MORE OFTEN than not, the terms "fitness" and "health" are used interchangeably. But though related, they are not synonymous.

Likewise, there's more to being healthy than not being sick. Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being - not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, according to the World Health Organization. I think this should also include our spiritual health and stress management skills, as well.

If your goal is to "put more life in your years" and live the optimum lifestyle experience, consider these eight steps:

FOLLOW GOOD NUTRITIONAL HABITS: And teach your family good nutrition principles.

Consume five to nine half-cup servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Limit or eliminate candy, cookies, cake, soda and other poor choices from your diet.

EXERCISE DAILY: Stay heart smart with aerobic conditioning most days of the week.

Shape, strengthen and tone your muscles with strength training. Maintain good flexibility. Maintain good body composition (fat to muscle ratio).

GET SOME SLEEP: Lack of sleep may increase hunger, causing weight gain. Most days, try to get eight to nine hours a night.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR MENTAL AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH: If you suffer from depression, anxiety or panic attacks, exercise may be especially beneficial.

To be human is to be social. Having good social relationships is essential to our health and well being, so maintain healthy relationships with family and friends.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR SPIRITUAL HEALTH: Medical research has proven that prayer and spirituality reduce depression, boost the immune system and lower blood pressure.

People who embrace their spirituality typically manage stress better and avoid self-destructive behavior like drugs, alcohol and suicide.

GET AN ANNUAL CHECK-UP: See your doctor at least once a year for a physical. Early detection is the key to prevent further damage. When you go to the doctor, have your blood pressure, blood-sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol tested.

Ask for the results and maintain a file with the information. From year to year, you want to see how you're trending and manage a problem before it starts.

GO TO THE EYE DOCTOR: Get a comprehensive eye exam by an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in ocular health), not an optician.

Common causes of visual impairment include cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma, injury, inflammatory disease of the eye and genetic conditions.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEETH: Oral hygiene is critically important to your overall health. Establish good oral health habits of brushing and flossing. See your dentist regularly. Periodontal disease often goes undiagnosed and is the leading cause of tooth loss. Poor dental health can lead to a deterioration of overall health.

Bottom line, baby: Your good health is all you really have. Take care of it.

Kimberly Garrison is a wellness coach and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia. Email her at kimberly@1on1 Her column appears Wednesdays.