Fitness is more than simply being able to lift your weight above your head or your chin up over a bar. It is more than running the 5K or the 10K. It goes deeper than a six-pack or sharply defined biceps. To understand what it means to be truly fit, we need to look deeper at our holistic level of fitness. Holistic fitness includes physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being, and it goes beyond the exercise that you get at a gym.
Yes, physical fitness is an important part of holistic fitness. To maintain a healthy weight and level of fitness, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise (hiking, gardening, or yoga) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (biking, jogging, or swimming) weekly. Add two sessions of strength training weekly and the physical part of holistic fitness is complete.
Emotional fitness is the ability to deal with whatever comes your way. This is not the same thing as being tough. In fact, someone who is emotionally fit can recognize when they are struggling and ask for help without shame. Emotionally fit people understand how stress affects their lives, and they work to deal with it effectively. Emotionally fit people love themselves, just as they are, and they extend this acceptance to their partners and children. This is a tall order, and it takes reflection and work to become truly emotionally fit. Some people work on this through counseling, some utilize the arts (e.g., painting, drawing, music, or writing), and some rely on family and friends to help them develop their emotional fitness. Whatever you choose, make this an important part of your holistic workout.
Our minds age just as our bodies do, and it is important to stay sharp and include mental fitness as an important part of our holistic health plan. Even if we don’t suffer from a deteriorating mental illness such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, our brains will begin to lose some of their agility as we get older, but there are ways to keep those neurons firing. Crossword puzzles, brain teasers, and online “brain training” apps and software all help us stay sharp as we age. Getting plenty of sleep and engaging with the world around us also help!
Spiritual fitness is more than just church, although attending a house of worship can be part of it. Spiritual fitness is the understanding of the connectedness of all things in the world and knowing where you fit. It can include simple daily actions like acting with compassion and kindness and striving to be a better person. Prayer and meditation can help, as can striving to be an honest and upright person in your everyday dealings with people. Acting out of integrity and generosity instead of dishonesty and selfishness is also a part of it. Spiritual fitness can also mean listening to your intuition and your body and learning whatever lessons they have to teach you. Just as there is no one spiritual path for everyone, there is no one way to spiritual fitness. Your personal journey is the way!
Contrary to what we see on TV and in magazines, fitness goes well beyond the physical body. To be truly healthy and fit, we need to look at all aspects of fitness, including mental, emotional, and spiritual fitness. Working to improve our holistic fitness in all of these areas can only improve our lives and is work worth doing.
What aspect of holistic fitness is strongest for you? What could use improvement?
Image by Fort Rucker via Flickr