Health vs. Fitness: Are They The Same Thing?

Health vs. Fitness: Are They The Same Thing?

Health and fitness are words that become interchangeable in our industry, but they actually aren’t the same thing at all. These two words are most often used incorrectly and can get lost in industry jargon.

So what’s the difference? In order to answer this question effectively I would like to introduce the term the “biopyschosoical model,” fist before we get into defining them.  This model takes into account the spheres of one’s overall well-being.  Notice I did not say “health” or “fitness,” here either, I said “well-being.”

The Biopsychosoical Model:

Tis model is best understood in terms of a combination of biological, psychological, and social contextual factors rather than purely in biological terms of the human structure (our physical body).  Many clients come to us because they want to “feel better,” “get fitter,” “be less stressed.” Yet, most often this in related to the physical body only, and as we know the physical structure of a human is merely one proponent of someone’s “well-being.”  When we use the words like health and fitness  we need to identify the pre-requisites. After that address the systematic activities that need to be established to prevent or rehabilitate health problems that allow for greater fitness gains and ultimately promote optimal well-being.

untitled (10)Take pain for example, or movement dysfunction This model is used most often in the clinical practice, but as a Movement Coach is a very critical piece of analysis we can use as a reminder that health and fitness are not the same.

What’s the Difference?

Let me ask you this?  If there is pain, does this mean a person needs better health or better fitness? Do they just need to move more? Have we identified what kind of stressors  they exposed to at their work, lifestyle etc ? What’s their nutrition like, do they fuel their body for proper health or proper fitness?

Let’s outline a simple framework for not only defining these separately, but let’s breakdown an easy operating system towards acceptable transition from health to fitness.

What is health? Health can be considered the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living organism. Therefore, in humans, it is the general condition of a person’s mind and body, usually meaning to be free from illness, injury or pain.

What is fitness? Fitness is a general state of health and well-being or specifically the ability to perform aspects of sports or occupations. Physical fitness is generally achieved through correct nutrition, exercise, hygiene and rest.

Can you see the difference?

I want to bring your attention to the phrase ‘free of pain.” If a person has pain, their health is at risk. Not just physically, but biochemically, neurologically and psychologically.. Pain changes movement. Pain changes our chemical reactions and it changes breathing ; which can lead to dysfunction, limiting their ability to perform fitness related tasks. 50% of patients with chronic pain will increase their chances by 50% towards having a mental health problem; like depression, anxiety or sleep related disorders.

Why? because pain changes and affects your health. If there is pain, then improved health is first and foremost. Fitness cannot even be considered until the pain is at a manageable level where the client can feel confident in movement.

How to Screen Health vs Fitness:

Every person on our planet, no matter how athletic you are, or how many organic fruits or veggies you consume or super foods you add to your recovery shakes – when we look under the hood we can always find asymmetries or dysfunction – and this can cause pain. We all have them at some point in our lives, your coaches, your health practitioners – all of us, because we are all human and because our external environment is in constant state of flux  and when our external environment changes, so does out internal environment.

The goal is minimizing risk  and pain is by addressing movement dysfunction early on and ensuring early intervention with injury.  Look closely and you will often find that a tight muscle is limiting a movement pattern where motor control or stability is poor and vice versa, too much mobility can cause inhibition of tissue and instability of the joint.  Look at your profession; every profession has its physical and biopyschosocial risks that has the potential to lead to injury. Pain not only changes movement, it changes your bio chemical reactions, secretions and operating systems of your organs. Most affected by this is your breathing and cardiovascular health – dysfunctional movement = dysfunctional breathing patterns. This increases anxiety in the body; which in turn creates tonic, tense tissue!

Prevention is key and what you choose to do should make it move better, and that’s dependent on the tools in your coach’s toolbox. The FMS Movement Systems is one of those tools, along with the SFMA (selective functional movement assessment). Both are baselines for  health (the SFMA – when there is pain) and fitness (the FMS – movement and transition to performance).The SFMA protocol and top tier breakouts are a guideline from which you can see from the figure 1 that help to triage the impairment so you can know the direction to take the client’s health. This is for the clinician, not the coach. So if you are a coach, having someone to refer to with SFMA experience is key. Now, this is not the only assessment out there, but it is one of few that use language that is easy for any coach or client to understand. Using a language that is common to all, allows for greater intra-disciplinary support – working together as a team.

