Beyond the Mirror: Measuring Fitness Progress

Keeping track of your fitness progress helps you adopt healthy habits. Tracking also allows you to see if what you are doing is working or changes need to be made. Here are some great ways to track your progress.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

A healthy BMI correlates with more energy, feeling good, and a decreased risk of many diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and more. 

This is the most popular metric for identifying healthy body composition. But it gets criticized for taking into account weight and height but not muscle percentage or frame size. 

Calculate your BMI at

Shoot for 19 to 24.9 as your BMI score. There is about a 30-pound range for each height category, and it tends to be more accurate for women than men.

Waist to hip

A 2015 study of 15,000 people found that a high waist to hip measurement ratio was linked to increased risk of death, even if you have a normal BMI. 

To check yours, measure around the smallest part of your waist, then the largest part of your hips and butt. Next divide waist number by hip number. According to the World Health Organization, a healthy number is less than .9 for women and less than .85 for men. 

Camera and tape

When you make changes to your nutrition and exercise, another effective way to measure progress is to take photos of yourself and do body circumference measurements every four to six weeks.

1) Take pictures of yourself, from the front, side and back. First set becomes the baseline and it’s easy to see what’s what if you keep the poses consistent.

2) Take circumference measurements of the following areas: 

Biceps – flex the biceps and measure

Waist – around belly button area

Hips – widest part of your hips and butt

Thighs – widest part of your thigh

Body fat percentage

There are many scales now that measure body fat percentage. If you don’t have a scale, many gyms offer this service. It’s a good number to know. Gaining muscle will help lower body-fat percentage. 

(Hydration levels can throw off comparison numbers.)

How you feel and fit of clothes

Another great way to measure process is how you feel and how your clothes fit. 

Exercise and good nutrition will result in a healthier body and mind. Tracking progress (or lack of it) will help guide your path. If you’re seeing results, keep doing what you’re doing. If you struggle, change things up! And remind yourself that, over time, health benefits outweigh even the impressive reflection you see in the mirror.

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Jill Strand