The information provided within this article is not intended to act as a replacement to professional advice but merely to provide the reader with an overview of the common health and fitness statistics associated with physical activity and exercise.

All of the below statistics relate to adults only.

Body Mass Index (BMI)
BMI (kg/m2) <18.5 185. to 25 25 to 30 >30
As a general guide Underweight Healthy weight Overweight Obese

See Section 1.0 for further details.

Waist Circumference by Gender
Redardless of your height or BMI, you should try to lose weight if your waist is: For Men For Women
94 cm (37 ins) or more 80 cm (31.5 ins) or more
You are at very high risk if your waist is: 102 cm (40 ins) or more 88 cm (34 ins) or more

To provide personal context and be meaningful, it is the general convention to combine BMI and waist circumference.

See Section 2.0 for further details.

Resting Heart Rate (RHR)
Beats per Minute (BPM) 40 to 60 60 to 100 >120
As a general guide Typically professional athletes Most adults (70 is the average for all adults) Contact your medical professional!

See Section 3.0 for further details.

Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol (mmol/L) For Healthy Adults For Those At High Risk
Total Cholesterol 5 or less 4 or less
LDL Cholesterol 3 or less 2 or less
HDL Cholesterol 1 or more (for all adults)

See Section 4.0 for further details.

Blood Pressure
Blood Pressure (mmHg) 90/60 (or lower) 90/60 to 120/80 140/90 (or higher)
As a general guide Low Normal High

See Section 5.0 for further details.

Blood Sugar Level
Blood Sugar (mmol/L) On Waking Before Meals

(Pre Prandial)

At Least 90 Minutes After Meals

(Post Prandial)

No Diabetes N/A 4.0 to 5.9 <7.8
With Type 1 Diabetes 5 to 7 4 to 7 5 to 9
With Type 2 Diabetes N/A 4 to 7 <8.5

See Section 6.0 for further details.

Body Temperature
Body Temperature (Degrees) <35 36.5 to 37.2 >37.2 >38
As a general guide Hypothermia Normal High Fever

See Section 7.0 for further details.

Fitness
Average Time/Pace Men Women Both
5 km 6:26 to 8:21 (mile pace)
To Complete a Full Marathon 4:29:52 4:59:28 4:41:33
To Complete a Half Marathon 1:25 to 1:45 1:35 to 1:55
Average Press-ups (40YO) 27 16
Average Press-ups (60YO) 17 6

1.0     BMI

The body mass index (BMI), or Quetelet index, is a value derived from the mass (weight) and height of an individual. The BMI is defined as the body mass divided by the square of the body height, and is universally expressed in units of kg/m2, resulting from mass in kilograms and height in metres.

Your BMI can tell you if you are carrying too much weight but it cannot tell if you are carrying too much fat. Your BMI cannot tell the difference between excess fat, muscle, or bone.

The adult BMI does not take into account age, gender or muscle mass. This means that:

  • Very muscular adults and athletes may be classed “overweight” or “obese” even though their body fat is low; or
  • Adults who lose muscle as they get older may fall in the “healthy weight” range even though they may be carrying excess fat.

You can find a BMI calculator here (UK NHS website).

2.0     Waist Circumference

Waist circumference (WC) is an indicator of health risk associated with excess fat around the waist.

Your risk of some health problems is affected by where your body fat is stored, as well as by your weight. Carrying too much fat around your middle (waist) can increase your risk of developing conditions such as:

  • Coronary heart disease (CHD);
  • High blood pressure;
  • Type 2 diabetes; and
  • Cancer.

You can have a healthy BMI and still have excess tummy fat – meaning you are still at risk of developing these diseases.

2.1     How to Measure Waist Circumference

  • Remove clothing from the waist line.
  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart (25 to 30 centimetres or 10 to 12 inches) and back straight.
  • Locate the top of the hip bone.
    • This is the part of the hip bone at the side of the waist not at the front of the body.
    • Use the area between the thumb and index finger to feel for the hip bone at the side of the waist.
  • Align the bottom edge of the measuring tape with the top of the hip bone.
    • Wrap the tape measure all the way around the waist.
    • Ensure that the tape measure is parallel to the floor and not twisted.
  • Take two normal breaths and on the exhale of the second breath tighten the tape measure so it is snug but not digging into the skin.
  • Take the measure of the waist to the nearest 0.5 cm (1/4 inch).

3.0     Heart Rate

A normal resting heart rate for most adults’ ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute (BPM).

As a generally rule, a lower heart rate at rest (or resting heart rate, RHR) implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. For example, a well-trained professional athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40 BPM.

