We’re all aware of how important exercise is for our health. This simple fact is reinforced in fitness articles, advertisements, and the words of our “fitness freak” friend. But, it’s just so easy to slip into the complacency of our everyday routine and put exercise on the back burner. A good motivation to workout can be knowing just how unfit you might be. Here are a few ways to tell if you’re out of shape and need to head to a gym.
1. You Get Winded Quickly
When you workout regularly, your heart rate increases and decreases in accordance with the intensity of the exercise. If you wear a heart rate monitor, you’d notice this change.
When you’re in the middle of an intense workout, your heart rate could be anywhere between 140–200 beats per minute, depending on your age.1 However, once you stop, your heart rate steadily slows down to its normal rate. If you feel winded after moderate exercise and your heat beat takes too long to settle down, you might be out of shape.2
2. You’ve Failed A Step Test
A step test is a common measure of physical fitness that was designed based on a study conducted in Harvard Fatigue Laboratory during World War II. While there are different variations of this test, you can perform the shorter version of it yourself.
All you need is a step or a platform that’s at least 20 inches high along with a stopwatch. To take the test, step up and down the platform at the rate of 30 steps per minute. If you get exhausted after 15 seconds and your heartbeat is too fast for the next 1 minute, it’s safe to say that you might be out of shape.3
3. You Can’t Walk 2 Kilometers
Walking seems like an easy exercise. But, when you’re unfit, it can be quite the challenge. A 2-kilometer walking test is a common measure of fitness. However, just like the step test, there are variations of this test. The standard form of the test requires a 2-km track, a stopwatch, and a heart rate monitor. To take the test, walk as fast as you can to the finish line.4
Any time under 16.24 minutes for men and 17.32 minutes for women between the ages of 30 and 60 is a sign of being unfit. As for individuals between 18 and 30, any time under 14.37 minutes for men and 15.03 minutes for women is a sign of being out of shape.
The maximum aerobic capacity of each person is decided based on calculations including the time taken to finish the walk, heart rate at the end of the walk, body mass index, and age. The formula for this is VO2max (ml/min/kg) = 116.2 – 2.98 × walking time (sec) – 0.11 × HR – 0.14 × age – 0.39 × BMI.5 You could combine the step test with the 2-km test for the most accurate results.
4. You Can’t Do Push-Ups
Push-ups are a vital part of most workouts. They work on your shoulders, upper back, core, and shoulders. The form is extremely important for push-ups, so ensure your elbows remain close to your chest as you go down and that your neck is in line with your spine and butt. For men, anything less than 17 push-ups is an indicator of being unfit, whereas for women, it’s 7 push-ups. If you find yourself in this range, it might be time to start exercising more often.6
5. You’ve A Wide Waist Circumference
Although we all carry our weight differently, if you do have excess fat around your middle, it could be a sign of obesity. A waist measurement of over 80 cm for women and 94 cm for men indicates internal fat deposits that could mean trouble for kidneys, liver, heart, digestive organs, and pancreas. In fact, a larger waist circumference could mean an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Be sure to check your waist size and BMI to get the most accurate results.7
6. You’re Constantly Exhausted
Exercise might cause fatigue, but if you’re constantly exhausted for no reason then it might be a sign of being out of shape. Research shows that exercise enhances blood flow is responsible for carrying oxygen and nutrients to the muscle tissue. This improves the body’s ability to produce more adenosine triphosphate, which is responsible for the metabolism of energy. So, if you feel like you’d rather collapse on the couch than workout every day, you might be out of shape.8
7. You’re Craving Sugar
While a good workout might make you hungry, lack of any exercise might make you crave sugar. Studies have shown that even moderate exercise like brisk walking reduces cravings for sugar significantly. So, if you find yourself reaching for sweets more often than you should, it might be time to hit the gym.9
8. You’re Stressed
Stress causes a host of troubles for our health, but if you’re suffering from chronic stress, you might be unfit. An effective way to combat this is moderate exercise, which can have immediate effects. Studies show that aerobic exercise secretes less epinephrine (which sets off the stress response), promotes quick recovery, and exhibits less reactivity to mental stress. If you find yourself being overly stressed out, incorporate exercise into your everyday regime.10
Most of us believe we don’t really need to exercise until we realize how unfit we can be. Fitness can seem like a far-fetched idea until you finally get to it. All that it needs is dedication and some time.
|↑1||Target Heart Rates. American Heart Association.|
|↑2||Stickland, Michael K., Robert C. Welsh, Stewart R. Petersen, John V. Tyberg, William D. Anderson, Richard L. Jones, Dylan A. Taylor, Marcel Bouffard, and Mark J. Haykowsky. “Does fitness level modulate the cardiovascular hemodynamic response to exercise?.” Journal of applied physiology 100, no. 6 (2006): 1895-1901.|
|↑3||Brouha, Lucien. “The step test: A simple method of measuring physical fitness for muscular work in young men.” Research Quarterly. American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation 14, no. 1 (1943): 31-37.|
|↑4||Oja, P., R. Laukkanen, M. Pasanen, T. Tyry, and I. Vuori. “A 2-km walking test for assessing the cardiorespiratory fitness of healthy adults.” International journal of sports medicine 12, no. 04 (1991): 356-362.|
|↑5||Hoffman, Jay. Norms for fitness, performance, and health. Human Kinetics, 2006.|
|↑6||Standards for Health-Related Fitness Zones. Connecticut State Department Of Education.|
|↑7||Waist measurement. National Heart Foundation Of Australia.|
|↑8||Exercise As a Cure for Fatigue and To Boost Energy Levels. The American Council on Exercise.|
|↑9||Thayer, Robert E., Don P. Peters, Paula J. Takahashi, and Angela M. Birkhead-Flight. “Mood and behavior (smoking and sugar snacking) following moderate exercise: A partial test of self-regulation theory.” Personality and Individual Differences 14, no. 1 (1993): 97-104.|
|↑10||Blumenthal, James A., Mats Fredrikson, Cynthia M. Kuhn, Ross L. Ulmer, Margaret Walsh-Riddle, and Mark Appelbaum. “Aerobic exercise reduces levels of cardiovascular and sympathoadrenal responses to mental stress in subjects without prior evidence of myocardial ischemia.” The American journal of cardiology 65, no. 1 (1990): 93-98.|