What Does It Mean To Be Healthy?

September 5, 2013

What does it mean to be healthy?What does it mean to be healthy?
I know, big question. One that we should have asked ourselves a while ago. After all, this is a blog promoting healthy living; so one could have rightly assumed that we knew the answer all along, before even starting our daily ramblings.
In all honesty, I decided to discuss this topic today, because I recently found out that people are quite confused about the meaning of being healthy.
When I asked my friends and colleagues what being healthy meant to them, I discovered that they had very different ideas about what that means. Some of my favorite ones are:
  • “Being healthy means living your life in such a manner as to prevent disease and maximize quality of life"
  • “Exercising regularly and eating regularly whilst maintaining a balanced diet for a strong immune system”
  • “It means avoiding junk food as much, eat more fruits and veggies, more natural food and not processed foods. Exercise, and feeling better. Looking more young and have less problems with your health.”
  • “Being healthy means not being overweight, eating properly and exercise!”
Very different one from another. However, on one point all the people I interviewed seemed to agree, that being healthy is complex and it is constantly changing.
But let’s start from the beginning.
The English word “health” comes from the Old English word hale, meaning “wholeness, being whole, sound or well”.According to the current Oxford American Dictionary, health is: “1. State of being well in body or mind. 2. Person’s mental or physical condition. 3. Soundness, esp. financial or moral.”
A solid definition, that unfortunately doesn’t help us answering our question. It just tells us that health means “being well”.

Moving to Merriam-webster’s Medical Dictionary; which provides three definitions for health:

  1. “The condition of an organism or one of its parts in which it performs its vital functions normally or properly: the state of being sound in body or mind”
  2. "Freedom from physical disease and pain”
  3. “The condition of an organism with respect to the performance of its vital functions especially as evaluated subjectively or non-professionally”
Let’s do some exegesis (i.e., the interpretation of the text). The Medical Dictionary tells us that an organism is healthy when it functions normally and, furthermore, when it is also free from physical disease and pain.
It thus identifies two main characteristics of health: 1) the performance of vital functions at a certain level; and 2) the absence of disease and pain.

However, the most famous modern definition of health can be found in the Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO):

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity

In other words, physical health (we leave mental and social health aside) means a complete physical well-being absent of any diseases.
Physical well-being is defined as something a person can achieve by developing all health-related components of his/her lifestyle. Fitness reflects a person’s cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, and body composition. Other contributors to physical well-being include correct nutrition, adequate sleep, hygiene, and body weight management.
When all these components are present a person reaches physical well-being, hence he/she is healthy.
To sum-up, physical health (i.e., being healthy) means a good body health, which is healthy because of regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate rest, in the absence of diseases.
Make sense to you? I hope so.
Before ending this post, I want to quote Greek philosopher Plato, that over 2,500 years ago said:
Attention to health is life’s greatest hindrance


  1. Super interesting, thanks for sharing!

  2. Love that last quote from Plato!
    This raises a lot of questions; for example, if we go by the WHO definition of health that encompasses physical, mental and social aspects - then, even though I try my best to eat healthy, exercise and get rest, i question how really healthy am I?
    Thank You for a very thought provoking post.
    Shashi @ http://runninsrilankan.com

  3. Very interesting and a great post to motivate us. Healthy is all what you posted and more.