3.1     Measuring Your Heart Rate

If you are a technophobe, you might want to use the analogue method (i.e. your fingers!).

  • To measure your heart rate, simply check your pulse.
  • Place your index and third fingers on your neck, to the side of your windpipe.
  • To check your pulse at your wrist, place two fingers between the bone and the tendon over your radial artery; which is located on the thumb side of your wrist.
  • When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats for fifteen (15) seconds.
  • Multiply this number by four (4) to calculate your BPM.

3.2     Factors to Consider When Checking Your Pulse

It is important to keep in mind that many factors can influence heart rate, including:

  • Activity level;
  • Fitness level;
  • Air temperature;
  • Body position (standing up or lying down, for example);
  • Emotions and stress;
  • Hormones;
  • Sleep;
  • Body size; and
  • Medications.

It may be useful to check your heart rate on several occasions during the day, over several days, to gain your ‘normal’ heart rate.

3.3     Warning Signs

Although there is a wide range of normal, an unusually high or low heart rate may indicate an underlying problem. Consult your medical professional if your resting heart rate is consistently:

  • Above 100 beats a minute (tachycardia); or
  • If you are not a trained athlete and your resting heart rate is below 60 beats a minute (bradycardia).

Especially important if you have other signs or symptoms, such as fainting, dizziness or shortness of breath.

4.0     Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid and is vital for the normal functioning of the body. It is mainly produced by the liver, but can also be found in some foods. Cholesterol is carried in your blood by proteins and when the two combine they are called lipoproteins.

Having an excessively high level of lipids in your blood (hyperlipidemia) can have an effect on your health. Although high cholesterol itself does not usually cause any symptoms, it does increase your risk of serious health conditions.

4.1     Types of Cholesterol

There are two types of cholesterol:

  • High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) (generally considered ‘good’ cholesterol): Carries cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver where it is either broken down or passed out of the body as a waste product; for this reason, HDL is referred to as good cholesterol, and higher levels are better.
  • Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) (generally considered ‘bad’ cholesterol): Carries cholesterol to the cells that need it, however if there is too much cholesterol for the cells to use, it can build up in the artery walls, leading to disease of the arteries; for this reason, LDL is known as bad cholesterol.

4.2     Measuring Your Cholesterol

The amount of cholesterol in the blood can be measured with a blood test (millimoles per litre of blood, mmol/L), and is measured in three categories:

  • Total cholesterol: Your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL may also be calculated. This is your total cholesterol level divided by your HDL level. Generally, this ratio should be below four, as a higher ratio increases your risk of heart disease.
  • LDL, or ‘bad cholesterol’.
  • HDL, or ‘good cholesterol’; A HDL level below 1 mmol/L can increase your risk of heart disease.

Your medical professional (e.g. GP or practice nurse) can carry out the test for you. Adults aged 40-74 years, living in England are eligible for a free NHS Health Check which includes a blood cholesterol check.

4.3     Factors to Consider

Cholesterol levels vary by:

  • Age;
  • Weight; and
  • Gender: for example a woman’s cholesterol often increases when she goes through menopause.

Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol can increase the risk of:

  • Narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis);
  • Heart attack;
  • Stroke;
  • Transient ischaemic attack (TIA), often known as a ‘mini stroke’; and/or
  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

Your risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) also rises as your cholesterol level increases. However, cholesterol is only one risk factor and the level at which specific treatment is required will depend on whether other risk factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure, are also present.

4.4     What Causes High Cholesterol?

Many factors can increase your chances of having heart problems or a stroke if you have high cholesterol, including:

  • An unhealthy diet: In particular, eating high levels of saturated fat.
  • Smoking: A chemical found in cigarettes called acrolein stops HDL transporting cholesterol from fatty deposits to the liver, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
  • Having diabetes or high blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Having a family history of stroke or heart disease.
  • Familial hypercholesterolaemia: An inherited condition which can cause high cholesterol even in someone who eats healthily.

5.0     Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is a measure of the force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body.

5.1     Measuring Your Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is given as two figures:

  • Systolic pressure (the higher number): The pressure when your heart pushes blood out (or the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body).
  • Diastolic pressure (the lower number): The pressure when your heart rests between beats (or the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessel).

For example, if your blood pressure is 140 over 90 or 140/90mmHg, it means you have a systolic pressure of 140mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 90mmHg.

As a general guide:

  • Ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher.
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension) is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower.

