Certain basic fitness tests will also give you an indication of your potential health risks.
For example, carrying excess weight around your midsection is a potent risk factor for multiple chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. One recent study found that cardiovascular death was 2.75 times higher for those of normal weight who had large mid sections, compared to those with both a normal body mass index (BMI) and a normal waist-to-hip ratio. Such findings imply that monitoring your belly fat is far more important than watching your BMI.
BMI is a measure of body composition, arrived at by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. However, this is actually a highly flawed technique for determining whether you’re truly overweight, as it fails to differentiate between muscle and fat tissue. It also doesn’t take into account the distribution of body fat on your physical frame. We now know that excess visceral fat, which is the fat that accumulates around your internal organs, is far more hazardous to your health than subcutaneous fat, which is the more noticeable fat found just under your skin.
The danger of visceral fat is related to the release of proteins and hormones that can cause inflammation, which in turn can damage arteries and enter your liver and affect how your body breaks down sugars and fats.
Here are the three basic fitness tests that will help you determine your current level of fitness and assess how aggressive you might need to be in order to reduce your health risks:
Test # 1: Assess Your Body Composition
Determine your height-to-waist ratio by simply measure your height and your waist circumference with a measuring tape. Your waist circumference should be less than half of your height. As an example, if you’re six feet tall (72 inches), your waist circumference should ideally be less than 36 inches.
Your height to waist ratio is a reasonable measuring tool, but the waist-to-hip ratio may even be better, because it will give you a better idea of the distribution of fat on your body.
Carrying more fat around your hips and buttocks is associated with reduced health risks as compared to carrying a lot of visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is not nearly as harmful as the fat around your internal organs.
Some body types may render the waist to hip ratio as less than perfect as well. For example, women who are very thin and “straight” (i.e. don’t have an hourglass figure) may end up in a higher risk category than is warranted. In such cases, you may want to measure both your height-to-waist and your waist-to-hip ratio to get a better idea of your overall risk.
To determine your waist-to-hip ratio, get a tape measure and record your waist at the smallest circumference and the hips at the greatest circumference. Then divide your waist circumference by your hip circumference. For a more thorough demonstration, please review the video in the attached link.
Waist To Hip Ratio:
Low Risk <0.95
Moderate Risk 0.96 – 0.99
High Risk >1.0
Low Risk <0.8
Moderate Risk 0.81 – 0.84
High Risk >0.85
Test # 2: The Abdominal Plank Test
If you can hold an abdominal plank position for at least two minutes, you’re off to a good start. If you cannot, you’re likely lacking in core strength, which is important for overall movement stability and strength. A strong core will also help prevent back pain. Being unable to hold a plank for two minutes may also indicate that you’re carrying too much weight. Planking will help build your deep inner core muscles that lay the groundwork for that six-pack look. Keep in mind, however, that in order to really get “six-pack” abs, you have to shed fat. Men need to get their body fat down to about six percent, and women around nine percent in order to achieve that classic six-pack.
Here are two key points for performing a plank correctly:
While in plank position, pull in your bellybutton. Your bellybutton is attached to your transverse abdominis, that inner sheath that holds your gut inside and gives your spine and vertebrae a nice, weight belt-tightening type of support. So by pulling it in, you begin to contract that deep inner transverse abdominis muscle. If you want to work your six-pack rectus abdominis muscle, drive your chin down toward your toes while you’re focused on squeezing your bellybutton in.
Next, do a Kegel squeeze. More women than men might be familiar with this term. A Kegel squeeze is performed by drawing your lower pelvic muscles up and holding them up high and tight. For men who aren’t familiar with that term, it’s similar to trying to stop urinating in the middle of the flow. This squeeze will allow you to feel and focus on your abdominal muscles.
The current Guinness World Record for longest-held abdominal plank is a staggering 1 hour, 20 minutes, and 7 seconds. That may give you something to shoot for!
Test # 3: The Sitting-Rising Test
Brazilian researchers have revealed a simple test that may help predict your longevity: how well you rise from a seated position on the floor. The sitting-rising test (SRT) involves a score of 0-5 for each movement (sitting and rising), with a combined 10 being the highest score, awarded for those who can sit and rise from the floor without any assistance from their hands or knees. While appearing simple, it actually gauges a number of important factors, including your muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and motor coordination, all of which are relevant to your functional capability and general fitness.
To perform the test, simply sit down on the floor, and then get up, using as little assistance from your hands, knees, or other body parts as possible. For each body part that you use for support, you’ll lose one point from the possible top score of 10. For instance, if you put one hand on the floor for support to sit down, then use a knee and a hand to help you get up, you’ll “lose” three points for a combined score of 7. Research7 shows the numbers strongly correlate with your risk of death within the next six years. For each unit increase in SRT score, participants gained a 21% improvement in survival. Specifically:
· Those who scored 0-3 were 6.5 times more likely to die during the 6-year-long study than those who scored 8-10
· Those who scored 3.5 to 5.5 were 3.8 times more likely to die
· Those who scored 6 to 7.5 were 1.8 times more likely to die
For a demonstration, see the video in the link below.
To Live Longer, Non-Exercise Movement Is Equally Important as a Regular Fitness Regimen
Over 50% of American men, and 60% of American women, never engage in any vigorous physical activity lasting more than 10 minutes per week, despite a growing body of research clearly showing that “exercise deficiency” threatens your overall health and mental well-being and shortens your lifespan.
According to recent research published in the American Journal of Physiology, the best way to stay young is to simply start exercising. If you are sedentary, you should consult your physician prior to starting any exercise program.
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