A complex question.
One I got asked today in the clinic and have been asked in various ways before.
I was discussing with a client how she wanted to measure her progress whilst coming in to see me for exercise guidance. She is keen to start moving more, but has some aches and pains that are starting to bother her. She wants to get “better”.
“I just don’t feel that healthy” she said.
She is not interested in using blood test results, scales or more objective measures to monitor her progress. After some discussion, we agreed that she would use the following 3 tasks to assess whether her health is improving.
- An improved ability to get up and down stairs
- Improved confidence that she could enjoy a 4 week trip around Italy coming up in a few months
- Finishing more days without feeling exhausted
This made me think as I drove home how complex and personal the idea of health is.
The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. As I work with clients who often have chronic conditions or musculoskeletal issues, achieving this definition in its entirety may not always be reasonable.
In the last few years, I’ve made more of an effort to ask my clients how they define health, and what being “better “ or “healthier” may look like to them. Objective measures like weight, waist girth, cholesterol and blood pressure results certainly have their place, but I am finding clients are often more motivated by more subjective pursuits.
These subjective measures have included:
- “Less medication”
- “An ability to go wherever, whenever I please”
- “Not needing to see my GP so much”
- “Being able to play with the kids for longer”
- “More energy and feeling more positive”
- “Feeling more zing in my step”
What about you though? How do you define being healthy?
With most of us aiming to eat, sleep and move better, it has certainly helped me (and hopefully my clients) move forward when we are both on the same page in terms of how we are measuring their health. In short though, I don’t think it is as simple as what my text books have told me!