Health Tests: Blood Pressure | Heart Rate | BMI


an image of a doctor holding a model heart. This is supposed to represent the importance of health testing as part of the hungry4fitness weight-loss programme.

this banner says: Module 1: Health Tests

In this module you will discover a range of health-related physiological tests. It is advisable to conduct one or more physiological test before embarking on this weight-loss programme.


By doing so you will be provided with a wealth of data regarding your current state of physiological health. Also, testing before initiating the programme (initial test), intermittently throughout (formative testing) and on completion (summative test), will inform you as to whether the programme is working or not.


If the data is positive – i.e. after implementing the diet and lifestyle advice you are losing weight and showing physiological improvements (your blood pressure/resting heart rate are dropping) – this is telling you that the programme is delivering the desired results.


But if the data is negative – i.e. after implementing the diet and lifestyle advice little to no development or improvement has been made – you would merely adjust the programme. The adjustments might include:


a) re-examining dietary and lifestyle practices

b) increasing the number of weekly exercise sessions

c) increasing the duration of each exercise session

d) increasing exercise intensity

e) including different exercise – for example you might substitute static exercises for ones more dynamic


A brief word on the health-related tests to follow. Though it is true that more and more people have home testing equipment, such as blood pressure machines and heart rate monitors (both of which are relatively inexpensive and can be procured online), this is not the case for everyone.


If you do not have the equipment required to retrieve health-related data do not fret. All you would do is book a health screening with your local doctor (GP) or health practitioner. It is likely that they would be more than happy to facilitate this request as is in the interests of the National Health Service to collaborate with citizens in their pursuit of improved health.


Last point: ensure that you notify your GP or health practitioner that you are taking part in a weight-loss programme and will be conducting periodic tests.


Range of methods of measuring and tracking physiological biomarkers

a table showing a range of health screening methods that can be used to monitor weight loss.

Weigh yourself!

Prior to undertaking this weight-loss programme it is imperative that you firstly ascertain your current weight. Failure to weigh yourself would be an act of folly for, without determining your weight, you’ll neither know if progress is being made nor, more crucially, will you have a goal at which to aim your efforts.


So, your next Task is to hop on the scales.


But before you do, it is important to ensure testing accuracy and reliability. To do so always apply the following procedure:


1) Weigh yourself first thing in the morning

2) Weigh yourself in undergarments (though completely unclothed is preferable)

3) Always use the same scales

4) Make a note of your weight as soon as you step off the scales


Healthy weight

Once you have weighed yourself your next objective is to determine your healthy – or optimal – weight. This is by no means straightforward and there is no best method of ascertaining your healthy weight: the most ubiquitously used method is the body mass index (BMI) – see below.


However, for any weight-loss programme to work, we need at minimum two variables: 1) current weight; 2) target weight. In the absence of these variables progress cannot be tracked or measured, which would somewhat be the equivalent of setting off on a journey without a destination: how do you know how far you’ve travelled? How do you know how far you have left to go?


an image of the BMI - body mass index - calculator.

Weight to lose

Having procured these two variables – current weight and healthy weight – you need to establish how much superfluous weight you are carrying. It is only when this figure is made salient that you should begin your weight-loss campaign.


Why?


Because that additional weight, which presently stands between you and your healthy weight, will be the catalyst of action; it is to become your Mt. Everest to summit, your Herculean labour to overcome.


However, before hurrying off on your weight-loss crusade, the figure of your excess weight must first be broken down into manageable, bite-sized sub-aims.


Any attempt to tackle the figure in its entirety is a mistake and one that is doomed to failure. That is why it to be spilt into achievable milestones. See below an example of how to approach this:

Step 1: Identify your current weight


Step 2: Know your optimal – or healthy – weight


Step 3: Establish how much superfluous weight you are carrying


Step 4: Further breakdown the surfeit into manageable sub-aims


Example

1) My current weight: 16st (224lbs – 101kg)

2) My optimal weight: 13st 7lbs (189lbs – 85.9kg)

3) Target weight to lose: 2st 7lbs (35lbs – 15.9kg)

4) Sub-aim to lose: 2.2lbs (1kg) each week


With the sub-aim of dropping 2.2lbs (1kg) each week, which is considered a safe and realistic target, to reduce the target weight of 2st 7lbs, in the above example, would take 17.5 weeks (rounded up to 18 weeks).


‘Eighteen weeks? That’s a long time, I thought I’d lose the weight over a weekend!’ you might be thinking.


