The SparkPeople Blog

Tracking Your Numbers

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/24/2010 5:57 PM   :  87 comments   :  16,190 Views

See More: health, changes,
I can’t tell you how many times after I started my own healthy living journey I would step on the scale and the minute the number was not what I expected my motivation began to falter. For me, the scale became the be-all-end-all to my success. However, having vowed that I would never diet again, I looked to other benchmarks to help me measure my success.

If you do not currently track these numbers, now may be the time to do so, especially when you are struggling to get those last few pounds off.

  • Blood pressure Blood pressure is the amount of pressure against the artery walls. The systolic reading, or top number, is the amount of pressure within the arteries when the heart contracts in order to pump blood to the rest of the body. The diastolic reading, or bottom number, represents the relaxation phase. Both cardiovascular and strength training exercise has been shown to reduce one’s blood pressure. Here is a link to help those with high blood pressure learn how to integrate exercise into their lifestyle which will hopefully help bring those numbers down.

  • Cholesterol levels By following a well-balanced diet and getting in at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least four days a week, one may significantly lower his/her total blood cholesterol levels. Exercise has been shown to raise HDL, or good cholesterol, while lowering LDL or bad cholesterol, and triglycerides.

  • Resting heart rate The heart is the most important muscle in the body, therefore when we make our heart stronger via exercise it does not have to work as hard. One sign of an increase in cardio-respiratory fitness is a drop in resting heart rate. To take your resting heart rate, count the number of beats for one minute upon awakening and before any movement. Take your measurement for at least 3 days and then take the average--this is your resting heart rate. For many endurance athletes, such as marathon runners or tri-athletes, when their resting heart rates begin to elevate over a period of time this could be a sign of overtraining.

  • VO2max AKA maximal oxygen consumption responds quite quickly to cardiovascular exercise. VO2max is the highest amount of oxygen consumed during exercise. The higher the number the more cardio-respiratory fit you are. Performing both aerobic and anaerobic activity can increase/improve this number.

  • Body composition For many active individuals body composition can be a better indicator of our fitness quest than the number on the scale. Because muscle tissue is a much firmer, denser tissue compared to fat tissue, you may not see any movement in the scale, but your clothes may become looser fitting.

  • Waist to hip ratio The waist to hip ratio measures your fat distribution--in other words where you store your fat. Studies have shown that those individuals who carry a larger percentage of fat in the abdominal area are at a greater risk for developing diabetes and heart disease versus those who store their fat in the buttocks, hips and thighs. Here is a link to SparkPeople’s Waist to Hip Ratio Calculator. The lower this number the lower your risk for developing heart disease and/or diabetes.

  • Blood Sugar With the rising rate of type II diabetes, many of us need to closely monitor our blood sugar (glucose) levels. Exercise has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity so that the glucose can be ushered into the cells and used for energy. Keeping our blood sugar levels within a normal range can help offset the risk of developing type II diabetes as well as cardio-vascular disease.

    While these numbers won’t do much for how we look, they do have a tremendous impact on our health and how we feel. So the next time you step on the scale, remember that is just one number of many that we need to be mindful of.

    Do you measure your progress by the scale only? Have you been monitoring your success by tracking other numbers? Have you seen these numbers go down as you reclaim your health?


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Comments

  • 87
    The scale is your FRIEND. IF you get it down to where you are in a normal weight the other things will get there as well. - 8/8/2010   8:10:23 PM
  • 86
    I do use tracking, ie. scale, HR Monitor, and Blood Pressure machine. I find these essential in maintaining my health.
    - 3/31/2010   5:40:52 PM
  • PENGUINROSS
    85
    I am glad that I don't rely on the number on the scale to make me happy and motivated. I have a large amt to lose and some days the battle seems too difficult. But then I remember how much better my other numbers have been with my 10% wt loss. My blood pressure has dropped so much that one med has been decreased by half, and doc predicts another change in meds soon. My blood sugars that i check for pre diabetes had started occasionally jumping to 130's or 140's (high enough to push me all the way to diabetes) Now my values are never above 115. - 3/30/2010   7:19:03 PM
  • 84
    I do tend to allow the number on the scale set my moods at times. But I also check my blood pressure, WtH ratio, and heart rate regularly. My blood pressure is normally 111/68, WtH ratio: 77-78, and heart rate is good. With that being said, with the other numbers reading healthy when my weight keeps increasing and showing me being overweight I can't help but ignore the other numbers and focus on the scale numbers. This is one of my struggles to holds me back from being successful. :( - 3/30/2010   6:50:24 PM
  • 83
    Don't depend on just one of these tests. My chloresterol is the lowest my doctor has ever seen and I'm 150 pounds overweight. My girlfriend is HWP and has to take chloresterol medication. My VO2 is fine too. Also keep in mind that there are other reasons for some of these tests to be off. I know a plenty of people who are HWP but have a high BP or diabetes. My BP was low-normal until I developed diabetes.

