Today’s Physical Activity notes:
Numbers are real and give us a way to compare and evaluate things. They can help us keep track and improve our behaviors and processes in business and manufacturing and industry and science. Numbers are also helpful in our health. We look at heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, respiratory rate. We have people rate their pain level. We use numbers in assessing our risks for various diseases – ie. cholesterol, fasting insulin, blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c (representing an average of our blood sugars over 3 months), etc.
One way to assess your physical activity level and your fitness is to look at numbers also. In an earlier post, I discussed perceived exertion and monitoring heart rate. I recommend using numbers to keep track of what you are doing and where you want to go. Numbers are easy to monitor and helpful in setting goals and assessing your progress. Today, I recommend getting an idea of your general daily activity level & assessing your current fitness level.
1. General daily activity level. Wear a pedometer or accelerometer or use an equivalent app on your smartphone or get the popular FitBit or Apple watch to get 5-7 days of numbers. Find out how active you are at baseline. If you workout regularly, wear it also when you are working out. If you do not workout regularly, then you will see how active you are at this time when you are not regularly working out.
It helps to get many days of numbers and average them out. (You can get the average steps in a day by adding up all the numbers and dividing that big number by the number of days you collected numbers.) If you are walking on average closer to 3,000 steps total in a day, that’s more like a couch potato. If you are walking 10,000 or more steps a day, you can say you are active and your body will have the healthy benefits of increased circulation.
The goal is to figure out where you are starting & see if you can increase that number by 10% every 2 weeks. (10% would be taking off the last number in your daily average. For example: If you walk 3,000 steps, you would need to increase it by 300 steps in a day at 2 weeks, so that you are walking 3,300 steps total in a day).
2. Assess your fitness. First, figure out your baseline heart rate. Ideally, you will check this when you have been sitting or even better, first thing on waking up. Use a heart rate monitor if you have one. OR You can figure it out on your own by doing this: Find a clock that shows seconds. Find your pulse on your wrist: palm up, on the thumb side, under your wrist crease and to the outside of that middle tendons on the wrist, you can feel your pulse. Some people gently feel their pulse in their neck. Count the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply by 4. If you check it every day for a week, you will have a good idea of your baseline heart rate range.
As your fitness improves, this baseline heart rate actually will get lower. This is because regular movement & activity (often called exercise), strengthens your muscles including your heart, so it can pump more with fewer beats. It becomes very efficient with each pump. That’s why highly trained athletes often have VERY low heart rates.
Now that you know your baseline heart rate, you will find out how much time it takes for your heart rate to return to the baseline range after exercise or strenuous physical activity (when your heart rate was higher than your baseline). From the time you have finished your activity or exercise, time how long it takes your heart rate to return to your baseline. As your fitness improves, the time for your heart rate to return to baseline will become shorter. In other words, your heart can adjust that much faster and more efficiently to the demands of your body. This is fitness.
It is nice to assess these numbers every 4-6 weeks & write it down! It is SO motivating!