How does one measure health? It depends on who you ask. A physician may measure health in terms of lab values – cholesterol, blood sugar and so on. A personal trainer might tell you that your body fat percentage is the best indicator of good health. You might base it on what the scale tells you or how your clothes fit.
I’m a big believer in monitoring all of these things and then some. Seems like a big job, but really it only takes a few minutes to do each one, involves inexpensive equipment or can be a regular part of a visit to your physician. I call them “The Big Ten Health and Fitness Measures.”
BMI (Body Mass Index)
Resting and target heart rates
Glucose & cholesterol
Why keep track of all these things? First, because there isn’t one single good way to define what makes a person healthy or fit. For instance, just because you are at a healthy weight, does not mean that you don’t have high cholesterol. Also, it can be discouraging to use just one method. You may find yourself in a situation where even though you did not lose any weight in a given week, you may have lost inches.
Monitoring several indicators of health and fitness helps you to get a well-rounded picture of your entire self. We do not judge our children in just one subject at school right? And just because the child does poorly in math does not mean he won’t excel at other subjects. And just because you have not lost any weight on the scale does not mean that your waist isn’t getting smaller.
Secondly, we have all heard the adage, “a problem defined is 95% solved.” Knowing your target ranges for health indicators like weight, body fat and BMI can help you to define what you need to work on. You avoid unnecessary changes and difficulties by having the correct information. For instance, someone with good cholesterol levels has no need for an ultra-low fat diet.
Third, it serves as a point of inspiration to see how far you have come. Since the changes you are making will be small and incremental, it may be discouraging at times not to see overt progress. However, by keeping track of a variety of fitness indicators, it is easier to see, in black and white, all of the progress you are making.
Jennifer D. Wetmore, DPT has been involved in health and fitness for over a decade working with a range of clients and patients from health clubs to hospitals. Dr. Wetmore is the author of “Small Changes, Big Results: The Health and Fitness Manual with the Secrets to Working Smarter, Not Harder.” Please visit