Saturday, May 26, 2012

True Health Versus the Appearance of Health

I guess it's one of those opinionated days. It's odd what passes for fitness and beauty these days. For most men, big muscles and 6-pack abs are indicators of fitness.Large or prominent breasts,even if surgically enhanced, seem to have become a prerequisite for the female to be deemed,"the perfect package." And,lest I forget,well defined,firm and prominent "buns" are sought after by men and women.I suppose I could also add in a perfect tan while I'm on the subject.
It's of course all nonsense,as Solomon once said, "Vanity of vanities,all is vanity." Health, and what passes for fitness, as promoted in the media and by far too many "health experts" these days is based on shallow and superficial criteria.I often think of Van Aaken's quote,"health has nothing to do with mass,and a well tanned skin after two weeks at the beach is often nothing but varnish over a rotting interior."
What is health? What constitutes health?
What follows are some thoughts on these questions. I should begin by saying that this is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of everything that comprises what health is in an individual,just some thoughts on the subject.
For starters, health is the absence of disease,sickness and any debilitating physical condition.Also,one is neither overweight or emaciated.What I've said so far is stating the obvious,but, lets look a little deeper into what health is and what qualifies as true health.Van Aaken said this about health: "Health is a constantly changing,multifaceted sensation with feelings of freshness,endurance,comfort,strength and performance capacity which also includes reliable vigor,as well mental and emotional strength." Is that how you feel?  As an aside,due to the fact that Van Aaken's writings have been translated from another language sometimes the phrasing seems awkward but what I just quoted is profound.He also says,and this was written 40+ years ago,that what is perceived as health these days is anything but, that the criteria for determining it is weak and has been compromised by the passage of time.Health can be "characterized by performance capacity,and a high performance capacity demands true health." Van Aaken writes that performance capacity, in say a weight lifter, is diametrically opposed to what is done by a marathon runner.He also indicates that the performance capacity of the weight lifter is clearly inferior to that of the distance runner.The reason why is obvious,he writes that the athletic activities of the weight lifter which require "pure skeletal-muscle strength and increase the heart's work by increasing blood pressure within the heart itself and in the arteries,are detrimental to the durability of the organism and to the work of this most important motor,the heart." If you have read the prior posts where I have referenced Van Aaken you know that he found that heart strength and health, as well as longevity, are best achieved by regular and sustained aerobic training.Repeatedly stressing out the heart by "explosive" muscle functions is not the way to health.With that said,a fitness program can be made complete by the addition of weight training.
In closing,the good Doctor says,and we should remember this,and I know I do when I see pix of former pros,past Olympians and elite athletes looking like shadows of their former selves, "Health is not static but full of movement,and it has to be re-won,maintained and heightened daily,through the years and decades, up to highest old age."
So excuse me,I have to leave now and do a little "maintaining and heightening."

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