitis. It can also cause mental health problems and affect an individual’s ability to function effectively. Taking illegal drugs carries a number of health risks, which vary according to the drug being taken.

Determinants of health

The WHO suggests that, although we may have control over our lifestyle behaviours, there are environmental factors that strongly influence the likelihood of an individual leading a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle. These are:

Adopting poor lifestyle behaviours, such as inactivity, eating a poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption, can increase the risk of illnesses and diseases, such as:

The role of physical activity in health and wellbeing

Physical activity doesn’t have to be structured exercise or sport; alternatives include:

The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) categorises physical activity levels in the following way:

In order to maintain a good level of health, it is recommended that adults should partake in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or an equivalent combination of both each week.

Sport England’s most recent ‘Active Lives’ survey found the English population to still be below par in their physical activity levels:

Health benefits of physical activity

Physical activity carries a wide range of health benefits, which include:

  • Reducing the risk of premature death by 20-30%.
  • Reducing the risk of developing CHD, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers by 50%.
  • Improving functional capacity.
  • Reducing the risk of back pain.
  • Increasing independence in older people.
  • Increasing bone density and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Improving psychological wellbeing.
  • Reducing the risk of stress, anxiety and clinical depression.
  • Reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Reducing the risk of falls in older adults.
  • Improving weight loss and weight management, thereby reducing the risk of obesity.
  • Improving quality of life and general wellbeing.

(Department of Health, 2011)