Fitness means different things to different people and includes many components. There’s physical appearance and abilities, emotional well-being and factual measurements. Considered together, these offer a picture of personal health. Being fit isn’t something you can achieve and check off your list. It’s a lifelong journey during which we can always work on improvements.
Open a fashion magazine and you’ll see people who look like the picture of good health. Their bodies are slim and toned. Their stomachs are flat. They beam with confidence. You could say they look “almost perfect.” Perfection is a dangerous way to look at being fit, however. Most of us aren’t models and will never look like that, so being the best we can be is a better way to define a fit body. A person might be skinny, but lack muscle or cardiovascular fitness. The admonition not to judge a book by its cover holds true in determining a health you.
Achieving emotional fitness is one of the most important components that make up how healthy you are. We all have our ups and downs, but how happy are you overall? Starting each day grateful, happy and engaged will lead to a healthier life. Prioritizing what’s important and not compromising those values will create a healthy habit and emotionally fit mind.
Before you start comparing yourself to a fashion model or competitive athlete, consider where you’re starting from. No one starts out as an amazing athlete. It takes time, focus and hard work. It also takes a lot of time and consistency to be good at something. Determine what you want to be able to do. For some, it could be to compete in a triathlon. For others, it could be to play with grandchildren. Consider your abilities as well as your limitations. Remember that you could be able to do more than you think, but you won’t know unless you try.
Tools are available to help measure fitness. Heart rate offers one way to measure cardiovascular fitness. The healthier the heart, the quicker it returns to its normal beat. The less healthy the heart, the longer it takes to recover from a workout. Measure your heart rate right after the exercise and then two minutes later. Has your heart rate returned to normal?
There’s always that good — or awful — scale, depending on your mood. Our weight says a lot about how fit we are, but doesn’t give us the entire picture. Another tool is measuring your body mass index, an estimate of body fat. BMI is calculated according to your weight and height. The higher your BMI, the higher your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and some cancers. Although it has limitations, BMI can be useful in determining how fit you are and gives you actual numbers with which to work.
Yet another tool is to take physical body measurements. These measurements include upper arms, chest, waist, hips, thigh and calf. Be sure these measurements are taken at exactly the same spots each time. These measurements will help you determine not only weight loss or gain, but also toned and increased muscle mass.
Although not very scientific, my favorite way to measure fitness is through the clothes in my closet. When my favorite pants fit better, I smile.
Fitness is as individual as you are. You’re a unique person with many aspects to your life. There’s no better feeling than the feeling of being healthy and fit. You don’t have to have the perfect body or be an all-star athlete to consider yourself fit. But remember: Don’t settle for less than the best for you.