Important Health Indicators Beyond Body Weight

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Important Health Indicators Beyond Body Weight

While obesity is linked to a variety of health issues, simply being at an ideal body weight does not guarantee you perfect health. Your eating habits, exercise patterns, and how you handle stress all contribute to your wellness and risk for disease. Give these health indicators some consideration as you continue to evaluate your progress and reach your fitness goals.

Heart Health

Heart health is influenced by a number of factors including your weight, diet, exercise, age, and family history. While you don’t have control over all of these factors, there is plenty you can do to incorporate a healthy diet and stay active to benefit your heart. Get regular check ups from your doctor and gain a better understanding of the factors that contribute to heart health, such as blood pressure and blood cholesterol. The American Heart Association considers a blood pressure of less than 120 over 80 to be normal, and a total cholesterol reading of less than 180 mg/dL to be optimal.

Energy Levels

Many unhealthy habits can zap your energy. Foods and drinks that are high in sugar with little nutritional value, not eating enough, lack of sleep, and excess stress all influence how you feel. If you fall into a mid-morning or afternoon slump that leaves you drained, you may need to pay closer attention to your diet, sleep, and exercise patterns.

Reduce simple carbohydrates that can spike blood sugar and then cause it to crash, leaving you sluggish and hungry. Eat the number of calories recommended to reach your weight loss goal. The Mayo Clinic recommends that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you still feel low on energy despite adequate sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation, napping can improve alertness and enhance performance. Keep naps to 20 to 30 minutes so that it doesn’t interfere with good sleep at night. Stick with your regular exercise routine, but be sure you work in at least one rest day per week. Your body needs this time to recover. Overtraining can lead to fatigue and disrupted sleep patterns.

Overall Fitness

While maintaining a normal body weight is linked to improved health, a healthy weight does not ensure fitness. Strengthening your heart through cardiovascular exercise and your muscles through resistance training are important parts of a healthy lifestyle. Flexibility training also keeps you mobile as you age and allows you to perform cardio and strength exercises. Test your fitness level regularly to track your progress and ensure that you are not only losing weight, but also getting fit. If you belong to a gym, inquire about fitness testing. Sometimes an initial fitness assessment is included with your membership fees. You can also try out the self-guided Adult Fitness Test provided by The President’s Challenge that is available online.

Lean Body Mass

Maintaining muscle (or lean body mass) and reducing fat mass, especially around the abdominal area, can improve your health. Body fat percentage can be assessed in a number of ways, including skinfold caliper measurements, handheld BIA (bioelectrical impedance analysis), and underwater weighing. Your gym should be able to assist you with a body fat percentage assessment. The American Council on Exercise considers women with a body fat of 21 to 24 percent to be in the fitness category, while a body fat of 25 to 31 percent is acceptable. Men with a body fat of 14 to 17 percent are classified in the fitness category while 18 to 24 percent is acceptable.

Mood and Attitude

When you feel bad, it shows in your mood and attitude. There are many reasons you might feel cranky and irritable, such as excess stress, lack of sleep, and frustration with your health or your body weight. These feelings translate into a negative attitude towards healthy habits that can be difficult to overcome. The good news is that healthy eating can improve your mood and energy levels. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel happier and healthier. When you find yourself in a bad mood, evaluate your current habits. Have you missed a few workouts or could you improve your nutrient intake? Identify what is causing these feelings and make the necessary changes to improve your mood and embrace a healthy lifestyle.