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Your Gateway to Fitness:

The FMS Systems is merely one tool in your toolbox towards screening a client for health concerns and or fitness readiness. Apart from the FMS and proponents of musculoskeletal testing, I also use a postural poise screen and certain strength benchmarks once a client has been cleared from pain..

If you flunk a movement screen due to pain or movement-pattern incompetency, the best coaching in the world most likely will not help much. As a coach, my job is to correct mechanics, improve movement and empower clients to live an optimal lifestyle. Even with a major movement restriction, compensation or limitation, we can always find positions where you can still encourage movement competency and increased load, but there must be pre requisites for applying load. These pre requisites start with mobility, then stability and then strength. The reality is we want a moving, dynamic evolving and adaptable human being, not someone who knows how to program a treadmill well.

When you pass a movement screen, you can undergo further load-focused testing and you are now ready to look at corrective strategies and transitional training.  Thus you can now move into fitness. Test and retest for much-needed bio feedback on how to improve performance and skill sets.

This is why the patterns of the FMS movement screen, the SFMA and the corrective models are so important. As Gray Cook says “acceptable movement patterns under appropriate loads usually improve, but we must first agree on situational definitions of acceptable and appropriate.” Much like agreeing upon acceptable definitions of health vs fitness. Understanding the vast difference can help you, as a coach systemically change your client’s life – not just physically, but improving their own biopyschosocial approach.

UnCovering & UnCooking the FMS Model: Primitive Patterns, Myths & Strategies

UnCovering & UnCooking the FMS Model: Primitive Patterns, Myths & Strategies

Last week we taught an FMS Level 1 and Level 2 (Advanced Corrective Exercise) combo course at Copeman Healthcare to a sold out room of 29 eager students, coaches, trainers and clinicians. Over 130,000 + health professionals have joined the legion of FMS certified coaches around the world, and I felt very proud to be one of the assistants to one of the few teachers in North America who teaches the level 2 course. Behnad Honarbakhsh is one of Vancouver’s leading physiotherapists who specializes in not only traditional physiotherapy, but also, acupuncture, IMS (intramuscular stimulation), NLP, energy work, and soon to be Osteopathy. People have coined his sessions as “miracles” or “voodoo,” and I would be agree being a patient, as well as an employee and friend.  There is a vast wealth of knowledge and experience in our team at Fit to Train Human Performance Systems.  Now, enough of tooting the FTT horn… onwards to the main component of this article.. Uncovering the FMS model: Primitive Patterns, Myths and Strategies for corrective movement.

As Fit to Train’s only Movement Coach, new FMS professionals come to me with questions to learn more about how to apply this new tool and the corrective exercises into their current scope of practice. Many of which are strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers who find it overwhelming with all of the information to then make the transition from doctrine to strategy. My response is always the same: Keep.It.Simple.



Modern fitness and training science has bestowed upon us the ability to create strength and power in the presence of extremely poor dysfunction. This dysfunction means that fundamental movement patterns are limited, asymmetrical or barely present. Just because we can make people bigger, faster and stronger on top of this does not make it right. Seated, fixed-axis equipment perpetuates the illusion of fitness without enhancing functional performance. And what about “weak core” or “weak glute medius,” these are the two biggest myths in our industry. Number one, how can you tell it’s a weak core or weak glute med? How can you tell if a client is “firing” it. Answer – is you can’t. One muscle does not make the human body move properly. For active clients and even well trained athletes, it will be inhibition of sequential movement that results in poor tissue movement and tissue health. This falls into 3 categories (1) mobility (2) stability or (3) motor control, and most often because joints have a relationship with it’s neighbor and neighboring quadrant, you see all 3 scattered in different interactions between joints, tissue and posture positions.

Utilize all of your tools to uncover an individual’s dysfunction and then work to correct it. The result will be an individual who moves more efficiently, thereby creating a foundation for more effective strength, endurance and power training.

1.  THE TOOLS : The FMS Screens (which includes the FMS, SFMA for clinicians and the Y Balance) are all just screens to offer you a baseline on a clients strengths and compensatory movement.

2. THE SCORE: work on one asymmetry at a time, as you we see changes in them all. Use the breakout tiers  provided on the most asymmetrical score (ASLR, shoulder mobility, primitive patterns etc).

