How Healthy are You?
In our culture that is infatuated with appearance and sex appeal what is a true gauge of being in shape. Is it a clothing size? A number on a scale? Being skinny?
The answer would have to be, no. There is not a shape, size, or weight that is an indicator of being fit.
So, what is a good indicator of fitness? The following are six tests you must pass to be fit. These six tests demonstrate whether one's body is functional and healthy. A functional body will allow one to maintain a high quality of life in which one can continue doing the daily tasks that happen in several planes of movement. Often times as people move decade by decade through life daily tasks become more and more difficult. And unfortunately, that often translates into people not continuing to enjoy movement or participate in many of the recreational activities often enjoyed in earlier decades.
- What is your waistline? There are many ways to measure one's body composition. One's weight can be measured, body fat percentage, BMI, and each measurement can give one some information that may be useful. However, one's waistline seems to be the easiest and most accurate way to determine if one's body composition is healthy. So, throw out the scale, the expensive body fat percentage calipers/machine, and the complicated BMI formulas and just get out a simple loose tape measure. Measure the circumference of the waist using the belly button as one's reference point. If you are male and 40 inches plus or female and 35 inches plus you are a ticking time bomb for diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. You will get one or more of these diseases if you don't do something about it. If you are 35 inches or less as a male and 32.5 inches or less as a female your potential for disease is significantly reduced and in most cases eliminated. Anyone can reduce their waist line and any reduction is positive and disease reducing. Don't be concerned about hip, buttocks, and thigh fat ... drop the waist line. Most all people can get to the recommended numbers unless they are one hundred or more pounds over weight. It is in these extreme cases that there is a significant genetic component to be dealt with. If you are one hundred or more pounds overweight you need to see an endocrine specialist. If you are not over one hundred or more pounds overweight than you can make the necessary changes with exercise and supportive nutrition in the vast majority of cases.
- What is your blood pressure? Well ... it should be 115/76. Blood pressure is the amount of force on one's arterial walls exerted by one's blood. If BP is too high it damages the lining of the arterial wall and this is the beginning of various heart diseases. What should one do? Get measured. If it is too high drop your waistline and BP will drop accordingly. How do you get BP to drop? ...exercise and get supportive nutrition.
- What is your cholesterol? Well there are two kinds to measure. HDL (healthy cholesterol) and LDL (lousy cholesterol). HDL levels should be 40 mg or higher and when above 60 mg your arteries are squeaky clean. LDL should be 100 mg or less. Cholesterol levels that are too high lead to heart attack, stroke, memory loss, impotence, wrinkled skin and more. Get it measured and if it needs to drop, drop your waistline. As one's waistline drops so will cholesterol. How do you get it to drop? ...exercise and supportive nutrition.
- How many push-ups and lunges can you do? These two simple tests will tell you if you have healthy upper and lower body muscular endurance and strength. Can you complete 2 sets of 15 push-ups and 2 sets of 20 lunges per leg? If so, you are still benefiting from your youth or you are exercising smart. If not, you are atrophying due to age, not exercising smart or not exercising at all. Take the test and if you have room for improvement simply start doing these exercises 2-4 days per week.
- Can you hold the plank position for 30 seconds? The plank is completed lying prone supported by only one's elbows and toes. This is a test of core strength ... abdominals, obliques, and low back muscles. Complete the test by attempting two sets of 30 seconds. Give it a try and if you did it easy you are still benefiting from youth, or you are exercising smart. Again if you cannot perform this test you are atrophying due to age, not exercising smart, or not exercising at all. If you cannot complete the test incorporate it into life 2-4 days per week.
- Can you walk, run, jog a mile in less than 12 minutes? Take the test. This is a test of cardiovascular health. Again if you cannot pass this test simply try to get out and complete one mile every day until you can do it under 12 minutes. When you can complete a mile under 12 minutes keep up the habit and try to get a 30-minute walk per day at a pace that you could not carry a conversation. Again, try to incorporate a walk, run, jog of at least 12 minutes 2 - 4 days per week.
There are no secrets to disease prevention. It is simple, move your body and get supportive nutrition.
Julian Kaufman is the owner of Fitness Together - Chattanooga. He has a degree in Health and Exercise Science from Furman University, Master's degree from Covenant College, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.