Proactive Health: Wellness vs. Fitness

Proactive Health Wellness vs fitness

How would you respond to the following statement?

“When it comes to my health, I rarely plan ahead and just take things as they come.”

Strongly Disagree                               Strongly Agree
1                2                  3                  4                   5


eople who answer on the “disagree” side are typically those who are proactively engaged in an ongoing focus on health, wellness and fitness. If your answer was “1”, you likely consider your proactive health focus to be an important part of who you are and a critical part of your identity as a person. What you may not know, however, is that your response to the statement is also influenced by your PATH Identity.

I will say more about this shortly.

If you are a person dedicated to health and wellness, there are a huge number of resources, services, and products available to you. All you have to do is open your Internet browser and conduct a simple search.

I did an Internet search on the phrase: “proactive health and wellness” and found a virtually endless list of health coaches, nutritionists, chiropractors, homeopaths, and other “wellness” experts and organizations.

Within this list, which somewhat surprised me, I also found links to clinics, medical groups, anti-aging medical practices, hospitals, and hospices.

What I did not see, however, were any links to “personal trainers” or gyms. Those options only showed up in the links when I added the word “fitness” to the search term.

What I can tell you is that the type of links associated with “proactive health and wellness”, and the links that weren’t there, have to do with the hidden influence of the Patterns of Adapting to Health (PATH).

Let me explain.

Within the health industry, there appears to be some awareness of the traits of the PATH without a specific understanding of what they are.

Here’s what I mean: the links that appeared when I used the search term, “proactive health and wellness” primarily reflect the behavior and demand for health-related services of only two of the three PATH associated with a “1” response to the statement with which I started this article.

The PATH and PATH Identities

The PATH are covered in my book, Pattern of Health. The PATH are nine hidden “patterns of adapting to health” underlying and unconsciously influencing adult health behavior in the U.S. I discovered these patterns almost 30 years ago and have studied them for the majority of my adult life. I now see them operating in many areas of individual health and in the health patterns and behaviors of communities.

I have personally assessed many people and identified the dominant PATH within them, as well as the lesser influence of one to three other PATH.

What I have found is that the dominant and secondary PATH influencing a person forms a PATH Identity. This PATH Identity is integrated into the person’s affective response, organizes their health-related goals, and shapes their biases to aspects of health they approach and aspects of health they avoid; it is entwined within the person’s psyche and unconsciously shapes that person’s health behavior. Rather than being something distant and abstract, a person’s PATH Identity is a mask over his or her self that affects the way they see and how they respond to their personal health.

The PATH and Proactive Health and Wellness

People who identify with three of the PATH typically give a “1” response to the opening statement; these are the Healthcare Driven PATH, the Independently Healthy PATH, and the Naturalist PATH. Adults in these three PATH tend to strongly disagree that they rarely think about their health. In fact, people found to be dominated by these three PATH Identities express the highest and most motivated commitment to proactive health.

The problem, unfortunately, is that the proactive health focus associated with each of these PATH Identities does not lead to the same health outcomes.

The Healthcare Driven Identity

Adults dominated by the Healthcare Driven PATH Identity are typically drawn to and overuse medical services to pursue their goals of health and wellness. Adults with this PATH Identity have the highest hospital claims, the highest physician claims, and the highest pharmacy claims. In spite of their strong proactive health focus, and their attention to healthy eating and diet, adults with a Healthcare Driven identity are most often diagnosed with health risks and disease. These adults are active health information seekers and are among the most frequent users of the Internet to find and collect health information. The medically-related “wellness” links I noted above are there for Healthcare Driven individuals to find.

This explains the presence of links to clinics, medical groups, anti-aging medical practices, and hospitals when using the search term “proactive health and wellness”. These organizations have found that a proactive focus on health and wellness is found in people with a high demand for healthcare services; in other words, the people with the Healthcare Driven identity. These people are the ones who bring health care organizations the most value and who value healthcare services the most.

The Naturalist Identity

Adults with the Naturalist PATH Identity are often drawn to non-medical, alternative methods of care to promote their health and wellness. This includes— surprise, surprise— chiropractic care, nutritional approaches, homeopathy, acupuncture, and aromatherapy. A key motivator of this demand for alternative therapies is a strong natural distrust of medical professionals and a lack of belief in their competence. The links to the alternative care providers, dietitians, and those offering nutrient-based solutions are fishing for those people with the Naturalist PATH Identity.

However, like people with the Healthcare Driven identity, adults with the Naturalist PATH Identity still require and demand significant amounts of traditional medical care. In fact, the claims produced by adults with the Naturalist PATH Identity indicate that their demand is high, although not as high as those with the Healthcare Driven identity. Therefore, those organizations with medical-related links still benefit.

Certain phrases and terms like “proactive health and wellness” are actually targeting adults with specific preferences for how they pursue health. The Healthcare Driven and Naturalist PATH identities have those preferences. These people are looking for external solutions to support their health and wellness: foods to eat, pills to take, tests to diagnose themselves, therapies to fix problems, detoxing to clean their systems, and acupuncture needles to balance them out. They expect health to come from the outside-in.

The Independently Healthy Identity

What about the Independently Healthy PATH? What about people who reflect this pattern in their identity?

Well, those with the Independently Healthy PATH Identity are not really attracted by the focus on “proactive health and wellness”, because the links and services that this search term brings up do not really fit their needs.

People with the Independently Healthy PATH Identity are not looking for, and do not expect, the source of health to come from some outside intervention. Rather, people with the Independently Healthy PATH Identity are looking for information and services that will help them in their efforts to bring out health and fitness from within themselves. They expect health to come from the inside-out.

The search term that represents the Independently Healthy PATH is not “proactive health and wellness”. Rather, the search term that represents and attracts adults with the Independently Healthy PATH Identity is “fitness”.

The search term “fitness” brings up entirely different links compared to those generated by “proactive health and wellness”. The search term “fitness” brings up fitness articles, fitness and dieting links, and links to gyms.

Professionals in the broad health industry are implicitly aware of the individual differences tied to the PATH and they know precisely which clients they are after. This fascinates me.

Do this search for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

To me, the PATH are hidden in plain sight.


Dr. Frederick Navarro is a health psychological researcher with a PhD in health psychology. His work has focused on the modeling of adult health-related behavior and its relationship to diverse health outcomes. Developer of the Patterns of Adapting to Health or PATH covered in his book, Pattern of Health

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