3. THE STRATEGY: Corrective movement exercises  are designed to “prep” the body for movement, any movement that the coach has prepared for that particular client. Your role in your warm up is to assess risk, remove negatives and prepare the client for the session.  If you are a trainer, corrective movement can be the first 10 mins of the hour. Like all else, what the client does on their own is part of the overall strategy of personal goal attainment. Ensure you offer them guidance and encourage them to perform their specific corrective exercises at home between your sessions.

The “Core” is the Foundation to Primitive Patterning: Gray Cook; Sequence of Core Firing Video: 


As a Movement Coach, I have the opportunity to spend an hour or more with each client and coach them on these fundamentals. Corrective movement is a modality within the health and wellness realm; which we like to call the “transition zone.” Corrective movement opens the door for coaches and professionals in the fitness industry to screen, assess and correct breakdowns in a client or athletes movement mechanics.

In my practice I use this style o f training to (a) pre screen a client who may need to see a physiotherapist or medical professional or (b) the client has been referred by a physiotherapist or medical professional and thus, my role is to “transition” the client from the clinical to the coaching again. This work compliments the work of most trainers and coaches, as it allows them to maximize their role with an athlete or client. There is no competition between myself and other trainers or coaches, because what I mainly teach is the technique and how cleaning the slate, removing negatives etc, applies to all areas of the athlete or clients life; while at the same time reinforcing the coaches strategy. An integrated team approach.

Even in the strength and conditioning realm, I have the opportunity to teach or in some cases re teach the fundamentals of lifting and transitioning. As the body becomes more efficient in mobilization, stabilization,  and neuromuscular adaptation they will ultimately be stronger and more fluid in movement. With this comes a risk of injury if we, as coaches, do not properly teach those new fundamentals the athlete or client are experiencing.

Video: Asymmetry in Movement (DVD Key Functional Exercises You Should Know): 


The following video selections are favorite videos I have chosen from the FMS library for you to be become more familiar with Corrective Movement, common mistakes and myths in the industry and the written portions of the article is direct excerpts from Gray Cook’s website and movement book.

Movement Competency: The ability to employ fundamental movement patterns like single-leg balance, squatting, reflex core stabilization and symmetrical limb movement.  This can also include basic coordination with reciprocal movement patterns like crawling and lunging. The central goal is not to assess physical prowess or fitness, but to establish a fundamental blueprint and baseline of quality not quantity.

Physical Capacity: The ability to produce work, propel the body or perform skills that can be quantified to establish an objective level of performance. If movement competency is present at or above a minimum acceptable level of quality, deficits in physical capacity can be addressed with work targeting performance. If movement competency is not adequate, it would be incorrect to assume that a physical capacity deficiency could be addressed by working only on physical capacity.

Growth and development follow the path of competency to capacity, but how many fitness and athletic programs  parallel this time-honored gold standard of motor development? If screens and standards for movement competency are not employed, we are programming on a guess. Furthermore, if our testing does not clearly separate movement competency tests and physical capacity tests, we exchange a guess for an assumption.

 VIDEO: Applying the FMS Model (6 min from the DVD Set “Key Functional Exercises You Should Know”):


Exercise professionals too often overlook the fundamental movements because highly active individuals can often perform many high level movements without easily observable deficits. The Functional Movement Screen was first introduced to give us greater relative insight into primitive patterns by identifying limitations and asymmetries. The FMS screen is a way of taking it back to the basics and recognizing that these patterns are fundamental; a key factor is that they are common during the growth and developmental sequence, and thus taking it back to primitive movement, we may be able to overcome some of these common compensations.

 VIDEO: Gray Cook:  Common Mistakes Made in Corrective Movement vs Strength Movement 


Consideration of primitive patterns can help make you a more intuitive, and intelligent exercise professional. Very often we become experts in exercise without considering growth and development, which is where the fundamentals of movement were first established. As explained in this video, these fundamental movements include rolling, pushing up, quadruped, and crawling. This foundation is often neglected in the approaches we take to enhance function and/or performance through exercise programming.

The first rule of functional performance is not forgetting fundamentals. In order to progress to movement we first learned to reflexively stabilize the spine, in order to control movement more distally in the extremities, this happened naturally during growth and development. However, many individuals lose the ability to naturally stabilize as they age due to asymmetries, injuries, poor training or daily activities. The individuals who do this develop compensatory movements, which then create inefficiencies and asymmetries in fundamental movements.

