We tend to assume that if you’re overweight, you’re unfit and if you have a healthy body weight or normal BMI, you must be fit. Unfortunately, being at your ideal weight does not mean you are fit.
So how can you tell if you’re not as fit as you should be?
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The most common symptom that comes to mind is easily getting out of breath with exertion. An example of this would be regularly becoming winded after walking one block, or climbing a small flight of stairs.
But there are also a number of other symptoms. See how many ring true for you…
- You get injured very easily when you do participate in physical activity
- You get achy muscles even after a very small amount of physical activity * You get stiff joints (a sign that you’re sitting too much)
- You are weak and can’t carry heavy objects
Note that you don’t have to have all of these symptoms to be classed as unfit.
In general, if you don’t engage in vigorous exercise for at least 30 minutes, five days a week, you probably are unfit.
But you can test your cardiovascular fitness. Cardiovascular fitness refers to your heart and lungs’ ability to transport enough oxygen to allow you to exert yourself.
Harvard Medical School has a step exercise that allows you to test your aerobic fitness.
NOTE: Before performing any fitness exercises and tests, always consult your doctor.
Here’s the test:
(You will need a step and a stopwatch)
1) Climb up and down an 18-inch step for three minutes, at a rate of 30 steps per minute.
2) After 1 minute of rest, take your pulse for 30 seconds.
3) Find your pulse in the following table (references below)
Harvard Step Test
Excellent = > 90 Average= 65-79.9 Below Average= 55-64.9 Poor= <55
Excellent = > 76 Average= 61-75.9 Below Average= 50-60.9 Poor= <50
This is only one way of measuring your cardiovascular fitness and it can give you a general sense of your level of fitness. If your rate is in the poor, fair or average range, you could improve this by adding at 30 minutes of aerobic exercise to your regimen 3-5 times a week.
The type of exercise could be low impact, but you need to be winded enough to have trouble having a conversation. So the leisure stroll while you walk your dog who stops to sniff every 2 minutes probably won’t count.
Of course, if you really do no form of regular exercise and you have health problems, you should always check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine.
BEASHEL, P and TAYLOR, J (1997) Fitness for Health and performance. In: BEASHEL, P and TAYLOR, J, The World of Sport Examined. Croatia: Thomas Nelson and Sons, p. 55
BROUGH, L. et al. (1943) The step test: A simple method of measuring physical fitness for muscular work in young men. Research quarterly, 14, p. 31-35