Though many weight-loss courses and health gurus promise quick results, they rarely deliver. And if they do the methods recommended often controvert the contemporary consensus regarding what constitutes as health; think Atkins diet.


This course is different as it is grounded on a firm foundation of reality and results will only be realised by those who are willing to apply the advice, work hard, be patient and maintain high levels of participation. Sorry to disappoint.


Moving on . . .


How to calculate your weight

The preferred method of determining weight range is the BMI – or Body Mass Index. By inputting two measurements – height and weight – into the BMI Calculator (or plotting them on the accompanying chart) you will receive a reading of how you measure up to what the medical profession deems as a healthy weight for your height.



However, we mustn’t forget that the BMI is a very generalised measure and consequently cannot account for body types that reside outside the norm. This has led to the rise in criticism by health professionals regarding the accuracy of BMI readings. For example, a study cited in the excellent book Healthy Psychology (2017) demonstrated that 52% of BMI readings were inaccurate. And what was more concerning was that the readings were informing participants that their weight (read ‘fat percentage’) was lower than it in fact was when researchers put the participants through a far more accurate health assessment.


Fortunately, there is a better and even more accessible health assessment tool that can be used either in place of or support to the BMI. The WHtR, or Waist-to-Height Ratio, is a simple yet quite effective tool at gauging the health risks of body fat. Dr Greger, in his book How Not To Die, describe the procedure thus:


‘Instead of a scale, grab a simple measuring tape. Stand up straight and take a deep breath, exhale, and let it all hang out. The circumference of your belly (halfway between the top of your hip bones and the bottom of your rib cage) should be half your height – ideally, less. If the measurement is more than half your height, it’s time to start eating healthier and exercising more regardless if your weight,’ (How Not To Die – 2017).


Other, arguably more accurate, methods of ascertaining your weight range include booking an appointment with a health nurse at your local GP surgery for a health screening. A health nurse will be able to offer both an objective and subjective evaluation of your current body mass.


Alternatively, you could solicit the services of a Personal Trainer and ask them to conduct a health screening. But, if you do decide to search out a PT, ensure to ask which health screening methods they plan to use prior to parting with your hard-earned pounds. If they plan only to use the BMI save your money and use the chart above (or an online calculator). If, however, they plan to use a range of methods, ensure the following are included:


  • BMI

  • Skinfold test

  • Girth measurements

  • Bioelectrical impedance


Also, ask them to take a blood pressure reading and resting heart rate. The more biomarkers you have the better you will be able to chart and track progress.


Once you have procured the necessary measures – and remember: your weight and optimal weight will more than suffice for the fulfilment of this course – use the 21-Week Fat-loss Tracker provided to track and record weekly weight-loss progress.


21-Week Fat-loss Tracker
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Don’t forget! the tracker is totally customisable. Depending on how much weight you plan to lose the number of weeks the tracker spans can be reduced or increased according to your personal requirements. When you’ve imputed the necessary information on the tracker it is advisable to print it off (if possible) in A3 – and colour! (the garish the better) – and stick it somewhere prominent, such as the fridge door.


But of course, before embarking on a weight-loss programme, you must make the necessary dietary and lifestyle reforms. After we touch on the potential barriers to success it is to those reforms that we turn.


Fitness tests

The purpose of the fitness test chart below is to provide you with the opportunity to monitor your physical developments as you progress through the programme.


Taking the time to test your current levels of fitness, across multiple components (cardiovascular, muscular endurance, strength), will enable you to track and measure progress which in turn will inform you as to whether or not you need to increase exercise intensity/duration.


So, before you start this programme, you are advised to first test yourself. The fitness tests in the chart below are to form the basis of your current physicality. They will provide you with a measure of cardio-respiratory performance and muscular endurance capacity.


Of course, the objective of the programme is to aid you in your bid to advance on your current fitness capabilities.


Please note: you do not have to use the fitness tests below; you can create your own set of fitness tests (a blank chart has produced for this eventuality). However, it is advisable that:


a) The tests you select should provide an insight into cardio-respiratory and muscular endurance fitness;

b) You use multiple measures – mix and blend different components such as cardiovascular, muscular endurance, strength, power;

c) You test prior to initiating the programme, halfway through and on completion;

d) The conditions in which the tests were conducted remain the same, or as near as possible, when you re-test (this improves the validity of the feedback).




Ready to progress to Module 2: Barriers to Success?

(As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)



Blog Author

Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.

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