What is optimal health?

Optimal Humans

There’s a common misconception that the fitter you look, the healthier you’ll be. Or that being incredibly fit and strong correlates to optimal health. Neither of these are accurate. 

To achieve optimal health, we have to first define what it means.

Optimal health is not about being a world-class athlete

Any world-class athlete at their absolute best is sacrificing their optimal health for the opportunity to perform at the highest level. No athlete in the Tour de France, in the NRL or the Olympics is doing it because it’s good for their health. They’re doing it for the glory and the pay-check. And giving up optimal health is a tradeoff that comes with chasing high performance.

In contrast, optimal health is the combination of longevity and vigour. It’s about having confidence in your health and physical abilities. Ageing gracefully and getting the most out of the physical activities that are important to you, pain free. Whether it’s recreational surfing or competitive tennis.

It starts with your lifestyle and the way you live

Lifestyle is the combination of your eating habits, stress management, sleep, recovery and your social and mental wellbeing. All the strength, cardio and mobility in the world won’t help if you rely on takeaway meals, battle with chronic stress, sacrifice sleep for work, and spend most of your time in an artificially lit office.

You don’t have to be perfect. We all have our occasional struggles with stress and sleep. And no one eats a perfect diet 365 days a year. Rather, optimal health is doing what we know is good for our health, most of the time.

Mobility and function set the tone for your strength and cardio

Optimal health is about having the mobility to access and control the full ranges of motion in all of your joints. 

Having the function means that you’re able to take this mobility and use it in a wide variety of body weight movements. This includes the push up, dead hang and the dead bug, among others. As simple as these exercises might sound, our modern sedentary lifestyle means that we’re gradually losing these skills.

The mobility and function are not sport specific. Instead, they’re specific for living and moving like a well functioning, robust human should. They’re the foundation where you will build your strength, cardio fitness, and eventually, sport skills.

Optimal health means balancing mobility, strength, cardio and joint function mastery

Unless you're a professional athlete, training focus is always a battle wth time management. What to focus on and for how long. For the sake of keeping this simple, let’s say that the total of your mobility, strength, cardio and joint function mastery makes up 100% of your time. If you the majority of you time on strength, it only leaves a small amount of time too divvy up between the three other important focuses. This means that you could be ridiculously strong. Powerlifters are a good example of this. Yet their strength often comes at the expense of mobility, cardiovascular health and good joint function.

At the other end of the spectrum are the distance runners. They might focus the majority of time on cardio, leaving minimal time to develop strength, improve joint function and mobility. Again, three aspects of health suffer because of the heavy emphasis on one. 

Then there are the yogis. It’s not uncommon for them to spend the majority of time on mobility with only moments of true joint function focus. Which in-turn negatively affects their strength and cardio. 

All the three examples, powerlifters, distance runners and yogis, are great at one specific thing. But being great at one aspect comes at the cost of optimal health. What’s the alternative?

Hybrid athletes as role models for optimal health

Chris Woolley is the hybrid athlete subject matter expert in the Optimal Humans app. A firefighter who wouldn’t be out of place in either a powerlifting competition or endurance event.

He might not be quite as strong as a dedicated powerlifter. Or as fast as a marathon specialist. But he fits into the top 5% in both events. And he hasn't sacrificed optimal health for performance.

You don’t always have to have a perfect balance between the four

Sometimes you focus more on either strength, cardio, joint function or mobility. Dependent upon your endeavour. Maybe you’ve signed up for a marathon and are now putting extra focus and time on your cardio fitness. There’s nothing wrong with that. As long as you accept that you can’t keep all the balls in the air at the same time.

How Optimal Humans app can help you achieve optimal health and performance

Optimal Humans app will revolutionise your approach to health and fitness. Complete the in-depth testing and get your personalised optimal health snapshot to get started.

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This article is part of our beginner series. Stay tuned

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