VIDEO 2: Gray Cook and Lee Burton: Secrets of Primitive Patterns:



You can put kids in sports. They put themselves in the game…

Karma Yoga offers many teachers and students the opportunity to give back to their community and stay healthy through the asana practice of Yoga & meditation, and this time it’s for the kids.  Between Novemeber 1-7th, Athletics 4 Kids is holding a Fitness Challenge acrossVancouver and BC, and anyone can participate!

Did you know that more than 1/3 of Canadian children cannot participate in sports or recreational activities due to financial barriers? A4K helps raise awareness and funds so that kids can live their dreams and participate in sports, which as we know is fundamental to their development.

The concept behind the challenge is easy; participants sign up with their gym or studio, join a team and choose to tackle a bodyweight workout of 250 – 1000 repetitions based on their personal fitness level. The goal is to finish the exercise as quickly as possible and collect pledges/donations in your community to support your efforts.

This is the 4th year of the Challenge and it has grown by leaps and bounds every year, but we need your help to continue this momentum in order to get the kids in YOUR community off the couch and into the game.

How does Yoga fit into this challenge?

Easy, YogaFORM has hopped on board to teach A Sun Salutation Series at numerous gyms, inVancouver and on theNorthShore and you can participate.

The Sun Salutations will be based on how many you can comfortably perform within a 60min session ~ 250, 500 or 1000 meditative Sun Salutations, you can choose to move through them in a hatha style flow or bring a powerful Vinyasa intention and get your sweat on.

I will be teaching various fun and challenging modifications to this ancient practice of honoring the sun through the dynamic asana sequence Surya Namaskar!

With 3 – 4 classes to choose from throughout the week of November 1st – 7th you can choose to attend one or all of them, join our team and get your pledge on!

The drop in rate for the class will also be donated directly to the A4K Fitness Challenge!

How to join the YogaFORM/ Sarah Jamieson team or register for a class?

Check out my YogaFORM Facebook page for more details on locations and contact information. I you are interested in
participating please comment on our Facebook page or email me at and I will send you the karmic details and class A4K Yoga Sun Salutation schedule.

Together we can support kids and their dreams! Let’s get out there and play! Ask your local gym or studio if they are supporting Athletics 4 Kids and get involved!

For more information on A4K visit:

For our Team YogaFORM Page visit:


Give Up Lifting Weights For Yoga? Yogi Adam Levine Did!

Rocker and devout yoga practitioner Sting, has a predecessor: Maroon 5 frontman, Adam Levine (and perhaps Robbie Williams!). One of the current judges on The Voice, Adam has given up pumping iron at the gym and has instead devoted his health to yoga:

How’d you wind up at yoga?
A year and a half ago, my trainer recommended I try working with Alanna to help with my flexibility issues. I’m naturally very tight in lower back and my hips and hamstrings too. My first class felt like someone was ripping my body apart. It wasn’t what you’d call peaceful. But I was excited by the idea that the more dedicated I became the more effortless it would become to relax and give in to that tightness. Yes, the torture subsided a bit over time.

How did your body change?
Physically I have always been on the slender side. When I started practicing I instantly felt more sculpted. Yoga carves you into a different person—and that is satisfying physically.

Did it change how you work out?
I had been lifting weights for years. After our first yoga session, I vowed never to lift another weight again.

Do you believe in the mind-body connection?
I was skeptical, to say the least. I was wary of the cliche´s associated with yoga: spirituality used as a marketing tool or Eastern philosophy sold at Starbucks to disenchanted lawyers and accountants looking for meaning. What I soon realized is that yoga welcomes everyone—that’s extremely appealing.

How do you maintain your practice on tour?
Being a traveler, yoga is by far the most convenient way to exercise while I’m on the road. You don’t need anything but a few feet of space and a mat. And I can always find at least an hour a day to practice. 

(Levine made videos with his teacher to take on the road with him.)

What is your advice to people who think they are too inflexible to do yoga?
Start simple. Yoga will drastically improve you in every way imaginable. But let’s face it, I only practice yoga because the classes are always packed with beautiful women. (I am totally kidding.)

The Elephant Journal has some more risque photos if you’re interested, click here. What about you – do you practice yoga exclusively, or do you like to add weight lifting to your fitness routine?

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