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What's the best way to measure my fitness progress?

It's easy to step onto the bathroom scale every day. However, the number it displays doesn't provide the type of information you really need to assess your fitness progress. Changes in your body composition, such as the ratio of your lean body weight -- including muscle, bone, organs, and fluids -- compared with your body fat weight, are not reflected on the bathroom scale.

Yet, some very positive shifts in your body composition may be occurring, thanks to your weight loss efforts, especially if you've been sticking to a well-rounded program of physical activity that includes strength training. Studies show that regular physical activity is likely to result in a loss of body fat weight and an increase in muscle weight. On the scale this may translate into higher numbers because muscle weighs more than fat. But physically you probably look better for a couple of reasons. One reason is that muscle is dense and takes up less room than fat, so you may be measurably smaller. Another reason is that your girth is likely being redistributed in a way that is more flattering -- away from your middle.

This shift in body composition is also making your body healthier overall, in ways that the scale does not measure. For example, the extra muscle is helping you burn more calories and is giving your body added strength to support your bones and joints.

Given all these points, the best way to see how your body is changing is not to weigh yourself, but to determine whether reductions in your body fat have occurred and what kind of redistribution of your body fat has taken place. Keep it simple by focusing on one or more of these three important measurements:

  • Your body fat percentage
  • Your waist-to-hip ratio
  • Your body mass index (BMI)

    One of the best ways to measure fitness progress is how you feel. After a week or so of exercise are you beginning to feel more energized? After a couple of weeks are you noticing health benefits such as improved cardiorespiratory function, strength or weight loss? Beyond how you feel physically and emotionally there are many applications and tools one could use to measure fitness progress.
    Logging your exercise routine and noting difficulty will identify progress. There are many software applications that are available on the web or for mobile phones that can track your exercise programming and show progress you have made. Nevertheless, tracking exercise and progression is prudent to your success.

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    Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.