Health

The Definition of being Fit and the 3 Methods to Measure Fitness

What being fit really means and how to measure fitness

According to the World Health Organization, health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

THE DEFINITION OF BEING FIT

Being fit, related to a healthy person, includes the positive values of these components; The cardiovascular fitness, musculoskeletal fitness, a healthy mind, body mass composition and metabolism. In addition, being fit refers to the avoidance of having any illnesses and diseases as well as the main causes of health risks contributing to death.

Top 10 Causes of Death Worldwide

Amongst the 56.4 million deaths worldwide in 2019 – 55% were due to the top 10 causes on a global level.  That includes chronic diseases, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), non-infectious caused 74% of deaths globally.

NCDs result in rapid deaths such as autoimmune diseasesheart diseasesstrokecancersdiabeteschronic kidney diseaseosteoporosisAlzheimer’s diseasecataracts, and others.

Ischemic heart disease(also known as coronary artery disease, which limits blood supply to the heart due to accumulation of cholesterol in arteries) and stroke (brain cells are deprived of oxygen due to the cut off of blood flow to an area of the brain) are the top causes, accounting for a combined 40% in 2019.

It is encouraged to reduce the major risk factors for non-communicable diseases through:

  • Avoiding the use of tobacco,
  • Being physically active,
  • Reducing High levels of Sodium Intake
  • Consuming a healthy diet
  • Drinking alcohol with caution.

WHAT IS BEING FIT?

Your weight, waist circumference, and fat & muscle mass can indicate the risks of NCDs.

Being fit is about lowering the risk of having any of these diseases in your future.

Methods to Measure Fitness

There are 3 main methods to find out the ideal weight/ratio and also the risk one is exposed to:

  1. Body mass index (BMI)

BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height.  NHLBI presents the below standard:

The formula: BMI Kg/m2 = Weight (in kilograms) / Height (in meters) / Height (in meters)

For example, if a woman with a height of 1.65m and weight of 65kg. You would calculate: 65/1.65 x 1.65 = 23.9. This gives us a BMI of 23.9kg/m2, classifying her in the healthy category.

Classification BMI Risk for type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease relative to BMI & waist circumference
Men <=102 cm / 40 in

Women <= 88 cm / 35 in

Men > 102 cm / 40 in

Women > 88 cm / 35 in

Underweight <= 18.5
Normal 18.5 – 24.9
Overweight 25 – 29.9 Increased High
Obesity I 30 – 34.9 High Very High
Obesity II 35 – 39.9 Very High Very High
Obesity III >= 40 Extremely High Extremely High
Limitation

BMI does not take into account of a person’s total body fat percentage.  It may overestimate body fat in athletes (muscles are dense and compact than fat and can easily be misunderstood as obese or overweight) and underestimate body fat in older persons and or people who have lost muscle.

  1. Waist-hip ratio (WHR)

The waist-hip ratio refers to the ratio of the circumference between the waist (the smallest circumference) and hips (the widest circumference).

Abdominal obesity is identified by an increase in waist circumference which can be assessed through its measurement.

To correctly measure your waist, stand and place a tape measure around your middle, just above your hipbones. Measure your waist just after you breathe out.

Risk of cardiovascular health problems Men Women
Low risk < 0.9 < 0.8
Moderate risk 0.9 – 0.99 0.8 – 0.89
High risk 1 or over 0.9 or over
Limitation

WHR does not take into account a person’s total body fat percentage. However, it is considered a better predictor of ideal weight and health risks than BMI.

 

  1. Body Fat Percentage (BFP)

The ideal range of body fat is
Women: 20 to 25%
Men: 15 to 20%

The ideal weight and fat-lean ratio vary considerably for women and men by age.  The average healthy adult body fat range regardless of age is 20 to 25% for women and 15 to 20% for men.

How to Measure our Body Fat Percentage?

There are two methods that can measure your body-fat percentage.

