5 Simple Ways to Assess and Take Charge of Your Health
When you finally decide to live a healthier lifestyle, it means you’re going to take charge to make a permanent change. Though a wellness professional can assess clients much more thoroughly, getting on a healthier track means not waiting for a professional to tell you what you should do; take the first step in taking responsibility for your health! Don’t wait!
Your pulse or resting heart rate, your blood pressure, your waist circumference, your Body Mass Index or BMI, and simply, your own reflection and how your clothes fit, are each a piece of the puzzle to help you become aware of what’s going on inside your body. It’s extremely important that you never focus on only one of these areas to determine your overall fitness level. This is a good way to begin to take charge of your health, and start the journey that will lead you to that final destination – a healthier lifestyle and a healthier body.
Check these every month or two, track them by writing them down, and talk to your doctor if you have questions or if you’re not in the “normal” range.
Health and Fitness Self Assessment
1.) Pulse/ Resting Heart Rate
Your pulse or resting heart rate is how many times your heart beats in a minute at rest. A lower resting heart rate means that your heart has to work less to pump blood through your body. This is a good thing. You can find your resting heart rate with a heart rate monitor, or you can find it the old fashioned way, at your wrist, which is known as the radial pulse. With your palm up, simply place your first two fingers (and never your thumb, because it has its own pulse) on the thumb side of your wrist. Count how many beats in one minute. According to the American Heart Association, an average resting heart rate is from about 60 to 100 beats per minute, with more fit individuals from 60 to low 70’s. An extremely fit athletic individual may have a resting heart rate from 40 to 50’s because their heart is stronger and more efficient at pumping blood throughout their body.
A few things to keep in mind; Your resting heart rate will be lower first thing in the morning, and when you’re lying down. Medications can make it higher or lower and caffeinated drinks will make it higher. Make sure you talk to your doctor if your resting heart rate is consistently too high or too low.
2.) Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure is the pressure you’re blood flow exerts on the walls of your arteries. You can easily purchase your own blood pressure cuff that will display your BP, your heart rate, and give you guidelines, either online or at any pharmacy for about $30. – $50. You can get your blood pressure taken for free at most pharmacies. They will also display a blood pressure norms chart for you to compare yours to. According to the American Heart Association, The Blood Pressure Classifications are: Optimal – less than 120/80, Prehypertension – 120-139/80-89, Hypertension Stage 1 – 140-159/90-99. If either the upper or lower number is high, you should see your doctor. High blood pressure diagnosis can only be given by a doctor, and is based on two or more readings at two or more visits, so see your doctor for an official diagnosis if your blood pressure falls in the high classification.
3.) Waist Circumference
All you need is a simple fabric tape measure, or a piece of string and a standard metal tape measure. Place the fabric tape or the string snugly around the smallest part of your waist, or about one inch below your belly button in a level position parallel to the floor. If you’ve used a string to measure; mark it and then place it up to your standard metal tape measure to read your waist circumference. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute fitness guidelines, a waist measurement of 35 inches or more for women, and 40 inches or more for men puts an individual at increased risk for coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems and certain cancers.
4.) Body Mass Index (BMI)
Your BMI takes your body stature – both height and weight in to account. This is much better than judging your fitness from your weight alone; however, it’s just another number and only a single piece of information. BMI doesn’t work for everyone; if an individual is very muscular, is elderly, or is under 5 feet tall, BMI may need to be adjusted or may not be appropriate at all. There are websites to help you figure your BMI, or you can figure it yourself with this simple formula: weight in lbs. / (height in inches) squared x 703.
Take your number and compare it to the BMI Classifications. These are the classifications according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Underweight- less than 18.5, Normal/healthy- 18.5 – 24.9, Overweight- 25 – 29.9, Obesity- 30 and over.
5.) Your Reflection/ How do your clothes fit?
This suggestion may make some of you cringe, but just like the other pieces of the fitness puzzle, how you look in the mirror with and without clothes will tell you a great deal. Do you run past the full size mirror when you’re nude, hoping not to see the truth? Is your waist bigger, smaller or the same size as your hips? Do you have to jump up and down to fit into and button jeans you bought only four months ago? Do you have to buy bigger clothes every year or two just to stay comfortable? Be honest with yourself, but never focus only on your appearance to assess your health. The first and most important changes throughout your fitness journey will happen inside your body.
It’s true that most of us have heard of the importance of all of these assessments before, though most of us continue not to think about it in our daily lives, and therefore, don’t check these simple numbers. Simply assess yourself every couple months. Talk to your doctor if your numbers are high or are not in the “normal” range.
Through these simple assessments, you’ll become more aware of what’s going on inside your body. You can use these simple assessment tools to partner with your fitness and wellness professionals to do what’s best for your health. The most important thing to keep in mind is that no single bit of information should ever be used on its own to determine your fitness level. Professionals do many assessments and put the information together to get an idea of an individual’s baseline fitness level.
When it comes down to it, wellness and fitness professionals can guide you, but you are truly the only one who can make change happen. When all is said and done, we are each responsible for our own health. Now, take charge, make a change, and go make your future a great one!
American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Understanding-Blood-Pressure-Readings_UCM_301764_Article.jsp
Earle, E.W., Baechle, T.R. (2004). NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institutes: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/lose_wt/risk.htm