Written by Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC, Author
In my last blog, I wrote about making movement/exercise a priority in one’s life to reach and maintain one’s optimum health and wellness. In this blog, I would like to explore the markers of how to know when one’s activity level/movement is creating healthy results. The first obvious marker or indicator I believe most people think of to determine whether one’s activity level is more than likely healthy is weight. Secondly, I think of body measurements. Other markers include body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar levels. How well one sleeps also is an indicator of the quality and quantity of one’s activity level. It also has recently dawned on me that healthy exercise in a roundabout way can affect the quality of one’s relationships and also one’s spiritual life. As I am on the journey to optimum health given my age and other circumstances, I will use personal examples as much as possible in discussing each of these markers.
Markers of Healthy Movement
In terms of weight, I first want to point out that I am a believer in the weight set point theory. As I reported in the book Food as an Idol: The Types, Causes, Consequences, Conquering, and Prevention of Disordered Eating,
According to Thompson, Muhlheim, and Farrar (1997/2014), each individual is biologically and genetically determined to weigh within a certain weight range. Theorists who support set point theory maintain that the body is programmed to maintain the set point weight.
Scientists estimate that the average person has a set point range of about ten to twenty pounds, meaning at any given time, there is a ten-to-twenty-pound range at which your body will be comfortable and not resist attempts to change. (Thompson, et al., ¶ 3)
Metabolism slows down when one goes under his or her body’s set point while metabolism is increased if one’s weight goes above the set point. No test exists to determine one’s set point. Only by listening to the hunger cues of one’s body, by eating healthy and exercising moderately will one reach his or her body’s set point, which differs individually. (Orgeron, 2019, p. 39)
Let’s get real and be honest. Based on my personal experience and observations, too many people put too much emphasis on the number on the scales. Don’t get me wrong. The number on the scales is a good indicator of one’s health. However, let’s not forget that one’s weight doesn’t just consist of the amount of fat in a person’s body; but, is made up of “fat, muscles, organs, bones, fluids, and skin.” (Orgeron, 2019, p. 19) Given that truth and the fact that muscle is about 18% denser than fat, it stands to reason that there are slimmer looking individuals who can weigh as much as someone who appears thicker skinned, or overweight. The question is who is healthier. In most cases, I would say the slimmer looking individual because of the benefits of the extra muscle mass that he or she is probably carrying.
In my own journey to health and wellness, my first behavioral changes had to do with diet. Cutting out sugar, fried foods, chips, and other unhealthy snacks, I lost weight steadily. However, when I added regular daily exercise, especially weight lifting, to my lifestyle, I noticed the number on the scales increased periodically; although, I was still eating less food. To not be discouraged by the weight fluctuations due to building muscle, I knew I had to utilize another marker to determine how well I was doing at achieving optimum health and wellness. That marker did not require using the scales for me but a tape measure.
My current quest for optimum health and wellness is not the first time I have used a tape measure as a tool to track my progress in losing weight. I have tracked my measurements, particularly of my bust, waist, hips, thighs, and upper forearm, several times while losing weight and each time I would show a loss in inches whenever I plateaued on my weight loss journey. The loss in inches motivated me to continue eating healthy and exercising in spite of the plateau or weight fluctuations upwards on the scales.
Do body measurements matter? Are they important? Yes, they are!!!! According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute,
Measuring waist circumference helps screen for possible health risks that come with overweight and obesity. If most of your fat is around your waist rather than at your hips, you’re at a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This risk goes up with a waist size that is greater than 35 inches for women or greater than 40 inches for men. (Assessing Your Weight and Health Risk, Waist Circumference section. ¶1)
Not only are the scales and a tape measure useful tools in tracking one’s weight loss but one’s clothes and how they fit also are indicators of whether one is losing or gaining weight. Being able to fit back into clothes that I had previously outgrown is always a great feeling for me. I also find it motivating to see pictures before, during, and after any journey to a healthier weight.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
As I reported in the books entitled Food as an Idol, body mass index (BMI) is often used to assess one’s health. What is BMI?
