Fitness and Wellness: Do They Mean the Same Thing?

Blue Bicycle Wheel Outdoors

by | Mar 19, 2021 | blog

The Difference Between Fitness and Wellness.

In recent years, “wellness” has become something of a marketing term de jure for a wide range of products that promise to contribute to one’s overall sense of wellness.

Upon closer look, you’ll discover that many of these products are actually fitness products. This creates the impression that fitness and wellness mean the same thing. That they’re interchangeable terms.

Not so.

A more accurate way to look at these two terms is to view them as interrelated, in the sense that one contributes to the other.


Fitness – A Physical Focus

Fitness is very specific in that it refers to one’s physical health and the ability to complete a physical activity. Medical News Today notes that physical fitness isn’t just the ability to run fast or lift heavy weights. Rather, a person’s physical fitness is characterized by how well he or she “fulfills each of the components of being healthful.” And, those components? Cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition and flexibility.

Physical fitness plays a prominent role in a person’s overall wellness, and yet, it’s just one of many contributing factors.


Wellness – A Holistic Focus

So, what is wellness? The Global Wellness Institute (GWI), a non-profit organization that focuses on educating the public about preventative health and wellness, defines it as “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.”

Expanding on the definition, the GWI points out two important aspects of wellness:

  1. It’s not a passive or static state. It’s a self-directed, active process that involves making conscious choices that “lead toward an outcome of optimal holistic health and wellbeing.”
  2. It’s about the whole person. As such, it extends “beyond physical health and incorporates many different dimensions that should work in harmony.”


Dimensions Of Wellness

Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute (NWI), developed the wellness model in 1976. The model is comprised of six dimensions: emotional, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual and occupational. Other models include additional dimensions such as environmental and financial.

On the face of it, some of the dimensions may seem dissimilar. Some may not seem particularly important. In reality, the dimensions are interconnected and each is vitally important. Therefore each must be addressed equally so that our “whole person” can thrive and flourish.


The Wellness Wheel

An easy way to visualize the importance of the dimensions and their impact on our lives is to think of wellness as a bicycle wheel. Imagine that each spoke in the wheel represents a dimension and they must all work together to keep the wheel in balance. When all the spokes are in place, the wheel is strong and resilient; able to withstand even the roughest road.

But, what happens if one or more of those spokes break? The wheel may still function. But, eventually, if those spokes are not replaced, it becomes unbalanced. Its strength and stability are compromised, making for a bumpy ride on even the smoothest road.

The key to getting started? Learn about the dimensions and then identify your needs within each one. Next, start making lifestyle choices/changes to strengthen each dimension. Finally, integrate them in your daily life.

In the end, by focusing on the whole person, we grow stronger and more resilient. So, when life’s inevitable challenges come our way, we don’t just survive, we thrive.


About Jane Benskey

Jane is the Marketing Communications Specialist at NuStep, LLC. She earned a B.A. in Mass Communications from Wayne State University in Detroit. After stints in newspaper advertising, freelance writing and editing, radio promotions and technical writing, Jane added marketing communications to that list when she joined NuStep in 2004.