Getting healthy

So I was at a hotel on a trip and there was a scale in the bathroom. I stepped upon it and was not happy with results. I knew my girth had been gaining but I didn’t realize that I was becoming like a black hole (in density, not consumption). With a bad back and all I having been trying to do my exercises, get fit, and generally look a little less like the middle aged man that I am. Today I came across this article in the NYTimes Health section.

An Enduring Measure of Fitness: The Simple Push-Up

Published: March 11, 2008

As a symbol of health and wellness, nothing surpasses the simple push-up.

The push-up is the ultimate barometer of fitness. It tests the whole body, engaging muscle groups in the arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs. It requires the body to be taut like a plank with toes and palms on the floor. The act of lifting and lowering one’s entire weight is taxing even for the very fit.

… But many people simply can’t do push-ups. Health and fitness experts, including the American College of Sports Medicine, have urged more focus on upper-body fitness. The aerobics movement has emphasized cardiovascular fitness but has also shifted attention from strength training exercises.Moreover, as the nation gains weight, arms are buckling under the extra load of our own bodies. And as budgets shrink, public schools often do not offer physical education classes — and the calisthenics that were once a childhood staple.

In a 2001 study, researchers at East Carolina University administered push-up tests to about 70 students ages 10 to 13. Almost half the boys and three-quarters of the girls didn’t pass.

Push-ups are important for older people, too. The ability to do them more than once and with proper form is an important indicator of the capacity to withstand the rigors of aging.

So, where should we be? How many push-ups will keep us fit?

Based on national averages, a 40-year-old woman should be able to do 16 push-ups and a man the same age should be able to do 27. By the age of 60, those numbers drop to 17 for men and 6 for women. Those numbers are just slightly less than what is required of Army soldiers who are subjected to regular push-up tests.

If the floor-based push-up is too difficult, start by leaning against a countertop at a 45-degree angle and pressing up and down. Eventually move to stairs and then the floor.

Mr. LaLanne [93 yrs old!], who once set a world record by doing 1,000 push-ups in 23 minutes, still does push-ups as part of his daily workout. Now he balances his feet and each hand on three chairs.

“That way I can go way down, even lower than if I was on the floor,” he said. “That’s really tough.”

Ready to test yourself? Here it is, the Push-Up Test. Me, I managed 19. (I loosened my tie first and still nearly passed out.)

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