Health is a word used in a multitude of circumstances to convey a variety of different meanings. In its most general usage, health is a word to convey a state of being, a reflection of the overall condition of an organism, from the state of an individual cell to that of the entire body, at a particular time. Health is synonymous with a soundness of mind and body, consistent with a freedom from disease or abnormality.

Health is a word whose origins extend to the Old English expression used when drinking or offering a toast to a person's welfare. When paired with different adjectives, health becomes a specific descriptor of many physical or mental conditions, a focused phrase that can be adapted to create a perspective describing more discrete measures of performance.

Although used in a broad range of contexts, health has a number of fundamental aspects. A sound diet, with a proper distribution of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, combined with the ingestion of sufficient quantities of vitamins and minerals is the first such component. Exercise sufficient to maintain a proper weight, as well as stimulating the various human systems such as the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal structures, is another important component. Sleep sufficient to permit the rest and repair of the body is another critical foundation to human health.

Health is also used to represent a companion state when paired with the term fitness. While health is an all-encompassing expression of the present physical condition of the human body, fitness is a word that is properly used with respect to the level of muscular and cardiovascular conditioning. While both health and fitness are states that must be achieved and maintained, as opposed to simply persisting for an indefinite period, it is likely impossible to possess one of these positive physical attributes without also having the other to at least some degree; for example, poor health and excellent fitness would be a difficult and dubious achievement.

It is when the mental health of an athlete is added to the consideration of total health and fitness that apparent contradictions may arise. The closer one comes to achieving elite status in a sport, the more crucial the maintenance of optimal mental health will be. Mental health includes such diverse components as concentration skills, psychological preparedness, the ability to maintain commitment to training regimes, and the ability to properly distinguish between normally occurring discomfort and actual injury. No athlete, from the recreational level to the world-class competitor, can ever perform at the maximum level as an automaton, a machine able to entirely divorce current mental state from physical performance. Comprehensive health and fitness will include all of the mental and physical aspects associated with human performance.

The word health is often paired with a broadly descriptive adjective, such as good health, excellent health, poor health, or failing health. Health is given a clearer and more precise meaning when it is applied to a specific aspect of the human

Exercise is key in establishing and maintaining good health.
experience, such as physical, mental or spiritual health; the well-known nostrum that begins "early to bed, early to rise" was humorously adapted by American humorist James Thurber to state: "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead." Health is commonly used as a part of a description or assessment of the function of a defined physical process, particularly in various sports science contexts. Examples include cardiovascular health, cardiorespiratory health, and heart health. Health in these applications is used to provide a general overview or assessment of the function involved; the substitution of the term "fitness for health" conveys a better impression of the functionality, both in capability and capacity, of the subject physical system.

Health is also used as a modifier as well as a noun. The most common examples are health promotion and health protection, general expressions of the advancement of wellness that often include the promotion of sport. The advancement and maintenance of health usually includes specific sport or more general physical exercise as a primary tool in these pursuits. Health, as an adverb, is found is expressions such as healthy living, lifestyle, outlook, or diet; the opposite, unhealthy, may also be used.

SEE ALSO Age-related responses to injury; Diet; Fitness; Sleep.