Measuring Personal Fitness | Everyday Health

Evaluating your fitness level is not a one-size-fits-all process. Differences in lifestyle, muscle tissue, genetic makeup, and overall health all help determine your personal fitness level.

“It is an individual measurement that is not always dependent on how much physical activity you do,” notes Jim Pivarnik, PhD, president of the American College of Sports Medicine and director of the Center for Physical Activity and Health at Michigan State University in East Lansing .

So how can you tell if your exercise and healthy diet habits are paying off? There are several ways to measure your fitness level.

The Five Components of Fitness

“Measuring fitness is multi-dimensional,” explains Pivarnik. “Long-distance runners have excellent cardiovascular health, but if all you are is legs and lungs, you won’t have a lot of strength or flexibility. By the same measure, someone who is overweight and aerobically fit is healthier than someone who is in the normal weight range but doesn’t exercise.”

Overall physical fitness is said to consist of five different elements:

  1. Aerobic or cardiovascular endurance
  2. Muscular strength
  3. Muscular endurance
  4. Flexibility
  5. Body composition

Thorough fitness evaluations include exercises and activities that specifically measure your ability to participate in aerobic, or cardiovascular, exercise as well as your muscular strength, endurance, and joint flexibility. Special tools are also used to determine your body composition or percentage of total body fat.

Working to optimize each of these five components of fitness is crucial to enhancing your overall fitness and general health.

Fitness: How to Develop an Action Plan

If you have specific health problems, check with your doctor before implementing a routine to boost fitness. Once your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you have no more excuses. To improve your fitness level, take these important steps:

  • Follow U.S. guidelines for the minimum amount of exercise. That means exercising at a moderate intensity level for at least 2.5 hours spread over most days each week. At least twice a week, supplement aerobic exercise with weight-bearing activities that target all major muscles. Avoid inactivity; some exercise at any level of intensity is better than none while you’re building up your endurance.
  • Walking is the easiest way to get started. Get motivated by enlisting a friend to join you and adding variety to your routine. “Walking is simple and manageable for anyone,” says Jill Grimes, MD, a family physician in Austin, Texas. “Wear a pedometer from day one. Think of it in three parts: a five-minute warm-up of walking slowly, followed by a fast walk, then a five-minute cool-down of walking slowly.”
  • Compete only against yourself. No matter what activity you choose for getting fit, never compare your progress to someone else’s. “Do set goals, and if you are out of shape and hate exercise, start low and go slow,” recommends Dr. Grimes. “Do not compare yourself with your best friend who weighs 50 pounds less and just finished her 10th triathlon.” Pivarnik agrees: “Even if the same group of women walked at the same pace every morning, they
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The Dental Checkup | Everyday Health

In addition to daily brushing and flossing, you can help protect your oral health by seeing your dentist regularly for checkups. It’s recommended that most people get a dental checkup every six months, but your dentist may recommend more frequent or fewer visits, depending on your dental health history.

The Dental Checkup: What to Expect

In most cases, a dental hygienist and dentist will perform your dental checkup. Not every dentist operates the same way, but a dental checkup typically involves:

  • Cleaning and polishing. Your dental hygienist will use a special instrument called a hand scaler or ultrasonic dental instrument to scrape and remove the tartar from your teeth. He or she will then polish your teeth, often with a rotating rubber cup or brush, to remove any remaining plaque or stains.
  • Education. After the cleaning, your hygienist or dentist will discuss any dental hygiene problems that were detected, and show you how to brush and floss more effectively, if necessary.
  • Examination. Both your dental hygienist and dentist will examine your teeth, gums, and mouth, to look for changes or signs of a problem (for example, a cavity or gum disease or early signs of oral cancer). During the examination, your dentist may also use a special probe to measure the “pockets” between your teeth and gums, an explorer tool to poke at your teeth and determine if any cavities are present, and a mouth mirror to get a better view of the sides and back of your teeth. If you have any visible problems, your dentist may recommend a particular treatment or may refer you to a specialist, such as a periodontist or orthodontist, for further treatment.
  • X-rays. At some of your dental visits, your dentist may decide to take X-rays of your teeth to look for decay, gum disease, or other dental problems. X-rays expose you to radiation so in order to avoid having them done more than necessary, bring copies of previous X-rays with you when you’re visiting a new dentist.

Sometimes you may have a more thorough dental checkup, which is called a comprehensive examination. You will probably have a comprehensive examination the first time you see a dentist, and periodically thereafter. During a comprehensive dental examination, your dentist will:

  • Thoroughly examine your mouth, head, and neck
  • Discuss your medical history with you
  • Take a series of X-rays

Getting the Most Out of Your Dental Checkup

Since your oral health is closely related to your overall health, it’s important to communicate any concerns or problems you are having with your dentist. Be sure to:

  • Tell your dentist about any new health problems you have been diagnosed with since your last visit (for example, diabetes or heart disease).
  • Make a list of all medications and supplements you take, including their dosages. Take this list with you to your dental checkup so your dentist can review it.
  • Let your dentist know if you suffer from dental anxiety. Fear of the dentist is common, and your dentist can work
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