5.2     High Blood Pressure

Risk factors for high blood pressure include:

  • Smoking;
  • Drinking too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks);
  • Being overweight or obese;
  • Not being physically active or exercising enough;
  • Not getting enough sleep or disturbed sleep;
  • Eating too much salt and not enough fruit and vegetables;
  • Relative with high blood pressure;
  • Of African or Caribbean descent; and/or
  • Over the age of 65.

Left untreated, high blood pressure can increase your risk of developing a number of serious long-term health conditions, such as:

  • Coronary heart disease (CHD);
  • Heart attack;
  • Stroke;
  • Heart failure;
  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD);
  • Aortic aneurysm;
  • Kidney disease; and/or
  • Vascular dementia.

In England, all adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every five years.

5.3     Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure is less common and does not always have symptoms.

The symptoms of low blood pressure include:

  • Light-headedness or dizziness;
  • Feeling sick;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Generally feeling weak;
  • Confusion; and
  • Fainting.

If you get symptoms when you stand up or suddenly change position, you may have what is known as postural hypotension.

Risk factors for low blood pressure include:

  • Being pregnant.
  • Some types of medications can cause low blood pressure as a side effect.
  • Some medical conditions, for example diabetes.
  • It may be low because you are very fit and healthy.
  • You may have inherited it from your parents.
  • Some will develop low blood pressure as they get older.
  • It can also be caused by a number of underlying conditions, including heart
  • failure and dehydration.

Treatment for low blood pressure can include:

  • Changing medication or altering your dose, if medication is the cause.
  • Wearing support stockings: This can improve circulation and increase blood pressure.
  • Medication to increase blood pressure is rarely needed because simple lifestyle measures or treating the underlying cause is usually effective.

6.0     Blood Sugar Level

The blood sugar level (blood sugar concentration or blood glucose level) is the amount of glucose present in the blood. Glucose is a simple sugar and approximately 4 grams of glucose are present in the blood of a 70-kilogram (150 lb) human at all times.

The body tightly regulates blood glucose levels as a part of metabolic homeostasis. Glucose is stored in skeletal muscle and liver cells in the form of glycogen; in fasted individuals, blood glucose is maintained at a constant level at the expense of glycogen stores in the liver and skeletal muscle.

Glucose is the primary source of energy, and is critical for normal function, in a number of tissues, particularly the brain which consumes approximately 60% of blood glucose in fasted, sedentary individuals. Glucose can be transported from the intestines or liver to other tissues in the body via the bloodstream, and cellular glucose uptake is primarily regulated by insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas. Blood glucose levels are measured in millimoles per litre (mmol/L).

A persistently high level is referred to as hyperglycaemia, with low levels being referred to as hypoglycaemia. Diabetes mellitus is characterised by persistent hyperglycaemia from any of several causes, and is the most prominent disease related to failure of blood sugar regulation.

Risk factors for high blood sugar levels include:

  • Alcohol: The intake of alcohol causes an initial surge in blood sugar, and later tends to cause levels to fall.
  • Medications: Certain drugs can increase or decrease glucose levels.

7.0     Body Temperature

Normal human body temperature, also known as normothermia or euthermia, is the typical temperature range found in humans. The normal human body temperature range is typically stated as 36.5 to 37.2 centigrade.

7.1     Factors Affecting Body Temperature

Factors include:

  • Age.
  • Exertion and activity level.
  • Infection.
  • Gender (Body temperature is sensitive to many hormones, so women have a temperature rhythm that varies with the menstrual cycle, called a circamensal rhythm).
  • Reproductive status.
  • Time of day.
  • Calorie intake (Temperature is increased after eating or drinking anything with calories. Caloric restriction, as for a weight-loss diet, decreases overall body temperature).
  • Place in the body at which the measurement is made.
  • State of consciousness (i.e. waking, sleeping, or sedated).
  • Emotional state.
  • Sleep state (Short-term sleep deprivation produces a higher temperature at night than normal, but long-term sleep deprivation appears to reduce temperatures).

Body temperature normally fluctuates over the day following circadian rhythms, with the lowest levels around 4 a.m. and the highest in the late afternoon, between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. (assuming the person sleeps at night and stays awake during the day).

7.2     Methods of Measurement

There are various types of thermometers, as well as sites used for measurement, including:

  • In the rectum (rectal temperature);
  • In the mouth (oral temperature);
  • Under the arm (axillary temperature);
  • In the ear (tympanic temperature);
  • In the nose;
  • In the vagina (vaginal temperature);
  • In the bladder; and
  • On the skin of the forehead over the temporal artery.
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