Shiel (2018) gave the following definition:
BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms (kg) divided by his or her height in meters squared. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) now defines normal weight, overweight, and obesity according to BMI rather than the traditional height/weight charts. Overweight is a BMI of 27.3 or more for women and 27.8 or more for men. Obesity is a BMI of 30 or more for either sex (about 30 pounds overweight). A very muscular person might have a high BMI without health risks. (¶ 1) (cited in Orgeron, 2019, p. 20)
Tracking BMI in children also is important for parents to do. Orgeron (2019) reported,
Let’s look at how parents can determine whether their children are at a healthy weight. The NIH (2017a) reports
a healthy weight is usually when your child’s BMI is at the 5th percentile up to the 85th percentile, based on growth charts for children who are the same age and sex. To figure out your child’s BMI, use the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) BMI Percentile Calculator for Child and Teen. (Screening and Prevention section, ¶ 2)
The BMI Percentile Calculator for Child and Teen is available online at https://nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/calculator.aspx. For children, underweight is considered less than the fifth percentile; healthy weight is considered the fifth percentile to below the 85th percentile; overweight is from the 85th percentile to below the 95th percentile; and, obese is considered above the 95th percentile. (Orgeron, p. 115)
Blood pressure measures how well the heart is working. According to Mayo Clinic Staff, getting enough regular exercise and having healthy blood pressure are closely linked. At my last appointment with my PCP when I had only lost about 25 pounds, my doctor instructed me to purchase a blood pressure cuff to monitor my blood pressure at home. Since I started self-monitoring my blood pressure, I have noticed that exercise more often than not has improved my blood pressure reading.
Similar to blood pressure and exercise, cholesterol and triglyceride levels are linked to exercise. It’s commonly known that regular exercise can lower unhealthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Of course, these levels are more inconvenient to monitor, as the levels must be determined through a test ordered by a physician.
Blood Sugar Levels
Exercise is a great way to lower an individual’s blood sugar level, especially if one is diabetic. For more information linking exercise with blood sugar levels, I recommend the following articles: Diabetes and exercise and Exercises to Lower Your Blood Sugar.
Better sleep also is a benefit of regular healthy exercise. Better sleep improves the immune system in one’s body, which means less disease and infections.
Currently having a workout partner has not only added accountability to my exercising but has also improved the relationship with the individual I have as an exercise buddy. When we encourage each other and recognize the benefits each of us is experiencing through exercise our friendship grows. Not only has my relationship with my workout partner improved since I began working out daily but my relationships with my spouse and others also have improved. I attribute this primarily to the additional energy I have now to give to my spouse and others, which improves each relationship.
In more recent years researchers have recognized the value of exercising on one’s spiritual health. Personally, since I realize that I am being a better steward of my body, God’s temple for the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19-20), I feel that my spiritual walk with God is closer. Another influencing factor is probably the fact that while I am exercising at home I am listening to Christian music. The in-home walk in place video I use plays Christian hymns in the background while the leader instructs what movements need to be made. Whenever I ride my stationary bicycle I put in one of my Gospel CD’s to listen to as I exercise.
Another reason I believe one’s spiritual health can be positively impacted by exercise is that exercising produces endorphins that naturally elevate one’s mood. I find that I feel a lot more like praising God and communing with God when my mood is better and I have more energy to do His Kingdom work.
Choosing to get regular exercise is crucial to living a healthy balanced lifestyle and affects every area of life. The indicators, or what I refer to as markers, of including regular healthy exercise as a part of one’s life have been briefly discussed in this article. After seeing the evidence, for those who don’t exercise, my hope and prayer is that each of these individuals will become motivated to start moving. I do want to point out that these individuals need to remember to start with baby steps and build up slowly. For those persons who have always hated exercising like me, I recommend finding an activity that one enjoys and also an exercise partner to share in that activity.
National Institutes of Health. (2017a, February 23). Overweight and obesity. Retrieved April 22, 2017 from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe#
Orgeron, P. K. (2019). Food as an idol: The types, causes, consequences, conquering and prevention of disordered eating. Nashville, TN: ABC’s Ministries.
Thompson, C., Muhlheim, L., & Farrar, T. (1997/2014). Set point theory. (Rev. ed.) Retrieved March 21, 2017 from http://www.mirror-mirror.org/set.htm