I saw a cartoon recently that said, with the holidays approaching, “it’s almost time to put the ol’ scale into hibernation for the winter.”
It made me laugh, but it also got me thinking about how so many people go overboard with eating during the holidays and then try to recover in January with diets. Some of them might put the scale away, or some might weigh themselves and be depressed by what they see when they do this.
The problem is, focusing on weight isn’t the best measurement. Having a lower weight, what a doctor might consider “ideal,” doesn’t make you the picture of health. Nor does having a higher weight mean that you’re in terrible health – especially if a lot of that weight comes from muscle.
Plus, weight can fluctuate for reasons we don’t always understand, and getting caught up in those numbers can negatively impact your emotions and mental health.
I know the scale is an easy metric to focus on, and many of us like having something tangible that we can see to measure our progress.
But you don’t have to use a scale for that. If you want to get more fit, grow stronger, or just feel better, I have some other suggestions for things you can measure that are more positive than the scale.
Measurement #1: Walking Speed
Walking is a great, low-impact activity, and an added benefit is that you can make it more intense by picking up the pace or carrying weights.
It’s also great for your health, and it’s one metric you can easily use if you’re trying to get more fit. For example, you might see how quickly you can walk before you get out of breath, or how far you can walk at your fastest comfortable pace. You could get a benchmark now and see if you can improve that.
I’ve also seen information saying that “brisk walks” help reduce the chance of cardiovascular disease, among other things. That sounds good, but what defines “brisk” in this case?
According to one article I found, it’s when you get warm, have a slightly elevated heart rate, and can talk but not sing. It’s the point just before becoming breathless, and even a few 15- or 30-minute walks like that during the week can help.
You can see how much you can do now and then set goals for yourself to improve that.
Measurement #2: Strength Exercises
If you’d like to change your fat to muscle ratio, you can also do some strength exercises and measure your progress that way.
For example, you could see how many repetitions you can do with a certain weight and then build that up. You can also increase the weight you’re using once you find you can do the lower weight without any strain.
The goal is to do a strength exercise that challenges you but not so much that you can’t keep the right form. You also don’t have to go to a gym or use weights to start – you can do exercises that use your body weight.
You can also do something like yoga, which helps with flexibility and can also make you stronger without going to the gym. If you go that route, you could see how long you can hold certain poses or if you can start doing new poses that you couldn’t before.
Whatever you decide to do, this is another way of how to count and measure something without worrying about your weight.
Measurement #3: Energy Levels
Energy levels are a little harder to measure, but focusing on improving them is a great goal. After all, if you have more energy, you can spend more time doing the things you love and enjoy, and that will improve your overall health and well-being.
To start, go through a couple of typical days and observe your energy at different points to see when you’re feeling energized and when you’re feeling low energy. This article has some good ideas about tracking that, but you can do whatever works best.
As you’re going through this, it’s also important to notice what gives you energy and engages you. You can also notice when certain events or activities seem particularly tiring, either physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Once you have a baseline of where you’re at now, if you’re not happy with where you’re at, see if you can find ways of incorporating more energy-giving activities. If you don’t know what those are yet, this is a great time to experiment!
Oddly enough, physical activity is often something that boosts your energy, and it doesn’t have to take long. Even a 10-minute walk outside can help.
Also important is to keep track of how things are going. You don’t necessarily have to measure your energy every day, but maybe at the end of the week, you can review how things are going and if you’re seeing improvement.
What Will You Measure?
I do understand the appeal of using the scale to measure progress, but unfortunately, it’s not the best metric. Among the other reasons I mentioned, it forces you to focus on what you’re losing instead of what you’re gaining.
If you’re moving towards something, though, you’re often more motivated.
You might set a goal for yourself of wanting to walk briskly for 15 minutes at a time, or half an hour, or whatever suits you. Or maybe you want to have the energy to take some classes or teach yourself how to paint or draw or play an instrument.
Do you have other ideas of things you could measure other than your weight? I’d love to hear them!
And whatever you decide to work towards, I think you’ll find that it improves your health and life in ways you can’t fully measure.