Saturday, April 24, 2010

Numbers You Need to Know

When you are embarking on an exercise and diet program, there are many numbers that you need to know in order to track your results. Yes, your weight matters, but it is not always an ideal record of your progress. For example, you should measure your bust, waist, hips, thighs, and arms before you begin because often you will lose inches before you lose pounds. Buy a tape measure and have a tailor show you how to measure yourself properly (most people don't know how).
Other numbers to know include:
  • Body Fat
  • Fat Burning Zone
  • Body Mass Index
  • Daily Caloric Intake
  • Your "Real Age"
Body Fat
Body fat can be measured a number of ways; the most accurate is by immersing yourself in a hydrostatic weighing tank, but most of us don't have one of those giant machines in our home. I tried this method once in college as part of an Exercise Science lab class. Many gyms use skinfold calipers to measure body fat, but this technique can be very inaccurate (as much as +/- five percent). If you have loose skin, the caliper can result in a higher body fat reading. The most convenient and more accurate method to use at home is bioelectrical impedance technology. Using a low electrical signal, a scale measures body fat when you place your bare feet on the sensors. The signal travels faster through lean muscle and slower through fatty tissue. I own the Tanita Body Fat Monitor scale.

Fat Burning Zone
There are two ways to figure out your fat burning zone (i.e., target heart rate needed to burn fat): the hard way and the easy way. If you like math, I recommend doing it yourself and using the standard Karvonen Formula. You will need to know your resting heart rate so take your pulse before getting out of bed in the morning. (Your heartbeat increases the minute you begin engaging in activity.) If you cannot multiply without help, then you should try this Target Heart Rate calculator. I am not a fan of the latter version because I plugged in my numbers, and I know from computing the actual formula that the simplified version is slightly inaccurate.

Body Mass Index (BMI)
Your BMI is a measure of body fat based on your weight and your height. This BMI calculator does the work for you, and the explanation on the left shows if you are underweight, normal, overweight, or obese. Check out the BMI tables for more detailed information.

Daily Caloric Intake
I don't like counting calories, but it is important to know how many you should ingest when you are trying to lose weight. You may be surprised to discover that you need more calories if your exercise routine is vigorous. Here is a great Calorie Calculator that takes into account your gender, age, exercise level, and goal. I found another fantastic Daily Calorie Intake Calculator that breaks down what percentage of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you should have in your diet based on your goal. I also recommend this daily calorie chart for men and this daily calorie chart for women.

Your Real Age
The "What's Your Real Age?" test compares your biological age to your real age, which means elements such as your health, habits, relationships, diet, and fitness are included to compute how old you really are. Then the test shows you how to improve your score or lower your age. Even though it takes about ten minutes, the test is worth taking. It turns out that my real age is my biological age: 37.7 years old. Some of the many things I can do to become younger include increase my good cholesterol score, avoid drug interactions, ease my headaches, and stop using my cell phone while driving.

I hope these numbers help you as you plan your workout regimen. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.

AWW – XoXo

P.S. While I do call people on my cell phone when I'm driving, I always put them on speakerphone. I should earn (or lose) some points for that choice.


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    The information in this blog is not intended as a substitute for professional health care. Please consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.