Is there a difference between fitness and well-being?

We have been learning of late that, yes, emphatically there is. The fit are able to run marathons and lift weights, yet many of them have diets that are miles and tons shy of nutritional soundness. The fit can be thin of waist yet be emotionally or socially far out of kilter. Each of us can observe in ourselves and others deficits that lead to physical and emotional disharmony.

This is where fitness and well-being overlap. The authors of this impressively broad and subtly detailed source book make the case that health ought to "reflect a state of mental, social and physical well-being." That means being "in reasonable tune with your environment."

The usuals are here: pulse rates, lung efficiency and diet. But gradually, it becomes evident that the authors are pursuing more than fitness. They ask in one test, "Are Vacations Good for You?" They ask about your financial life, home life and even how you get to work: "Can you reduce the cost, stress and pollution of your daily traveling?"

Other surprises come. Sprightly graphics lay out general goals for not only the ordinary life styles but the life stages as well. "Making a will or revising an old one" is as much a part of wellness to a middle-aged or older person as "learning to ride a bike" is to a young child.

As a reference work, the authors touch almost every imaginable subject: herbalism, aroma therapy, the Alexander technique (for posture), osteopathy, and even the differences between Freud and Jung. The exercise programs and nutrition sections are richly informed even for the advanced person.

Much of the material here has been discovered before by those who take their health seriously and were reading of it back when Scott Neasing was a lone pioneer. This book uses the language of instruction and information, and out of it comes a persuasive argument that attention needs to be paid to the fundamentals.

It always gets back to that.