In our last post, we discussed the situation where many people do not “respond” well to certain types of exercises. They may try one type of exercise program—such as biking—but don’t really feel much improvement in their fitness levels.
But how do you measure your own fitness level? Of course you probably have a general idea if a certain type of exercise is really helping your fitness, but it would be nice if their was an easy, more objective way. Today we describe a that, and it doesn’t require any equipment.
What we are talking about today is how to measure your “aerobic” fitness. There other types of fitness as well, such a strength fitness and flexibility fitness, but aerobic fitness if probably the most important type, since it relates directly to your cardiovascular health.
In measuring your cardiovascular health, one easy way to do that is to measure your pulse before and after exercise. In general, the slower a person’s resting heart rate (before activity), the better their cardiovascular fitness. In fact, there have been studies showing that, generally speaking, the slower a person’s resting heart rate, the longer their lifespan.
Why a lower resting heart rate is good
The reason the heart beats slower in people with better fitness is that the heart is a muscle, and just like other muscles in our body, the heart becomes stronger with exercise. A stronger heart pushes through more blood with each contraction, but a weaker heart needs to pump faster to push through the same amount of blood.
A simple aerobic fitness test
This test was described by Dr.Brendon Gurd, of Queensland University (Canada), the chief author of the study discussed in the last post. You want to do this before starting an exercise program and then after a month or so to see if your fitness has improved.
1) Walk quickly up several flights of stairs then check your pulse rate. Or, step quickly onto and off a box (often found at gyms) about 4 times Then measure your pulse by lightly feeling on the thumb side of your wrist.
2) Repeat the test after a month. Try to match the same walking speed and number of steps as the first tests. If your fitness has improved, your pulse rate should be slower than it was.
3) You might make an average by doing the test a few times before and after the month (make sure you are at rest before you repeat the test).
If you want a much more exact fitness test, you could see a cardiologist or sports medicine specialist to have a treadmill test, where your “VO2 max” is measured. You wear an oxygen mask while on the treadmill, and the VO2 max shows how efficiently your muscles are using oxygen, and how well your heart is pumping.
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