Holistic FitnessPhysical, Dietary, Mental and Spiritual Heath

To be healthy is to strive for fitness in all aspects of life. Intellectual stimulation, physical exercise, good eating habits and self esteem with rewarding relationships are individually crucial but, also, each is interlinked with the other.

What is a Fit Mind?

Problem solving, creativity, planning and evaluation are some of the higher level thinking skills. These mental capacities may be engaged at work, in education, or during recreational and social activities. Mental fitness also includes stress reduction and nurturing personal happiness. In Cognitive Fitness, The Harvard Business Review suggests “The brain’s anatomy, neural networks, and cognitive abilities can all be strengthened and improved through your experiences and interactions with your environment.”

What is a Healthy Diet?

A healthy diet is balanced. There are a variety of food guides (e.g.Canada Food Guide) and most will prescribe plenty of fruit and vegetables, avoidance of food high in saturated fat, choosing whole grain products, eating less red meat and more chicken and fish, and drinking plenty of water.

What is the Right Type and Amount of Exercise?

The right amount of exercise depends upon your individual body composition, your life style and your goals. The Canada Physical Activity Guide makes useful suggestions. Minimally, 60 minutes a day of physical exercise is required to maintain health. Some people have more active jobs or life styles and will already be getting enough maintenance exercise. The more effort put into exercise the less time required. An hour of moderate walking may be roughly equivalent to 40 minutes of brisk walking or 30 minutes of jogging. To make physical fitness gains more time and effort is required.

What is Spiritual Fitness?

Spiritual finess may or may not involve religious belief, or even a belief in a spirit as a survivable entity. Spirituality also refers to some of the more esoteric qualities of humanity. Love, altruism, the appreciation of nature and art and beauty, and the need for social connections are characteristics that don’t easily fit into the category of mental acuity or cognition. John-Paul Vader, in Spiritual health: the next frontier, writes: “Just as the physical, mental, and social dimensions are interrelated and interact, we can also assume that there will be interactions between spirituality, spiritual health, and the other dimensions of health”

The Holistic Approach to Fitness

Exercise conditions the body to be more active enabling participation in sports or outdoor activity. Healthy diet leads to weight loss and improved health leading to improved self-image. Intellectual successes as simple as reading a book, to finishing a crossword puzzle, to completing an educational program lead to feelings of accomplishment and confidence. Loving and being loved makes one feel valued. The more success achieved in one area, the greater the likelihood of proceeding with confidence in another.

For example, if diet and exercise appear to be working, the confidence to engage in social relationships increases. Social relationships often involve learning and activity, further enhancing physical fitness. With social interaction also comes loving personal relationships. Caring about someone could conceivably lead to concern about their wellness and encourage cooperative efforts to achieve healthy living.

Granted that the above scenario is hypothetical and oversimplified, it does illustrate that being fit is more than having a good body mass index (BMI). Rather it is recognizing and valuing diet, physical fitness, mind, and spirituality as integrated components of a healthy lifestyle. This holistic approach is useful, in that improvement in any one of the four components helps to strengthen the others.


Gilkey, Roderick, Kilts, Clint, Cognitive Fitness, Harvard Business Review, November, 2007.

Vader, John-Paul, Spiritual health: the next frontier, European Journal of Public Health, 2006.

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