Fitness versus Health – there is a difference

I remember when Jim Fixx died. You may not, so here’s a little about him. (You can read a short article about Fixx at Wikipedia.)

Jim Fixx is widely credited as being one of the pioneers of fitness. He started running at age 35, when he was overweight and a two-pack-a-day smoker. Ten years later he had lost 60 pounds, was smoke-free, and had written a best-seller about running.

Seven years after that, at the age of 52, Fixx dropped dead of a heart attack after a run.

This happened in 1984, and many people jumped on a bandwagon that claimed Fixx’s death proved that running is bad for you. There were even jokes circulating about it.

Jim Fixx
But what Fixx’s death was really displaying was the difference between fitness and health.

“Fitness” describes your body’s ability to do physical things, like running, lifting heavy objects, moving without pain.

Jim Fixx was a fit guy. He could run for miles. He was in shape.

But he was not healthy. The autopsy revealed that atherosclerosis had blocked one of Fixx’s coronary arteries 95%, a second 85%, and a third 70%.

Fitness does not necessarily lead to perfect health. There are always past behaviors, hereditary tendencies, and environmental factors that can bring disease to anybody, even the most fit people.

But you can severely lower your risk profile by getting into — and staying in — good shape.

I’ve witnessed this with my own body during my quest for fitness.

As I lost weight, I saw my blood pressure drop to normal, allowing me to stop taking two blood pressure medications my doctors had prescribed. I watched my bad cholesterol and triglycerides decrease drastically, and my good cholesterol increase dramatically. Pain I used to feel is now gone. I can run and climb steps without getting out of breath.

And all that increased fitness has led me to better health, lowered my risk of heart attack, cancer, and a host of other ills.

But I still struggle with my blood-sugar level. It’s down from where it was, but still borderline and doesn’t seem to be getting any lower. And this is happening in the face of the fact that I severely — and I do mean severely — cut back on consuming anything with added sugar about 18 months ago.

I haven’t given up looking for the answer to that health issue, but it’s there, even though I am more fit than I’ve ever been.

So fitness is one thing, health is another.

I often tell people that I may not outlive them, but it won’t be because I didn’t try.

How about you? Would you rather go out fighting, or lie on your deathbed, wondering why you thought everything else in your life was so much more important than getting fit?