How Unfit are You?

If you live a hectic lifestyle, working, looking after your family, cleaning your home, shopping and trying to fit in a little leisure time with loved ones, making time to go to the gym may not be uppermost in your thoughts. You’re more likely to spend any spare time snuggled up under your duvet, rather than working out.

However, even if you have what you think is an active lifestyle, you may still be unfit. There are several simple tests that will check whether you’re out of shape or not. If you fail any one of them, it could be time to boost your daily level of activity and hit the fitness trail…

Mother and daughter doing pressups

Push-ups

Doing push-ups probably isn’t something you think about unless you go to the gym, but they are an excellent indicator of your overall fitness. Performing a perfect push-up uses muscles in your core, shoulders, back and arms as you lower yourself by tucking your arms close to your body and then slowly push yourself up again.

If you’re aged under 50 and you can’t manage at least five push-ups, then you’re not as fit as you may think! If you take steps to start improving your fitness level, you should try the push-up test once a month and see how many you can manage to gauge if you’re making progress.

Heart rate

When exercising, it’s normal for our heart to beat faster as it pumps oxygen round our body. When you’re physically fit, a heart rate of 140 to 190 beats per minute is normal. Your heart rate varies with age and a simple way to calculate what yours should be is to subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 55 years old, subtract 55 from 220 to reveal your maximum heart rate of 165.

Once you stop exercising, your heart rate should decrease at a rate of 20 beats per minute, until it returns to normal. However, if you’re not fit, it will take much longer to return to normal and you will find your heart’s still racing long after you’ve stopped exercising.

Excess waist fat

We’ve all complained about an expanding waistline, particularly in the new year after over-indulging, but if you permanently have too much fat around the mid-section of your body, it’s a major sign you’re out of shape. The best way to measure your waistline is to first measure from the bottom of your ribs to the top of your hip-bone. Your waistline is the point in the middle.

According to medical experts, the average man should have a waist no bigger than 40 inches and for a woman it’s 35 inches. If your waist is any bigger than this, you’re likely to be carrying excess fat.

Walking up stairs

If you’re breathing hard after simply walking up a staircase, you could be out of shape. Even athletes need more oxygen to climb a flight of stairs, so if you’re just a little out of breath, it’s nothing to worry about. However, if you’re struggling to get up steps and gasping for breath, you need to do more cardiovascular activities.

If your body isn’t used to a cardiovascular workout, it may not be easy at first, so start in a simple way by scheduling five 30-minute brisk walks into your week. As your general fitness improves, choose low-resistance, low-impact exercises and gradually ease your way into a routine. Soon, you’ll realise you’re able to manage a staircase with no effort.

Sugar cravings

Studies have shown exercising can influence your food cravings. Young adults who did little physical activity were found to be craving sweets more than those who exercised regularly and were physically fit. Perhaps surprisingly, those who were fitter weren’t interested in eating immediately after exercise, when you would expect them to feel hungry.

However, those who never exercised were experiencing constant cravings for sugary foods and were snacking all day. If you’re worried you’re spending too much time sitting around watching TV, particularly in winter when it’s cold and you don’t feel like doing anything in your leisure time, start exercising regularly and you’ll find your food cravings are decreasing.

Road to fitness

It’s all too easy to get side-tracked by life and to forget all about your fitness. However, fitness is something we should all strive to achieve – you don’t have to be an athlete to keep fit. Everyone needs to maintain fitness levels to ensure a healthier, happier life.

There are various ways of keeping fit, even if it’s just a case of taking a brisk walk every day. Don’t use the fact you’re at home (or maybe you can’t afford to go to a gym), as an excuse not to work out. It’s not too difficult to create an effective workout programme at home, gradually building up a selection of inexpensive fitness aids such as dumbbells, fit balls, exercise bands and push-up bars. These will work all your major muscle groups.

Fitness programme

Interval training is a good way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, as the short bouts of higher intensity exercise, combined with less strenuous exercises, are effective to promote weight loss. Even if you don’t have any equipment, you can still burn off calories and get fit.

An ideal exercise programme consists of a warm-up, a cardiovascular workout such as aerobics, resistance exercises, flexibility movements and your cooldown. Your warm-up can simply be a walk or a cycle ride outside, or a treadmill and exercise bike indoors.

The cardiovascular section can be doing aerobics with a fitness video – anything that gets your heart rate up. Resistance exercises include push-ups, squats and abdominal crunches, or working with small dumbbells, bands or a weight bar.

A Yoga-based routine or simple floor stretches will improve your flexibility, while your cooldown is similar to your warm up and should include low-level cardiovascular work to help bring your heart rate down to its normal resting rate.

Reap the rewards of exercise and you will start enjoying life more as you get fitter. Age is no barrier to getting fit, but if you have any health concerns, particularly if you’re thinking of starting a vigorous fitness routine, have a quick chat with your doctor first.

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