CHECK YOUR FITNESS PROGRESS WITHOUT USING A SCALE
In the vast majority of cases, when people consider “getting in shape” at least one part of that equation is losing weight. Most often, weight loss is directly measured by stepping on a scale. But the numbers on the scale can be misleading as indicators of health. Just because the scale shows a lower number (Hooray!) that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re any healthier or more fit (Sorry!).
For example, if you want to experience weight loss in a given day, you could go the entire day without eating or drinking. Yes, the scale would show a lower number the next morning. But I can promise you that doing so is counter-productive in any effort to reach long-term health or fitness objectives. What most people mean when they contemplate “losing weight” really refers to losing body fat or losing inches.
One of the best ways to burn off body fat is to incorporate strength training into your workout. Not only will you have the obvious benefit of additional strength, but building fat-burning muscle tissue helps kick your metabolism into high gear. Additionally, you’ll experience more joint stability, and increased bone density. But, since muscle is so much denser than body fat, the scale doesn’t always reflect the healthy progress you are making. So how can you measure progress when the scale isn’t showing you the results you want? Here are a few ideas on how to ascertain whether you’re losing body fat and/or getting healthier without ever needing to step on a scale.
How Your Clothes Look & Feel
A wonderful indicator of fitness progress occurs on that happy day when you comfortably fasten your belt one notch smaller. And the good news is that your body will use stored fat from many places, not just at your waistline. As you continue to get fit and tighten your belt, you will most likely see fat reduction from your triceps area, legs, and hips as well.
I recommend putting on a form fitting outfit at the beginning of your fitness journey and putting it back on every few weeks to see how much differently (and looser) it fits. Are you a person that’s prone to taking the occasional selfie? Do a “before” picture in the mirror prior to beginning a consistent exercise program (get a front and profile view) and then take another each month. Your photo record will be a fine motivator to keep you on track as you see the clear evidence of progress.
In addition to taking pictures, another great way to measure fitness progress is to use different fitness benchmarks. For example, take an initial measurement of how fast you can walk two miles and then time yourself on the same course a few weeks later. If you have been walking or jogging 3 times a week or so, you’re sure to be impressed with your new “speedy” self. Or if you prefer, do the reverse, and see how far you can comfortably walk during your set workout time – 30 minutes for example. After some regular exercise, you’ll see that you have the energy and stamina to go a lot farther in that same timeframe.
Finally, taking a reading of a personal medical stat or two is a surefire way to know that you’re improving your health. If you have almost any piece of fitness equipment (which typically will have an included heart rate sensor), or any smart watch, check your resting heart rate early in the morning (and before your coffee!) as you begin your exercise program and again, periodically thereafter. Since taking care of your heart is certainly a priority, you’ll be gratified to see progress. Or, if you don’t have a blood pressure cuff at home, stop into your pharmacy and use theirs on the same schedule. Strengthening your heart and lowering blood pressure are two primary benefits of exercise.
Each of the strategies above could be a more reliable measurement of improving health than simply seeing a lower number on the bathroom scale. Weight loss remains the most common parameter people consider when working to get in shape, and one you may want to utilize as well. But incorporate one or more of the preceding approaches to give you a more accurate reading of your health and fitness progress.
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