Fitness means different things to different people. For some it is the ability to fit into the new jeans, for some, it is the ability to do a hundred push-ups and for others, it may mean the ability to take a flight of stairs without getting exhausted. All of these are fine as long as we don’t fall into the trap of associating body weight with fitness levels. Often we associate slim figures with fitness and heavier frames as being “out of shape”. This may or may not be true. This is a myth and a misconception that we have been conditioned to believe over a period of time.
Have you heard terms like ‘fat and fit’ and ‘thin and unfit’? It is entirely possible that someone who looks heavy might be fitter than someone who appears to be trim. The difference is the amount of exercise each one is getting. Many people who diet but don’t exercise may be at a “healthy” weight but their fitness levels may be poor; they may appear trim on the outside but have a lot of visceral (internal) fat and not enough muscle. These people are not physically active; they have poor, restrictive diets and are metabolically very unsound. These people are termed ‘thin and unfit’. The opposite – ‘fat and fit’ is also entirely possible.
What this proves is that weight is a poor determinant of fitness! This could be an eye-opener for many since we all obsess over our weights thinking that the weighing scale holds the key to our fitness. Nothing can be further from the truth. Don’t fall for this. This will lead you to a road of diet fads, unhealthy self-esteem, and poor confidence. Aim to find out how to fit you are via the few parameters outlined below and get on an exercise regime that best suits you. But do not forget to consult a professional before you embark on the fitness route.
Some of these simple things will help you determine if you are on track with your fitness. Remember, all these parameters have to be checked instead of only a few. For a detailed fitness assessment meet a professional or an exercise expert.
Endurance: This determines your aerobic/heart capacity. Your resting heart rate is a good parameter to determine this. A resting heart rate of 60-100 is the healthy range for adults. Another parameter to check is how much time it takes you to complete a 2.4 km jog. This test should be undertaken only if your medical doctor has cleared you. Men aged 25-65 should complete between 11-13 minutes and women aged 25-65 should complete in 13-17 minutes. This will give you an idea of where you stand as far as your endurance and heart health is concerned.
Strength: Push-ups are a great way to determine overall strength. A man below 45 should be able to 20-34 push-ups and a woman below 65 should be able to do 12-20. A word of caution: correct form of a push-up is more important than how many you can do!
Flexibility: This is an important aspect to fitness that often gets ignored leading to joint pains. A simple ‘sit and reach’ test can tell you whether you need to incorporate a proper stretching routine in your daily life. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front. Keeping knees straight and back straight, reach towards your feet. If you are unable to reach your feet, your flexibility is poor; if you are going past your feet, measure in cms how far. If you are able to go 5 to 10 cms beyond your toes then that is an average measure of flexibility. Remember this is a quick and easy way to check at home. Your health professional will do it a lot more scientifically.
Waist circumference: A general guideline is that if your waist size is larger in circumference than your hip circumference you should work on your fitness. This parameter determines how much you are at risk for heart disease and diabetes. BMI (Body Mass Index) is another general test of fitness; it tells you how much body fat you have. To determine BMI divide your weight in Kgs by your height in meters squared.
Once you know where you stand in each of these criteria you will gain an understanding of how to fit you are and what focus areas of exercise you need to work on. For example, someone who works out at the gym regularly by doing weight training and very little cardio does not have a wholesome level of fitness. Endurance and flexibility are just as important as muscle strength. On the other spectrum, a marathon runner who does very stretching and weight training is also working on only one aspect of fitness rather than a wholesome one. To be fit, understanding that working on all aspects of fitness with a balanced exercise program helps you gain ‘health’ that can boost your immunity, mood, self-esteem, and confidence. So stop obsessing over your weight and begin your journey towards fitness with a new outlook today!