Assessing your current fitness

You have started to think about getting fit. Before you can start exercising, however, you need to assess where you’re at. Take the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) to find out your current state of fitness and health, and find out whether you need to see a health-professional before you start working up a sweat.
The PAR-Q questionnaire
PAR-Q was developed by health professionals in Canada. It will clarify whether you need to see your doctor before starting an exercise program. Answer as honestly as possible, and make your response a Yes or No.

Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart condition and that you should only do physical activity recommended by a doctor? Yes/No

Do you feel pain in your chest when you do physical activity? Yes/No

In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not doing physical activity? Yes/No

Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consciousness?

Do you have a bone or joint problem that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity? Yes/No

Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs (e.g. water pills) for your blood pressure or heart condition? Yes/No

Do you know of any other reason why you should not do physical activity? Yes/No

If you answered YES to one or more questions
Talk to your doctor by phone or in person BEFORE you start becoming much more physically active or BEFORE you have a fitness appraisal. Tell your doctor about the PAR-Q and discuss any issues it may have brought up.

You may be able to do any activity you want – as long as you start slowly and build up gradually. Or you may need to restrict your activities to those that are safe for you. Talk to your doctor about the kinds of physical activities you wish to undertake and follow their advice.

If you answered NO to all questions
You can be reasonably assured it is safe to become more active. Begin slowly and build up gradually. This is the safest and easiest way to go. You can also get a fitness appraisal to determine your basic fitness and to make a plan that helps you to monitor your progress.

If your health changes so that you would then answer yes to any of the PAR-Q questions, tell your fitness or health professional. Ask whether you should change your physical activity plan.

Click NEXT to find out what to discuss with your doctor and how to assess your current fitness See your doctor if you have any health risks
Explain that you wish to start a fitness program and why. Discuss the type of exercise you are keen to do and ask if it would be suitable. The check-up should include records of blood pressure, pulse, weight, family history of heart disease or stroke, health risks (smoking and drinking habits), cholesterol levels, blood sugar, lipids, iron deficiency, thyroid function, as well as menopausal symptoms for women and stress levels for men. The doctor will also take into account family history of heart disease or stroke. If health risks exist, your doctor may recommend having a stress test under supervised conditions, particularly if your goal is to achieve a high level of fitness.

See your health professional if you have any injury risks
Health professional is a general term used to indicate professionals who work in the health/fitness field who have a health science university qualification.Your health professional may be a:

  • musculo-skeletal physiotherapist with a special interest in joint/ muscle problems
  • sports physiotherapist
  • osteopath with a special interest in joint and sports problems
  • chiropractor with a special interest in joint problems
  • exercise physiologist with a special interest in exercise programs
  • personal trainer with a special interest in exercise programs.

The choice is yours to make. If you have not developed a relationship with a medical practitioner or health professional, now is a good time to start

Click NEXT to assess your current fitness and musculo-skeletal health with our checklists Assess your current fitness
How would you rate your fitness – poor, fair, good, very good or excellent? Compare this with your previous fitness levels. Perhaps you’ve never been fit and have always been put off by competitive sport. Or maybe you were fit 10 years ago, but have undertaken little regular exercise since. If you have an active lifestyle, you might need a formal fitness program or perhaps you are a former elite athlete, now retired from competitive sport?

Personal musculo-skeletal checklist
Do you suffer from, or have a history of, headaches, neck, arm, back or leg pain, tingling or numbness, or general muscle soreness or tightness? Consider also the demands of your job and lifestyle – are they high, medium, or low? Do you spend long hours at the computer or sit for prolonged periods? On a scale from poor to very good, how would you rate your stress levels? Are your sleep patterns consistent?

Your Program 
So you are motivated to get fit, but don’t know how to start. Working through the next three articles will help you not only to plan a new fitness regime, but also increase the likelihood of making it an ongoing and satisfying aspect of your life.

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