As a rule Americans don’t save. We spend. More than half of us (56% according to Forbes magazine) have less than $1000 between their checking and savings accounts, and would be hard-pressed to cover a significant expense.

This of course means that we as a nation are forever teetering on the edge of disaster.

The same can be said for our health.

Having “something in the bank” in case of a major illness goes far beyond your finances.

If you experience a debilitating disease or are badly injured, how much health to you have in the body bank to support your healing?

By most accounts, not much. Barely 3% of Americans actively take care of themselves through regular exercise and proper diet. A few more give it a go for a while, then drop it because of the challenges of discipline.

What this does is undermine the body’s ability to heal itself. The natural setpoint is wellness, but that wellness depends on the responsible care and feeding of our brains, muscles, nervous systems and all the bits and pieces that work so effortlessly to keep us upright and happy.

In August of 2010 I fell down 32 concrete stairs, and landed on my head. Besides giving myself one hell of a concussion I also fractured my pelvis, broke my arm and my wrist. My treating physician in Iceland, where I’d been adventuring at the time, told me that had I not been in such good shape, I’d have been dead or a quadriplegic. I was 63 at the time. In less than six weeks I was back on a horse, running stairs, and in full recovery as though nothing had happened.

This year on two occasions horses nearly took me out. First I got my ribs and shoulder smashed, then I broke my back in four places. I was briefly hospitalized for both, but exercising and well within a relatively brief time. The only reason for this is “health money” in the body bank. It’s a full-time job.

People undergoing treatment for chronic diseases are already experiencing demands on their bodies to heal. This is single most important time to eat well, moving as much as possible and get plenty of sleep. It’s harder, but even more important than before. It will likely save your life. Moving delivers oxygen and nutrients to those parts of us most in need. Lying around all the time does nothing to help healing in most cases.

Without a regular exercise program, good food habits and adequate sleep (which in and of themselves invite illness), when a devastating illness or injury does strike we are hardly prepared to handle the challenge. This leads to more complications, more drugs and even more complications from those drugs. The body has few if any resources.

So many of us treat our bodies as though they are indestructible through poor habits. Then when that comes home to roost there’s hell to pay when our hard-working systems don’t have the reserves to fight off infections, additional bacteria that are unleashed due to antibiotic use and the damage that drugs and treatments cause.

After a heart attack, many people overhaul their habits. For some, it’s too late. Others figure they’ll muddle through until next time, they don’t. Health isn’t a guarantee. It’s a gift. One that needs care and feeding.

I don’t plan to get thrown from a horse and break my back. We don’t plan to get cancer. However we can have a well-oiled machine that rises to the occasion when we do need to recover from the unexpected.

That’s money in the bank.