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Put Yourself To "The Test" - How Fit Are You?

When's the last time you put your fitness to the test? If you're a competitive athlete or someone who's really up on preventive health care, maybe recently. But if you're like the vast majority of Canadians, the answer is...you never have. At least not since elementary school and I'll tell you why. Fitness is not a priority in this country. As a rule, and unless the pleasure outweighs the pain, we will do almost anything to avoid physical exertion.

The man on the street doesn't understand the significance of fitness, nor does he see how its decline, coupled with poor nutrition, dramatically increases his risk of both morbidity and mortality. Many people also think that if they are physically active in their work place they don't need to "exercise" or that being active alone without the structure of controlled progressive exercise is enough to pass a fitness exam, but in the great majority of cases it is not.

Except for the fire and police departments, employers seldom demand a compulsory fitness evaluation, and in spite of all the media hype and those ridiculous ab machine commercials, less than 3% of adult Canadians workout for an hour 3 - 5 times per week consistently, week-in and week-out year round without missing workouts.

Doctors don't measure your aerobic capacity or muscular strength during an annual checkup. They might have you stand on a medical scale, but that information by itself doesn't amount to much and can be very misleading, because it's possible to lose lean mass and gain fat at the same rate over time without a change in weight. That's what happens if you don't maintain an anabolic flux through resistance exercise and consume fresh whole food. You lose what you don't use and you gain more of what you don't want.

What health care practitioners should really do for every patient is analyze their body composition. Then we could really get down to business and start working on the prevention of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke and obesity. Especially if this information were combined with the results of a complete fitness evaluation, a hair analysis, a comprehensive dietary review, an analysis of blood including blood type, a urine and saliva test and even a stool analysis. These are just some of the tests I perform on myself and recommend to my clients routinely.

Once we know what we're made of, and where we actually stand against the odds, we can then use this knowledge to support the right kind of action. We can determine if we're making any progress and make the right changes based on outcome. Reality is good when it bites at our heels, because unlike our subjective perceptions, facts don't lie or exaggerate. Believe me, there's nothing like meeting yourself head-on in this kind of test. And that's what you do when you get a fitness appraisal. You push yourself in a controlled manner just to see how much you can take and to see if your body reveals any warning signs under physical stress that it normally doesn't at rest. Like a stress test for your heart on a treadmill. It's not a race or a competition against anyone else, it's a health assessment designed to keep you fit, healthy and alive.

But most doctors practice a conservative style of conventional medicine, so they won't perform a fitness appraisal. Allopathic physicians generally diagnose disease and prescribe drugs. They look for anything wrong and in general, attempt to cut, burn or poison whatever it is they believe is responsible. When questioned why they don't test for individual fitness, they say they haven't the time or it's not their area of expertise or they don't believe it to be of relevant value or that the assessment procedure is not approved by their policy makers. Too bad, because if they did many lives could be saved.

Long before we go down "hard", we go down "soft". Inactivity and toxic food robs us of our true potential. Over time, we lose our vital capacity, our motivation and our drive. As we get softer and flabbier in the wrong places, disease settles in. Our bones get porous, our arteries plaque up and our immune system folds in. Storage fat, as opposed to essentially required structural fat, starts to pile up, exceeding what our level of health and internal resistance can stand. Although deep down we know it's time to get rid of the excess baggage, it's difficult to part with the things we love.

The habits I mean, not the fat. You see, our body composition and health is a function of our habits, and those are a function of our mind. The reason some of us are not fit physically is because we're not fit mentally or emotionally. We're not focused on optimum health or the prevention of disease. Our real struggle isn't visible for the world to see. It's hidden with the rest of our secrets deep inside, like a vast system of roots below the surface. Our mind is a deep ocean and we have to conquer the darkest part.

Most disease is progressive and degenerative. It takes decades for the vast majority of young people to develop cancer, heart disease or adult onset diabetes. Most disease is preventable and biological age is something you have control over. That's why I'm challenging you to see how fit you are and determine your true biological functional age.

Go ahead. Make an appointment with a personal trainer or an exercise physiologist and put your health and fitness to the test. See what you're made of! Check with your local gym or fitness centre or try the kinesiology or physiology department of any local university. I send my clients to Beyond Fitness in Vancouver as they offer a complete range of fitness assessments including Polar Body-Age Assessment, Blood lactate Testing and New Leaf Metabolic Testing. For more info visit www.beyondfitness.ca

Start with a standard fitness appraisal, and expect to pay around 35-75 dollars. It should include an assessment of your blood pressure and heart rate, a body composition analysis, an aerobic test, and a measurement of your muscular strength, your muscular endurance and your flexibility. I promise if you commit to such an event, that your level of self awareness will improve, and you'll discover that exercise in this modern age of computers, cell phones and laser technology, is not an option. Your whole outlook in life will change for the better because of what you'll learn about yourself from the experience.