Whether you're looking to lose a large amount of weight, shed a few pounds for swimsuit season or embark on a strenuous training regimen, it is vital to assess your current fitness level. While this can be a depressingly stark dose of reality for some, you should consider this assessment as the measuring tool for your progress. In addition to your height, weight, body mass index and girth measurements, you should measure both your resting and working heart rates with cardiac fitness tests you can administer yourself.
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Simple Home Stress Test
Use a 12-inch high bench or step for this simple home stress test. Step up, one foot after the other, and down for a three-minute period. Alternate the starting foot for each repetition and maintain a steady rhythm with a four-beat cycle. At the end of the three- minute period, rest for five seconds then measure your pulse rate for 15 seconds. To determine your one-minute heart rate, multiply the 15-second pulse measurement by four.
A "good" to "excellent" heart rate for men, measured in the above stress test, ranges from 79 for those aged 18 to 25 to less than 96 for those 65 years of age and older. The "average" to "above average" range is 90 for the youngest group up to 113 for the oldest. "Below average" or "poor" results range from 117 for 18 to 25 years old to 130 for the 65 and up group. Results over 128 to 130 are generally considered "poor".
For women, the numbers run from 85 to 102 for the "good" to "excellent" range; 99 to 122 for those deemed "average" to "above average"; 118 to 134 for the "poor" to "below average" level; and results over 140 to 134 are judged as "poor."
Improving Cardiac Fitness
According to the American Heart Association, you can improve your heart fitness by exercising for 30 minutes a day. Walking, with the lowest dropout rate of all physical activities, is the preferred form of exercise for many. Walking or other moderate physical activity of at least 30 minutes per day will help reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, improve blood pressure, help maintain blood sugar, help control obesity, reduce the risks of certain cancers and type-2 diabetes and help prevent osteoporosis. Additionally, a regular exercise regimen will improve your overall mental health.
The cardiac fitness test will only measure one area of physical well being. Tests which measure muscle strength, coordination and flexibility, agility, balance and explosive power will help determine your overall fitness level. A doctor or clinic can also perform a stress test or blood pressure screening to further determine your relative health.