    Still, some of these are better than the scale for showing true fitness like Waist to Hip ratio. - 3/30/2010   2:57:11 PM
  • 82
    I'm concerned about Metabolic Syndrome X, I'm 1/2 way there (overweight, high cholesterol). I have not had a problem (yet) with hypertension or diabetes, so the numbers I'm watching are weight and cholesterol. - 3/30/2010   11:10:57 AM
  • 81
    I have not measured these other indicators regularly, except clothes fitting me!
    But the scale is finally shifting downwards for me and I can see already how this is affecting my moods.
    Scales make me nervous and are not reliable indicators of how my body is performing, looking or feeling!

    - 3/29/2010   10:02:50 AM
  • JUHOEG
    80
    Great info - 3/28/2010   6:56:23 PM
  • 79
    how do we get VO2max AKA maximal oxygen consumption ?

    inches over pounds any time. and the rest are my motivations for losing weight. - 3/28/2010   1:38:37 AM
  • 78
    Thanks for the information. I will start tracking more of my numbers. - 3/27/2010   4:52:59 PM
  • 77
    Thanks for all the great info compiled in such a compact format. Maybe I should track more numbers than the scale and Waist:Hip ratio. - 3/27/2010   1:37:57 PM
  • KIMSFITNESS1
    76
    In the past that was all I did too was looked at the scale and if the numbers didn't go down, or increase, I lost all motivation and decided I wasn't going to diet anymore because it obviously wasn't working. But , using this site is when I found that there are other numbers and other levels that either go down for the good, or increase for the good. Because I am a new member of this site and have not been working on my new diet and exercise program, I really don't know how my blood levels are but I do know that my measurments on my arms, hips, thighs, waist, and hips are going down and my energy level and stress levels are improving. As is my sleep! Another thing that is improving is my water intake and my fruits and veggie intake. And of course my healthy food intake!!!

    I am really anxious for my doctor to check my blood levels again to see where they are at now, but like I said earlier, I'm still early into this so they probably haven't changed much... But I am still loving this site and loving living a healthier life style!!! - 3/27/2010   12:10:42 PM
  • 75
    yes, when I walk regularly for an hour a day, my blood pressure points do go down. In addition when I control my calories, the weight comes down too. - 3/27/2010   9:30:02 AM
  • 74
    Great blog loaded with helpful info., thank you! - 3/27/2010   1:31:54 AM
  • RENA1965
    73
    I have BP of 120/80 when I exercise long distance it can drop down to 118.. I don't measure success by the scales or measurements anymore.. I measure success by what I can do with my body with a serious spinal injury.. I can do the same stuff people whom win bodybuilding competitions at my gym- and I have the same results as them within 2 years without suppliments.. It says alot when you get the nutrition and energy to do stuff- perfect conditions to be fit...
    I measure success that I feel relief and joy when it is time to get to work in the gym.. I hit everything about this lifestyle change and still enjoy it efter 6 years.. - 3/26/2010   11:21:45 PM
  • HUDSON3647
    72
    I just hate the scale. I gained 4 lbs in one day. That is the difference between weighing at night and early am. I know I did not eat 4 lbs. I have had lots of liquid today. - 3/26/2010   10:56:29 PM
  • 71
    It is good to have all of your intake tracked. It cannot be only from a scale.

