I'm Not Overweight. But Am I Fit?

How you can gauge your fitness.

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I have a normal body weight, eat modestly, exercise a little, and feel healthy. How do I know that I am fit?

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The best and safest way to determine the fitness of the cardiovascular system is to be evaluated by treadmill or bicycle stress testing with EKG monitoring in a physician's office. In the past, being physically fit was described as there being an absence of disease. Over the years, that definition has changed to imply adequate cardiovascular fitness. In a clinical setting, we determine cardiovascular fitness by treadmill stress testing.

In addition, our studies have shown that in predicting future coronary events, these three measurements from treadmill stress tests are very important:

1) having a resting heart rate less than 80 beats per minute,

2) being able to reach a maximal heart rate, during exercise, of at least 80 percent of the difference of 220 minus one's age, and

3) during the first minute after exercise ends, having heart rate decline by at least 12 beats per minute.

These measurements are cumulative, i.e., the fewer you can pass, the higher the predictability of a future coronary event.

Another way to measure cardiovascular fitness is to use the Cooper 12-Minute Test, which is used all over the world. This chart assigns people to a fitness category, ranging from "very poor" to "superior," based on what distance they can cover in 12 minutes. It takes their sex and age into account.

Reprinted from The Aerobics Program for Total Well-Being, 1982, Page 141.

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