Difference between fitness and health

Are you among those interested in knowing the difference between fitness and health? Worry less I have you covered in this blog post.

To begin, it’s essential to note that both “fitness” and “health” are multidimensional concepts with overlapping and interconnected elements, and they are often interdependent, i.e., improvements in one can lead to improvements in the other.

What is Health?

Health is a holistic term that involves physical, mental, and social wellbeing. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition emphasizes that health isn’t just about not being sick; it’s about being in a state of overall wellbeing.

Physical health involves the efficient functioning of the body and its systems, encompassing factors such as proper nutrition, the absence of disease, and the body’s ability to recover from illness and injury. It’s not just about the absence of illness but also includes physical vitality and resilience.

Mental health is related to cognitive and emotional wellbeing. It’s not merely the absence of mental health disorders; it also involves the ability to manage stress, to work productively and make meaningful contributions to one’s community, and to engage in fulfilling relationships.

Social health relates to the ability to form satisfying interpersonal relationships with others, to adapt comfortably to different social situations, and to act appropriately in a variety of settings.

What if Fitness?

On the other hand, fitness more specifically refers to the body’s ability to function efficiently and effectively in work and leisure activities, to be healthy, to resist diseases, and to meet emergency situations. It can be divided into several categories, each focusing on a specific aspect of our physical abilities:

  1. Cardiorespiratory Fitness: This refers to the ability of your circulatory and respiratory systems (heart and lungs) to supply oxygen during sustained physical activity. It’s often measured by endurance exercises like running, swimming, or cycling.
  2. Muscular Strength and Endurance: Strength refers to the ability of a muscle to exert force to overcome resistance. Endurance is the ability of a muscle, or a group of muscles, to sustain repeated contractions or to continue to apply force against a fixed object. Strength and endurance are often improved through resistance training, like weightlifting.
  3. Flexibility: This refers to the range of motion available at a joint. It’s important for overall mobility and preventing injuries. Stretching exercises often help to improve flexibility.
  4. Body Composition: This refers to the relative proportions of fat, muscle, bone, and water in the body. A healthy body composition is often associated with improved fitness and reduced risk of chronic diseases.

List of differences between fitness and health

Here’s a concise list detailing some of the key differences between fitness and health:


Health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not just the absence of disease. Fitness, on the other hand, refers to the physical capacity of an individual to perform various tasks or activities.


Health is a broader concept that encompasses a wide range of factors, including mental health, physical health, and social health. Fitness is a subset of physical health, focused specifically on performance capacity in physical activities.


Health can be evaluated using a variety of indicators such as disease presence or absence, mental health assessments, social connectivity, etc.

Fitness is typically measured more objectively through specific physical tests, such as heart rate response to exercise, muscle strength, flexibility, or body composition.


Health maintenance may require a balanced diet, regular check-ups, mental health practices like mindfulness, and social interaction. Fitness maintenance generally requires regular physical activity, strength training, flexibility exercises, and sometimes specific nutrition for muscle recovery and growth.


The outcome of good health is overall wellbeing and absence of disease. The outcome of good fitness is improved performance in physical tasks, better endurance, strength, flexibility, and potentially improved body composition.

Effect on Each Other

Fitness and health can influence each other. Improved fitness often leads to improved physical health (for example, lower risk of heart disease), but fitness does not necessarily influence mental or social health.

Conversely, good health can make it easier to improve fitness (for example, absence of disease makes regular exercise more feasible), but one can be healthy (not having any illness) without being physically fit.

8 ways health and fitness can help in the pursuit of overall wellbeing

To achieve both health and fitness, one must develop an integrated, balanced approach. This involves maintaining a healthy lifestyle that considers physical activity, nutrition, mental wellbeing, and social factors. Here are some steps that can be taken:

  1. Regular Exercise: Engage in a balanced program that incorporates aerobic exercises (like walking, running, or cycling), strength training, and flexibility exercises. The WHO recommends that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity.
  2. Balanced Diet: Eat a varied, nutrient-rich diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Limit the intake of processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats. Stay hydrated and consider consulting with a dietitian or nutritionist to create a diet plan that suits your needs and lifestyle.
  3. Mental Health Care: Regularly engage in stress management and mental wellness activities. This could include mindfulness practices, meditation, yoga, or seeking professional help from therapists or counselors when needed. Mental health is a critical component of overall health.
  4. Regular Health Check-ups: Regular screenings and check-ups can help detect any potential health problems early, increasing the chances of successful treatment and full recovery. Follow the recommended schedules for routine screenings such as blood pressure, cholesterol, eye, and dental exams, among others.
  5. Sleep: Prioritize sleep as it plays a vital role in good health and wellbeing. Lack of sleep can have a significant impact on your physical health, mental health, quality of life, and safety. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults.
  6. Healthy Social Interactions: Socialize with friends, loved ones, or engage in community activities. Positive social interaction can greatly contribute to emotional wellbeing and overall health.
  7. Avoid harmful behaviors: This includes reducing and avoiding the consumption of alcohol, quitting smoking, and refraining from recreational drug use. These behaviors can have serious negative effects on both health and fitness.
  8. Continuous Learning and Adaptation: Health and fitness are not stagnant; they are dynamic aspects of life that require continual care and adaptation. Stay informed about health and fitness advancements. Adjust your strategies as needed based on your age, changes in lifestyle, or changes in health status.

A final thought about the difference between fitness and health

In summary, health and fitness, while interconnected, represent different aspects of a person’s wellbeing. Health is more holistic, encompassing physical, mental, and social dimensions.

Fitness, while a part of physical health, specifically relates to the physical capacities to perform various tasks and activities.

It’s important to note that while being fit can improve your health, it is possible to be fit but not healthy (for example, if you have an underlying illness), and it’s also possible to be healthy but not fit (for example, if you lack strength or endurance). Therefore, both fitness and health should be considered in the pursuit of overall wellbeing.

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