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How Fit Are You?

Your fitness scorecard

Take out your weight-loss notebook, We’ll be doing some tests, so keeping a. record of your answers will help you see where you started and how far you’ve traveled on your journey to your weight and fitness goals.

Endurance

Your heartbeat is an important gauge of cardio respiratory fitness. Significant variables are how fast it beats when you are doing nothing and when you are exercising, and how quickly it returns to the resting state after you have stopped. Your heart rate, or pulse, is measured as beats per minute. Each beat represents a contraction of the heart muscle as it pumps out blood.

Resting heart rate

At rest, the typical number of heartbeats per minute is 70. This figure, known as the resting heart rate (RHR), varies from person to person with the normal range between 60 and 100 beats per minute. In general, the slower the resting heartbeat within the normal range, the better.

What’s your normal resting heart rate? Here’s a simple way to find out. Do this when you haven’t been exercising or exerting yourself in any other way. You’ll need a watch or clock with a second hand.

  1. Find a pulse. The easiest ones to locate are on either side of your neck just below your jawbone or on the underside of either wrist.
  2. Firmly but gently place your index and middle – fingers on one of these points. (Don’t use your thumb. It has its own pulse, which will confuse matters.)
  3. Once you feel the pulse strongly, count the beats for 15 seconds.
  4. Multiply the number of beats by 4 to get your resting heart rate.
  5. Try it a few times over the course of one or more days and average out your results.
  6. Enter your RHR into your personal database.

Maximum heart rate

Maximum heart rate, or MHR, is the theoretical highest number of times per minute the human heart can beat. Only in times of extreme stress will your heart beat that fast MHR varies considerably from person to person, but in general, it decreases with age.

You can figure your MHR by subtracting your age from the number 220. For example, if you are 35 years old, your MHR would be 185.

Fear, stress, and anxiety can raise your heartbeat, as can some serious health conditions. An increased heartbeat may be an appropriate temporary response to a stressful situation or it may be a cause for concern.

It is never a good idea to exert yourself to the point of MHR.

Strength

There are more than 650 muscles in your body. Some are stronger then others. Many fitness assessments ask how many push-ups or sit-ups you can do, on the assumption that upper arm and abdominal strength reflect the general state of your muscular fitness. This may or may not be true, depending on your age and whether you have a disability that affects only part of your body.

Here are some general principles regarding muscular strength:

  • Strength is dependent on both muscle mass and tone.
  • Muscle mass and tone can be increased through weight-bearing exercise.
  • Because muscle mass is dependent on testosterone, men have more massive muscles than women.
  • Muscle mass and tone increase throughout adolescence and then begin to decline with age. Testosterone levels are the main reason for this.
  • The greater the muscle mass, the greater the energy demand and the higher the metabolic rate, which is why more muscular people require more calories to maintain bodily functions.
  • As you increase your muscle mass, you have two choices. You can eat more, to answer the increased need for calories. Or you can eat like you always do, and lose weight!

Flexibility

Flexibility is a reflection of how well your muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons can stretch and bend. When you bend over at the Waist with arms outstretched, how close to do you come to touching your toes? Your ankles? Your knees? Can you turn at the waist and see what behind you? Can you reach over the top of your head and touch your opposite ear? These are all indicators of flexibility.

Your flexibility probably varies throughout the day. We are all stiffer in the morning, after a night’s rest, and become more flexible as we “warm up” through normal activity during the day. If you lead a sedentary life, multiply that morning effect by years and you will get an idea of how habitual inactivity affects flexibility. And it will only get worse with age.

If you do not want to be a stooped old person for whom rising from a chair is agony, focus on flexibility as you aim to Bet fit.

Self-assessment

There are many fitness test out there most of which require you to exert yourself in various ways and observe the results in terms of the three components of fitness. Thanks to the wealth of fitness and weight-loss sites on the Internet, you can find one version or another of these tests online. You may want to try them. If you do, print out the results and put them in your weight-loss notebook.

What follows is a much simpler self-assessment. I also think it’s a more effective one because you are measuring yourself against yourself rather than against some theoretically fit person you’ve never met! It consists of a brief quiz about your level of physical activity and three fitness yardsticks.

Keep a record of this self-assessment in your notebook and look at it periodically, say once a month, as you gradually become more active. The improvement you see will be one of the best motivators to keep up your personal program. The yardsticks require you to exert yourself physically.

Even though they are relatively mild, don’t try the physical yardstick tests without consulting your doctor if you have heart problems, are taking blood pressure medication, or have arthritis.

A simple measure of your endurance

Wearing a comfortable pair of sports shoes that give you support, do as many jumping jacks as you can before you feel out of breath. Count out loud as you jump. Immediately take your pulse for 15 seconds, then write down the number of jumping jacks you did and your pulse rate multiplied by 4. Note also if the resulting heart rate is higher or lower than THR zone.

A minute after you stop jumping, take your pulse again for 15 seconds. Continue taking your pulse every minute until it returns to your resting heart rate.

Once you start exercising regularly, do this test once a month. If 15 jumping jacks got you to your THR the first time, could you do 20 a month later? If it took 3 minutes to return to your RHR the first time, did it take less time a month later? These are signs cardiovascular fitness is Improving.

A simple measure of your strength

Strong abdominal muscles are only part of the strength picture, but they are important ones. Not only do they look good in a bathing suit, but also they help support your body, taking stress off your back.

Many back problems can be traced to flabby abdominal muscles.

To measure your strength, see how many chest lifts you can do. Concentrate on maintaining the proper form and do not pull at your neck or use your back muscles during any part of the exercise. Write down how many perfect chest lifts you did. Then test yourself again a month later. Will you be able to do five more? Ten? This is an indication that your abdominal muscle strength has increased.

A Simple measure of your flexibility

Sit on the floor with your legs outstretched, feet flexed. That is toes should be pointed to the ceiling. Place a tape measure or yardstick along the side of your legs, with the beginning at your buttocks. Inhale, and as you exhale, stretch your hands forward as you bend at the wale, When you have reached as far as you can, look at the measure.

How many inches did you reach? Write this down in your notebook. Then try again a month later. Will you be able to increase your reach by an inch? Two inches? More? This is an indication that your flexibility has increased.

Get the picture

Although it is entirely possible that you are as fit as a fiddle, chances are there’s room for improvement in all the measures of fitness. You may be most interested in losing weight, but increasing your endurance, strength, and flexibility will pay more dividends because it will help you keep the weight off in the long term.

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