CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
At 34, I'm in pretty decent shape. My weight stays pretty much where I want it, but other than that, how do I know whether my fitness program is working for me? I run about two miles every other day and swim quite a bit in the summer months. -- Carla
This is a great question because too often we sum up our fitness level by stepping on the scale. Weight is an important factor in determining our health status, but it isn't the only factor. Clarifying your question "working for me" is a necessary step toward evaluating your fitness program.
The first step is to define your goals. Some would say fitting into last year's jeans would make them feel like their program is working, while others would use today's blood pressure as an indicator. Clearly we all have varying goals that are specific to us in measuring the effectiveness of a fitness regimen.
Hopefully, everyone's No. 1 goal is to improve health. How do we do that? We pursue activity that reduces body fat, increases lean muscle, controls blood pressure, strengthens the heart and lungs, reduces stress, improves blood cholesterol and triglycerides and helps us sleep better at night. If you are achieving these goals with your fitness program, it's accurate to say it's working.
Once you're clear about what you want to achieve, you can begin monitoring progress in the short term as well as the medium term. As a starting point, getting a thorough physical examination, including simple blood work, from a medical professional allows you to repeat it in six months for comparisons. Exercise can bring remarkable improvements in one's health and in many cases decrease reliance on medications.
Working toward specific goals