Press-Republican

May 29, 2012

Know resting vitals before starting a workout program

By TED SANTANIELLO, Fit Bits
Press-Republican

---- — Beginning an exercise program is tough for many people, but once they do it, they’re usually happy when they see the progress they’ve made. 

Before beginning a program, it is important to establish a baseline. A baseline, or your “day one,” can involve resting vitals, basic fitness-test results, functional fitness-test results and a variety of other types of information that may change when you participate in an exercise program. 

Resting vitals are the easiest and safest to obtain and should be known even if you are not planning to exercise. The most common resting vitals used by certified personal trainers and exercise specialists are blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting glucose, resting heart rate, height and weight.

Many of these resting vitals can be obtained just by visiting your doctor, which should be done before beginning any exercise program anyway. During your visit, explain that you are thinking about starting an exercise program and ask if it is safe to exercise independently.

Ask what your blood pressure and total cholesterol are, as well as your LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). You may also be able to get your fasting glucose levels, depending on what tests the doctor orders for you. All of these will serve as part of your resting vitals. Your height, weight and resting heart rate can be obtained at the doctor’s visit, but you can also record these values on your own afterward.

CALCULATING BMI

Recording your weight is fairly straightforward and is usually measured in pounds. Always weigh in at the same time of day and also before a workout. In addition, try to use the same scale each time. It is not recommended to wear shoes or any heavy clothing when weighing in. Make sure the scale is calibrated by checking that it is at zero before you get on it. I recommend weighing yourself every few weeks, not every day. 

Height does not have to be measured often because it generally does not change drastically except during pubescent years or if you are over the age of 50. The figure can be used to calculate body-mass index (BMI), which is a ratio between your height and weight. 

To obtain an accurate height reading, find a plumb wall that you can mark on. Stand tall with your back facing the wall and your heels 3 inches from the base. Have someone use a straight edge to place a mark on the wall equal to the highest point of your head. Use a tape measure to record the distance from the ground to the mark in inches. This is your height. 

To calculate body-mass index, multiply your weight in pounds by 703. Then take the square of your height in inches (multiply height by height). Divide the weight value by the height value. This is your body-mass index.

RESTING HEART RATE

The final resting vital you can record is resting heart rate. Resting heart rate is a bit more complicated but can be done right at home. In fact, it is most accurate when done at home before you get up, and is important because it can reflect your overall heart health. 

In most cases, having a lower resting heart rate is a sign that your heart is better conditioned. This is because a stronger heart does not need to pump as many times per minute due to the fact that it can push more blood volume around your body with less effort. 

Calculate your resting heart rate first thing in the morning before you get up by lightly placing your index and middle fingers across your opposite wrist. You should feel your pulse toward the thumb side. Use a stopwatch to count pulses for 30 seconds, and then multiply by two. To make this figure a bit more accurate, do this three days in a row, and take the average.

BODY FAT

Many wellness and fitness centers offer a full health assessment, which is administered by a certified trainer. With a doctor’s consent, this analysis will include these resting vitals as well as a fitness assessment to determine where you stand physically. 

Body-fat percentage can also be taken to determine the amount of body fat you carry on your frame. This is a much better way to determine your body composition than weight and body-mass index. 

When all these results are revealed, you will be able to keep track of how effective the exercise program really is and measure the outcomes down the road, keeping you motivated for months to come.