    Food, exercise, activities. Your heart rate, check at the store for your BP rate, heart rate. It is all important!
    - 3/26/2010   2:26:30 PM
  • 70
    I see it in pictures of myself from a year ago and now... also the fact that I was able to run most of a 15K without training for it and still beating my time from last year by 4+ minutes... - 3/26/2010   1:21:06 PM
  • 69
    I am glad that I have great blood pressure numbers, a very low resting heart rate, but I do let the scale get to me more often than I should. Thanks for the reminder. - 3/26/2010   11:17:07 AM
  • 68
    ALWAYS track my numbers.
    My numbers are better than some 18 yr olds so my Dr says..
    - 3/26/2010   10:51:22 AM
  • 67
    I do; but I am learning that "the scale" does not have the final say...I'm feeling better about myself even though the weight loss is extremely slow....but it will happen...I can just feel it. - 3/26/2010   8:35:08 AM
  • 66
    My numbers at the doctor's are great, except I was low on vitamin D, so am now taking that daily. - 3/26/2010   8:24:36 AM
  • 65
    I have long been a firm believer that the scale is a nasty liar. It is a good *indicator* whether you are moving in the right direction, but by no means the so-sayer. I also subscribe to the belief that how your clothes fit, body composition, and the tape measure are by far better methods of measuring and tracking your progress. Thanks for posting this! - 3/25/2010   10:11:09 PM
  • 64
    Thank you so much for this reality check. I've hit my first plateau so it is great to learn about some other ways to measure my success. I've also been encouraged by the praise I've gotten from co-workers and family. They have noticed the change in me so I must be doing something right. - 3/25/2010   9:40:39 PM
  • 63
    I wrote a blog just a couple days ago on my success - and my weight hasn't changed a bit in over 7 weeks... at first I was getting bummed - but then - I realized that I've built so MUCH muscle, its no wonder the scale hasn't moved (saw myself in the mirror naked while brushing my hair about to get into the shower - wasn't until that moment that I realized how huge my biceps are getting) - 3/25/2010   8:38:28 PM
  • PRESHA911
    62
    I do measure success by other numbers, especially since I've recently hit a plateau. My LDL cholesterol has gone down, my HDL cholesterol has gone up, and my blood pressure has decreased. - 3/25/2010   7:46:11 PM
  • JESAK327
    61
    good suggestions - 3/25/2010   5:49:40 PM
  • 60
    I had some bloodwork done recently and my triglycerides were 36!! That is down almost 100 points from 2 years ago. I am pretty proud of that. All of my numbers were good except I am a little low on iron. - 3/25/2010   3:49:19 PM
  • 59
    I'm taking a weight lifting class at my college this semester. It actually counts towards my GPA!!! Anyway, we get to do any kind of physical activity in there as long as we get our heart rate up. Thanks to that class I started keeping track of my resting heart rate. I used to be in the mid to upper 70s. I'm now in the mid to lower 50s! - 3/25/2010   3:04:46 PM
  • 58
    I'm taking a weight lifting class at my college this semester. It actually counts towards my GPA!!! Anyway, we get to do any kind of physical activity in there as long as we get our heart rate up. Thanks to that class I started keeping track of my resting heart rate. I used to be in the mid to upper 70s. I'm now in the mid to lower 50s! - 3/25/2010   3:04:45 PM
  • 57
    I try to stay away from the scale; because it disappoints me. I will be finding out my measurements at the end of this month. I am hoping I have loss inches. - 3/25/2010   2:55:55 PM
  • 56
    Thanks for this. Great information. Although I use the scale daily, I'm happy to say that my numbers are in the healthy range. I agree the numbers on the scale are not just the numbers that should be focused on. - 3/25/2010   2:55:34 PM
  • 55
    This is a great article. It makes me think about how I am tracking my progress. - 3/25/2010   2:25:24 PM
  • DACSAC
    54
    I track my blood sugar as I'm type 2 diabetic & my bp as I have heart problems. - 3/25/2010   2:03:33 PM
  • 53
    I track my BP because I used to have HBP before I lost all of the weight and became fit..working to stay fit. I think it's very important for me to keep the numbers steady. If something goes wrong with the numbers then I know that something could be possibly wrong with me so I track. - 3/25/2010   1:47:50 PM
  • LYNNEEEEPOOH
    52
    As a diabetic, I keep track of my blood sugars daily and HgbA1C (shows average of bloods sugars over 2-3 months). My last one was 6.5! I haven't been that low in many, many years. Of course, weighing, checking heart rate and BP's weekly and regular blood work is right up there. All of which have been great since I started Spark People! - 3/25/2010   1:27:11 PM
  • 51
    I haven't given up on the scale yet (although I'm seriously considering it). I am starting to track other numbers, so I think that's a good start. - 3/25/2010   1:19:35 PM
  • 50
    I used to be a 3 sports a year athlete and still have a lot of muscle from vigirous training and weight lifting. I did notice that the scale numbers didnt match up with my clothes feeling loose. I have lost 31 lbs. in 6 weeks, so now I'm starting to see the scale move in a positive direction. This was an interesting article, defintely going to crunch some numbers I didn't know you needed to crunch. Thank you this was a great article. - 3/25/2010   1:04:05 PM
  • 49
    I weigh myself once a week to look for an overall decrease in weight - I'm not concerned about a few pounds up or down, but if I start heading upwards consistently, I want to know!

