We live in a society that is completely obsessed with numbers such as; finances, sports, weather, etc. Part of the reason why we, as a society, are so focused on numbers is because of their direct tie to results. Unfortunately, in many cases, people focus too much on certain numbers when it comes to their health and fitness. Below, I have created a list of common numbers related to a healthy lifestyle that I can discuss in further detail so that you can not only learn a thing or two, but also realize that some numbers really aren't all that important to stress over!
This is definitely an important number. People with high blood pressure carry higher risks for certain diseases such as heart disease and stroke. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada lists the following guidelines for your systolic and diastolic numbers:
Systolic - 120-129
Diastolic - 80-84
Systolic - 130-139
Diastolic - 85-89
High Blood Pressure:
Systolic - 140 and over
Diastolic - 90 and over
The good thing about high blood pressure is that it is (for the most part) entirely possible to lower your numbers with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
One of the biggest misconceptions out there today is the "fat burning zone". It baffles me to know that even to this day, there are still posters and signs plastered in gyms across the world that indicate heart rate zones that target fat burning.
Here is what is really happening. During your every day life and low-level activity, your body is meeting its energy requirements with (mostly) aerobic energy systems by burning adipose (fat). As your heart rate climbs during an intense exercise session, you begin to transition into burning more sugars (muscle glycogen) but still maintain burning adipose. By aiming to keep your heart rate in a specific 'zone' is just short-changing yourself and your workout will be less efficient than if you were to push yourself. So in short, disregard 'heart rate zone' posters and push yourself to work hard!
The heart rate number you should pay attention to is your resting heart rate. You can take this first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. The fitter you become, the lower your resting heart rate will fall, which is good for you in the long run as it means your heart doesn't have to work as hard over a lifetime.
A "normal" resting heart rate should ideally be between 60-80 beats per minute, although you should discuss with your doctor what is right for you as heart rates will vary between people based on age, genetics, and other health conditions. I have heard that during his peak, Lance Armstrong's resting heart rate was between 32 and 34 beats per minute!!!
Another number that really does not carry a whole lot of meaning. Actually, let me rephrase that. If you are overweight, chances are, you know it. We should all know by now what a respectable weight range is based on your height. Having said that, you should really try and avoid weighing yourself every day as your body will usually fluctuate between a few pounds based on what you ate during the day, your hydration level, etc.
Also, if you are just starting a new exercise program, and your muscles are even a little bit sore, your weight may actually go up a bit as water retention in your muscles is part of the repair and remodeling process.
Ideally, you should aim to get your weight into a fairly respectable range, keeping in mind that muscle weighs more than fat (relative to size), and then stay in that ballpark. Do not stress over a few pounds difference here and there from day to day or week to week!
Body Mass Index (BMI)
This can be a reliable scale for the average person to slap them in the back of the head and get their butts moving, but it is not reliable for all. This is a simple equation basing your 'ideal' number on an equation using your weight and height.
As soon as the BMI scale attempts to try and class athletes or bodybuilders - that are even slightly muscular - into a category, is where you run into problems. Remember that muscle weighs more than fat, so as you start to get fit and healthy and pack on some muscle mass, your BMI is going to cry aloud. Anything over 25 is considered overweight!
Don't kid yourself here, however, don't calculate your number and then try and convince yourself that you are fit when you really aren't!
Body Fat Percentage
I will be the first to admit that I have never tested my own body fat percentage. Why? Because I feel there is no need for such a useless number. I have been a skinny guy (lucky) my whole life, so my body fat probably hasn't changed much over the span of my life. So what's the point? So I can brag to other people? Nah!
Not only that, but majority of body fat tests out there are terribly inaccurate. The only way you could make some of the tests reliable is to test yourself on the same day, after eating the same foods, and drinking the same amount of water, and blah, blah, blah.
There is one advantage to testing your body fat percentage however. If you an individual who needs to lose even a fair bit of weight, this can be a great motivational tool for you to see this number drop. Again, keep in mind that you would need to measure yourself with the same instrument, under as similar circumstance as possible every time, and also remind yourself that there is a possibility of a +/- %5 variation on each test!
These numbers can be the most telling. Again, remember that muscle weighs more than fat, so if you are exercising and eating right but your scale hasn't budged, you may still be making progress! I recommend keeping track of your numbers that are relevant to your goals. For example, if you are trying to slim down and lose weight, take measurements of your waistline, hips, legs, and butt before and after many weeks' work to see the change. If, on the other hand, you are looking to put on some muscle, you may want to measure the size of your biceps and chest.
Often times, you may start to notice your clothes are starting to feel looser - or tighter if you are trying to put on some muscle - so you may not even need a tape measure!
There is a pretty close link with "calories in, calories out", but it is not an exact science. For the most part, we all need a specific number of calories to maintain, lose, or gain weight, but these numbers fluctuate between people due to genetics, age, metabolisms, activity levels, etc.
You can definitely experience some success by ingesting fewer calories, but the key is making every single one of your calories count. For example, you are far better off eating 200 calories of fruits and vegetables rather than 200 calories of candy. Not only will 200 calories of fruits and vegetables fill you up more, but they contain more useful 'stuff' in them such as vitamins and minerals.
To learn more about calories, you can read one of my past blogs here.
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