Health and fitness is hard to define. What really matters?
Strength? Aerobic conditioning? Flexibility?
Or things like your fasted blood sugar, triglycerides or HDL?
Is the guy who runs marathons fitter (or healthier) than the 300 bencher?
Would you rather have great blood chemistry or look like Arnold?
You want both of course.
The health component is universal. You want to live long free of disease and other complications ... if possible.
The fitness thing is more about what you want to do in life.
If you want to bike across all the continents then you're going to be a very fit biker. You're gonna get a lot of weekly miles in on your bike. It probably doesn't matter how many pull ups you can do.
If you're a rock climber however, pull ups are more useful.
The Health-Fitness Connection
There is a cross-over effect though. Being healthy helps being fit and being fit helps being healthy.
Studies have shown that strength (measured by grip strength) is a better predictor of future health than things like blood pressure, BMI, heart rate, stress test, etc.
Said another way, what doctors measure to assess your health is not as predictive as measuring your grip strength would be.
Why would grip strength predict whether you're likely to have a heart attack or stroke better than measuring blood pressure and cholesterol?
Here's my inference from reviewing these studies.
Grip strength is used as a measure of overall strength in older adults because it's easy to administer, accurate and repeatable. You have people squeeze a dynamometer and you get a number for strength.
Those scoring high for grip strength haven't spent their life squeezing dynamometers to increase their strength. They're just strong from living more active lives, from doing stuff rather than sitting on their butts.
It's like the farm kid who is strong as an ox from working - carrying stuff, throwing bales of hay around, wrestling cattle, etc. He's never lifted a weight in his life or squeezed a dynamometer but if he did, he'd be off the charts.
So what the grip strength studies are really revealing is that overall strength is a good predictor of overall health.
That's why I always say "strength solves all problems."
Being stronger is always better. It's good for your ability to do stuff; it's good for fat loss; and it's good for health too.
I use the Dead Bar Hang as a simple measure for strength. It's easy to do and you can generally find a bar to hang from.
I'm really not suggesting you just hang from a bar all the time to increase your number for hang time. It's more about increasing overall strength by doing stuff (including resistance training) and your DBH # will reflect your increase in strength.
And this is a good thing because it's also saying you are less likely to have a heart attack.
I put together a list of 6 Metrics for Over 50 Health and Fitness.
Check it out. These are easy to gather data points that will give you a pretty good snapshot of how well you're doing.
Grab the PDF here. Get your numbers and then reply back with where you are and what are you planning to do to get better.
Mark aka The Old Spartan and Over-50 Fitness Savior is a 64 year old coffee guzzling father of five wandering the outdoors around Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mark helps Active Boomers get lean, healthy and strong so they live rewarding, fun lives using his signature 2 Rule Easy Fat Loss training program.
Lose Fat, Look Younger, Have More Fun
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