    The numbers I track are my consistency streaks - the number of days I track my food, the number of days I get some exercise, etc. Those actions are what I consider the best marker of my success. The weight loss and fitness happens as a result of that. - 3/25/2010   12:44:06 PM
  • 48
    For me, relying on the scales can be discouraging. It's more important for me to look at cholesterol and blood sugar levels (diabetes). This week I learned that my meds can all be reduced as a result of focusing on logging nutrition and fitness, not based totally on weight (although 23 pounds down was a REAL bonus!). Thanks for the review of others ways to guage health status. - 3/25/2010   12:05:26 PM
  • 25LADY
    47
    I learned along time ago that I do not go by the numbers on the scale. I go by my cholesterol numbers & my A1C number. I am in this for me not the scale!!! - 3/25/2010   11:52:59 AM
  • 46
    I go by how my clothes feel, and I pay attention to my cholesterol numbers, and blood pressure. - 3/25/2010   11:40:52 AM
  • VANANDEL
    45
    I got rid of my scale many years ago, probably over a decade! I found myself way too obsessive about my weight, and it affected my mood when it wasn't going in the right direction. Now I weigh myself at my club about every 2 weeks. Much better psychologically for me. I do track all the other numbers and I surprise people at the blood donation centers when I come in and my BP only just barely makes the minimum level. Being healthy feels so good in so many ways! - 3/25/2010   11:35:07 AM
  • SUNSET09
    44
    I track my numbers with the tape measure! When you work out with weights, muscle weighs more than fat so you may be disappointed with the increase of weight vs strength and inches. I feel good, sleep and look good no matter what the scale says. Yes, my numbers reflect my good health and habits! - 3/25/2010   11:17:42 AM
  • 43
    I am glad to read this cause it is so depressing to only look at the scale. I have greatly increased my wrokout to three to four step/sculpt classes per week mixed in with 2-3 days of just cardio and have been doing this for about two months and honestly the scale has not moved but a few ounces and for a while there niether was my waist. however, this week i have noticed that my clothes fit a bit losser and when i measured myself about a week ago i was down a half inch in my waste...i am going to measure again today to see if any smaller, but it is some consolation to know that my hard work is paying off. - 3/25/2010   10:37:33 AM
  • 42
    Sure do. BP consistent at 110/70, HDL 69, CHOL 170, Ratio 2.5:1, Blood Sugar fasting 72, body fat 30.1, BMI 22. - 3/25/2010   10:37:05 AM
  • 41
    the other night on the John Tesh show...he said the bathroom scale helps you lose weight and had studies to back him up. I think you can find studies that go both ways to back up your opinion. Everyone is different..sometimes the scale is incentive, sometimes not. - 3/25/2010   10:22:14 AM
  • 40
    Fun numbers in my family this week, to follow. My daughter is 6 ft, and has always been a little heavy. She and i have both been losing weight, and she has been doing a lot of work to become more fit and change her body shape. Ive shrunk out of my "fat pants" and had a pair that were too long for me as well. She fits them now! First time she could fit my clothes since she was 14! She will be 29 soon. those are good numbers for both of us! - 3/25/2010   10:14:58 AM
  • 39
    The scale is a minor indicator. I am in no hurry to loose LBS, it's more about feeling better. I can tell that I am getting smaller, I even "feel" smaller. I am more concerned with learning how to eat for the rest of my life, so that I'm healthy. I do check the scale about once a week, but I'm not obsessed with it, like I have been so many times before. - 3/25/2010   10:06:37 AM
  • 38
    I do use the scale but also my blood pressure which is coming down nicely since being on spark. Thanks - 3/25/2010   9:22:00 AM

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