With the Super Bowl airing today, and the Olympics starting on February 7 (next
Friday), there will soon be many highly fit individuals running, jumping, and
skiing their way across our television sets! While I will certainly never be as
physically fit as an Olympic figure skater or skier, I would hope to achieve at
least an acceptable level for the average person. This brings up a
question...what exactly does it mean to be “physically fit”?
What makes a fit person’s body so different from that of an unfit person? First, if a person is in better physical condition they will tend to have less body fat than a person who is in poor physical condition, and so will have less weight to move around during physical activity. A lighter body will put less stress on their bones and joints, too. In addition, there are some differences between the bodies of a person in good physical condition and a person in poor condition which may not be so obvious. These include cardiovascular and muscular fitness.
When a person is in good cardiovascular condition (that is, their heart and lungs are in good condition), the volume of blood their heart is able to pump with each beat increases, and so does the amount of blood in their body. This means that every time their heart beats, more blood is carried to their muscles, bringing oxygen and nutrients and carrying away waste more efficiently. This means that their heart will have to beat more slowly when they are at rest, and that it will return to resting rate more quickly after exercise,
because they can supply their bodies with oxygen and nutrients (and get it to return to normal) with fewer beats per minute.
Think of a person’s body as a city, and their cardiovascular system as the streets and highways carrying people around to all the organs and tissues. If a person is in good cardiovascular condition, their city streets and highways are wider and well maintained, and so more cars can get where they need to go faster. If they are in poor cardiovascular condition however, the streets and highways are
narrow, and can carry fewer cars at one time.
lift and pull larger amounts of weight. The added blood vessels allow more oxygen and nutrients to flow to the muscles too, allowing them to work more efficiently (like the wider streets and highways in our last example).
your heart rate in number of beats per minute, we can get a good idea of just how fit you are.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1. A stopwatch or a watch with a sweep second hand
2. A clean table you can lie down on or a clean towel to lie down on the floor
3. Enough space to jog in place
Here’s what to do:
First, measure your standing heart rate.
1. Stand upright for 2 minutes. Be sure to stand still!
2. With your index and middle finger, find the pulse at your wrist or your neck below your jaw bone.
3. Count the number of times you feel your heart beat in 15 seconds. Time this with your watch or stopwatch, and write down the number of beats.
4. Multiply this number by 4 to get the number of beats per minute.
5. Find the number of beats per minute in Table 1 below, and record how many points you earned. Be sure to write this down!
5. Lie down on the table or the floor on a clean towel for 2 minutes.
6. Record your heart rate as you did for your standing heart rate by repeating steps 2-4 above.
7. Find the number of beats per minute in Table 2 below, and record how many points you earned. Be sure to write this down!
8. Jog in place for 10 seconds. Time this with your watch or stopwatch.
9. As soon as you stop, immediately begin recording how many times you feel your heart beat in 15 seconds. Write this number down.
10. Continue recording how many times your heart beats every 15 seconds until the number is the same as when you took your standing heart rate in step 3. Write each number down.
11. Count how many numbers you had to write down, and divide that number by 4. This is how many minutes it took for your heart rate to return to the normal standing rate.
12. Multiply the first number you wrote down immediately after exercise by 4 to get beats per minute. Be sure to write this down!
13. Find the number of minutes it took for your heart rate to return to normal in Table 3 below, and record how many points you earned. Be sure to write this down! If it took longer than 2 minutes, give
yourself 6 points.
increase after exercise.
15. Finally, in Table 4 below, find your standing heart rate on the left, and use the heart rate increase after exercise value on the top to find your points. Write this down!
Are you as fit as you thought? If you are not, why do you believe that is? Do you need to get more exercise, or eat healthier?
If you are not as fit as you want, try increasing your physical activity over the next few weeks, and repeat the test in one month. See if you can improve your fitness level!
References for more information:
CDC: Physiological Responses and Long-Term Adaptations to Exercise
Vernier Software and Technology website
Wikipedia: Physical Fitness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_fitness)