  1. Skinfold testing. It is usually performed by a trained professional. It is measured via a specialized instrument called a caliper that measures the fat from different areas of the body by pinch measurement method.
  2. BIA: Biometrical impedance analysis. Commonly, they are called Body Fat Scales. It sends weak electrical impulses throughout the body that encounters different levels of resistance/impedance and hence gives final measurements.

A woman with more than 32% body fat and males with more than 25% body fat are considered to be at increased risk for disease based on the body composition fact sheet by the University of Pennsylvania.

Women – % Bodyfat / Age 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-69
Low (increased health risk) < 14 < 14 < 14 < 14 < 14
Excellent / fit </= 16.5 </= 17.4 </= 19.8 </= 22.5 </= 23.2
Good / normal 16.6 – 19.4 17.5 – 20.8 19.9 – 23.8 22.6 – 27 23.3 – 27.9
Fair/average 19.5 – 22.7 20.0 -24.6 23.9 – 27.6 27.1 – 30.4 28 – 31.3
Poor (increased health risk) 22.8 – 27.1 24.7 – 29.1 27.7 – 31.9 30.5 – 34.5 31.4 – 35.4
High (increased health risk) > 27.2 > 29.2 > 32* > 34.6 > 35.5

*possible correction from “31.3”

Men – % Bodyfat / Age 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-69
Low (increased health risk) < 8 < 8 < 8 < 8 < 8
Excellent / fit </= 10.5 </= 14.5 </= 17.4 </= 19.1 </= 19.7
Good / normal 10.6 – 14.8 14.6 – 18.2 17.5 – 20.6 19.2 – 22.1 19.8 – 22.6
Fair/average 14.9 – 18.6 18.3 -21.3 20.7 – 23.4 22.2 – 24.6 22.7 – 25.2
Poor (increased health risk) 18.7 – 23.1 21.4 – 24.9 23.5 – 26.6 24.7 – 27.8 25.3 – 28.4
High (increased health risk) >/= 23.2 >/= 25 > 26.7 >/= 27.9 >/= 28.5

Health risks associated with body fat

  • Low body fat

    The attempt to reduce body fat by extreme measures not only leads to decreased exercise performance but also can lead to severe health complications.

    Nutrient deficiencies fluid/electrolyte imbalance from low food intake can lead to increased risk of the following problems;

    • Dehydration, Starvation
    • Fatigue
    • Fractures and skeletal weakness
    • Loss of muscle tissue
    • Growth abnormalities
    • Shrinkage of internal organs
    • Immune system abnormalities
    • Loss of reproductive system or its abnormalities
    • Damage to Central Nervous System (changes in attention, depression, etc)
    • Cardiovascular changes (low Vit A, Calcium, Magnesium)
    • Hormonal changes
    • Gastrointestinal disturbances
    • Renal disturbances
    • Death (severe cases)

     

    High body fat

    The higher your percentage of body fat (above 25% for women and above 20% for men) the greater your risk for developing the below life-threatening NCDs / chronic diseases:

    • Cardiovascular diseases (heart failure, coronary artery diseases, angina, etc)
    • Stroke
    • High Blood Pressure,
    • High cholesterol
    • Diabetes,
    • Fatty liver disease
    • Sleep apnea (abnormal breathing pattern in sleep),
    • Gallstones
    • Osteoarthritis,
    • Certain types of cancers.

     

    It’s not rocket science to be fit – it’s simply about having a sustainable healthy lifestyle through exercising and eating right to lower risks of all-cause mortality.  Find out how to be fit and choose the right food to consume to formulate a lifestyle that works for you to Prime with Time.

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Lois Chan

Lois has worked in the health and skincare industry since 2004. Highly optimistic about aging, she is still pragmatic enough to prepare thoroughly for the future. PrimeWithTime.com is Lois' brainchild; a website offering scientifically researched solutions to challenges that people face in every stage of their lives. Join her on her journey for wisdom through the ages.

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