Take a quick scan of what you already know about your body.
You likely know your weight and waistline measurement. You can get your resting heart rate by placing two fingers under your jaw. These are important numbers for sure, but they don’t necessarily tell you much about your overall fitness. Of course, when athletes demand detailed physiological data, it usually requires a visit to a lab with blood work and high-tech scanning machinery. But what’s the best measurement for gauging your overall fitness at home? To find out, we tapped a few trainers to get their professional opinions.
When trying to assess and measure how fit you are overall, it can get a bit tricky.
Tracy Bray, a personal trainer and the certified nutrition specialist behind Leany Greeny, says it’s a somewhat simple question with complicated answers. “I think you could ask 100 people their opinion and get 100 different answers,” she says. “When trying to assess and measure how fit you are overall, it can get a bit tricky.”
Bray says it’s important to look at exercises which test multiple facets of our fitness all at once. For that, she uses one of the most classic exercises that you can do anywhere, anytime—the humble push-up. “From top to bottom, it tests your entire body, including your shoulders, arms, chest, core and legs,” she says. “Intensity, pace, and even the push-up itself can be modified in order to narrow in on how it impacts your progression and what parts of your body it targets.” She makes a good point. From physical education classes, to military training and tests, to being part of a trainer’s suggested routine, the push-up can be found anywhere you look where someone is trying to improve their overall fitness.
And because push-ups provide instant feedback, they make for an easy way to track your progress. To that end, a recent Harvard study found that the number of push-ups a man can do is not only a marker of his overall health, but is also a good indicator of his risk for heart disease. The researchers found that those who could do more than 40 push-ups in one minute were 96 percent less likely to have developed a cardiovascular problem compared to those who could do no more than 10 push-ups.
Tony Gentilcore, CSCS and owner of CORE training studio, says that as a strength coach, he’s a bit biased and leans more towards that end of the spectrum. “Improved strength compliments one's cardiovascular health,” he says. “Namely, it helps build resilience and ‘bullet proofs’ the body from all the wear and tear the joints take from increased mileage on the pavement.”
One marker he consistently uses with his clients is one's ability to carry something for distance—which takes into account both strength and cardio. “To keep the math simple I like to say 1/2 bodyweight in each hand (dumbbells or kettlebells) for 100 yds for time,” he says. “Or, if I want to increase the level of (fitness) sadism, I'll aim for maximum distance and then try to improve upon that as the weeks and months pass.”
Either way, it seems the key is to focus on both a strength and cardiovascular component that can be easily tracked to use as a gauge of progress and overall health.FYI: Sports doctors recommend checking your resting heart rate a few times per week and at different times of the day, starting first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, but as your level of fitness improves, it typically goes down about 1–2 beats for every 2 months of consistent training.