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How Fit Are You? Here’s How to Find Out | Muscle & Body Magazine

Waist-to-height ratio and maximal heart rate are two key health indicators you need to know.

The negative impact of carrying around extra pounds on the body can be more than just worrisome, it can be downright dangerous to your health. Historically, weight and body-mass index were generally accepted as the primary indicators of health and potential risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other chronic and debilitating diseases. As more scientific research emerges, the better health indicator may be your waist-to-height ratio (WHtR). In a recent study presented in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism and quoted on in April 2011, researchers concluded that the WHtR was the strongest predictor of cardiovascular risk and mortality.

This means that where you carry your weight, especially if in the belly area, appears to be more telling than just the shear amount of weight on your frame or your body-mass-index number. So, even small amounts of extra weight in your midsection should give you pause to consider your current health status and where to focus your exercise regimen.

Knowing what your ratio is significantly helps you understand what areas of the body to focus on in terms of nutrition and exercise regimens (see chart below). If you work with a nutritionist, he or she should be able to design a diet plan to maximize your results and the body zones you need to concentrate on.

What’s Your Beat?

As you develop your individualized fitness plan, the second health indicator you should be mindful of is your maximal heart rate. Maximal heart rate is the maximum beats per minute an individual can produce either in a cardiopulmonary stress test under medical supervision, running for our life being chased by a wild animal (stress event), or with an age-predicted maximum heart rate from a formula, which in some cases can over- or under-predict said maximum heart rate. Training at your predicted maximum heart rate or rate determined by a VO2 max test may be ineffective in the long run since you cannot sustain it for any length of time, which is why it is called a maximum heart rate. Train instead in specified zones of maximum heart rate based on the specific goals of the sport or the training objective. There are different formulas you can use to find your predicted maximum heart rate, but for most healthy people who are not overweight or obese, the most accepted is 220 minus your age.

There has been debate in the medical community as to whether overweight and obese populations should use the same formula to predict their maximal heart rate. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published a study in the May 2011 issue that discussed this very topic, and examined 132 obese or overweight participants. The researchers examined the safety and effectiveness of differing maximal heart rate formulas, including the one mentioned above, for people falling in the healthy range, and applied the formulas to overweight and obese people. They concluded that people who are considered overweight and obese should use the equation 208 – (0.7 x age) for the most accurate prediction. They also reported that this equation “was accurate across all gender, age and weight status groups that were investigated.”

I recommend that you always monitor your heart rate while exercising, particularly when performing high-intensity routines. Heart-rate monitors (see one pictured above) are easy to wear and most are inexpensive; they’re very much worth purchasing. Talk to your physician about your individual target heart range and your maximal heart rate. Medications and supplements you are taking may alter your ranges.

Where Do You Stand on WHTR?

WHtR can be easily calculated by simply dividing your waist size in inches by your height in inches, and I suggest everyone take a minute to do your calculation. Gender must also be taken into account.

Male WHtR Ratios

Healthy: 43–46

Normal/healthy: 46–53

Overweight: 53–58

Extremely overweight/obese: 58–63

Highly obese: 63 and over

Female WHtR Ratios

Healthy: 42–46

Normal/healthy: 46–49

Overweight: 49–54

Extremely overweight/obese: 54–58

Highly obese: 58 and over


via How Fit Are You? Here’s How to Find Out | Muscle & Body Magazine.