Why do we not understand the essentials of health better? We neglect health because we too often loosely grasp the most essential things in our life as knee-jerk responses without thinking; they happen. Health is the water in our swimming pool, the most important thing, without which it would not be a swimming pool.
We pay attention to the solid material of our “pool” (our body), not the life it contains—overlooking the essential thing. We ignore our health’s importance because, like the water in our swimming pool, it is just there. Many pool owners hire people knowledgeable in pool water care; they only have vague and nonspecific knowledge about pool water. However, each of us must maintain our life processes and must know precisely how to do so.
The word “health” derives from Old English roots meaning wholeness or the state of being uninjured. Initially, the word meant “being fit” for life— having health was a good omen for all of one’s activities. Well-being is a near synonym. However, health’s meaning is currently abridged to mean freedom from physical maladies.
The World Health Organization defines health as: “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Health worsens with illness yet is incompletely defined by the absence of disease that defines minimalist or subsistence health. Instead, the Army’s slogan “the best you can be” notion applies to each individual’s state of health.
Above all else, health is a gauge of functionality; it is loosely termed “fitness.” Health increases or decreases as a person’s ability to function changes. That is the healthy concept of health. Athletes and soldiers undergo rigorous physical training to improve physical fitness. I was never as physically fit as when in the military. Rosy cheeks, muscular build, pleasant countenance, and energetic behaviors are superficial evidence of physical health. In reality, their importance is signaling strength and endurance functionality. They are acquired by health-promoting activities.
Healthiness is attained or lost incrementally in small, unappreciated bits. Incremental changes that accumulate are very powerful over time. The Grand Canyon was sculpted over time─ by handfuls. Amazing indeed. Professors gained knowledge a page at a time, and athletes don’t just show up for games. Every happening results from a cause, a saying we apply everywhere except our health.
Health is qualitative and divisible into different aspects. Because most health threats are physical or mental, those aspects are considered the primary determinants of health. Mental, emotional, social, occupational, financial, and spiritual health are also essential. Each contributes or detracts from the others.