The World Health Organization: Definition of Health

Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
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A short internet search for the term ‘health and fitness’ and you’ll probably fall into a rabbit hole of endless opinions, guidelines, studies, and trends. With so many polarized viewpoints on health and fitness out there, how can you differentiate between what’s outdated information and what’s current or what’s fact and what’s fiction? Before you start pulling your hair out in frustration, you’d be best advised to direct your attention to the World Health Organization (WHO)'s definition of health for information your can trust.

What is the World Health Organization (WHO)?

If you’re wondering who in the world WHO are and what this has to do with daily health and fitness — we’ll elaborate. WHO, a part of the United Nations Development Group, they’re a specialized agency whose mission is to:

  • Provide global leadership in the arena of international public health

  • Lead research initiatives and circulate the most current, valuable information on health

  • Help shape ethical, evidence-based health policies — setting norms and standards

  • Monitor global health situations and trends over a period of time (months, years, decades)

  • Act as a catalyst for change and sustainable support

Established in 1948, the WHO now has offices in more than in 150 countries with their publications translated into six languages.

World Health Organization definition of health

The World Health Organization’s definition of health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” They assert that physical and mental well-being is a human right, enabling a life without limitation or restriction.

Improving and maintaining good health starts with adopting healthy habits and like WHO, 8fit is committed to helping people develop healthy, sustainable changes for life.

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WHO’s practical advice on maintaining a healthy diet

WHO regularly publishes a host of fact sheets on health-related topics from nutrition to exercise, with informative, practical breakdowns that align with the 8fit approach to health and fitness.

Fruits and vegetables

“Eating at least 400 g, or 5 portions, of fruits and vegetables per day, reduces the risk of NCDs (non-communicable disease), and helps ensure an adequate daily intake of dietary fiber.’

  • Always include vegetables in your meals

  • Eat fresh fruits and raw vegetables as snacks

  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables in season

  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables


“Reducing the amount of total fat intake to less than 30% of total energy intake helps prevent unhealthy weight gain in the adult population. Also, the risk of developing NCDs is lowered by reducing saturated fats to less than 10% of total energy intake, and trans fats to less than 1% of total energy intake, and replacing both with unsaturated fats.”

  • Remove the fatty part of meat; use high-quality vegetable oils (not animal oil); and boil, steam or bake rather than fry (if frying, try not to overheat the oil), avoid processed foods that contain trans fats

  • Limit the consumption of foods that contain high amounts of saturated fats in processed foods (e.g. cheese, ice cream, fatty meat).

Salt, sodium and potassium

“Most people consume too much sodium through salt (an average of 9–12 g of salt per day) and not enough potassium. High salt consumption and insufficient potassium intake (less than 3.5 g) contribute to high blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease and stroke {…} People are often unaware of the amount of salt they consume. In many countries, most salt comes from processed foods {…} or during cooking (table salt).”

Reduce consumption by:

  • Limiting adding salt, soy sauce or fish sauce during the preparation of food

  • Taste your food before salting it

  • Limiting the consumption of salty snacks

  • Choosing products with lower sodium content


‘…Evidence indicates that in both adults and children, the intake of free sugars should be reduced to less than 10% of total energy intake and that a reduction to less than 5% of total energy intake provides additional health benefits. Free sugars are all sugars added to foods or drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. {…} Excess calories from foods and drinks high in free sugars also contribute to unhealthy weight gain, which can lead to overweight and obesity.”

Sweet tooth? Learn how to tame your sugar cravings in this article.

Reduce consumption by:

  • Limiting foods and drinks containing high amounts of sugars

  • Eating fresh fruits and raw vegetables as snacks instead of sugary snacks

World Health Organization exercise recommendations

In addition to WHO’s nutritional recommendations they also have a range of basic guidelines regarding activity level and exercise for healthy adults aged between 18 to 64.

Cardiovascular exercise

  • Do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week

  • Or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity

  • Also, the aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes

Strength exercise

  • Incorporate muscle-strengthening activities involving major muscle groups two or more days a week

  • Make sure to involve your major muscle groups (glutes, quads, hamstrings, back, chest) two or more days a week

Seems like a straightforward overview right? But how does this apply to daily life you may ask. What you want to be focusing on are activities that will raise your heart rate. Your heart rate is an objective way to measure the intensity level of an exercise. Generally, the higher your heart rate during physical activity, the higher the exercise intensity.

The basic way to calculate your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 30 years old, your maximum heart rate is 190. This means that your heart should beat a maximum of 190 times per minute while you exercise. Moderate exercise intensity is about 60 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. While a vigorous level of intensity is around 75 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Aim to exercise at least five times a week if your workout sessions last around 30 minutes. Or, you can take it up a level and train three to five times a week (3 x = 25 minutes, 5 x = 15 minutes). Whatever your chosen strategy is, the idea is to stay active and move your body with rigorously most days of the week.

Did somebody say workout? Speaking of exercise, give our 10-minute at-home workout a try.

WHO’s World Health Day

This year, the World Health Organization proudly celebrated the 70th year annual World Health Day. Celebrated every year on the 17th April, this day is dedicated to highlighting the most current global health issues since 1950. Every year, events are organized regionally and internationally as an initiative to shed light on actionable steps you can take to improve your health from nutritional resources to gym membership offers.

This day also acts to inform communities of the most pressing issues at hand in global health; from the eradication of epidemics like polio or measles to how to stay active while aging. If you're interested in all things health and fitness, be sure to add World Health Day to your calendar.

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