Five Stages of Health and Fitness

Have you ever wondered how other people live and eat compared to yourself?  Human beings vary quite extremely in the amount of fat they carry on their body.  The quantity of fat affects our health and fitness.  In the 25 years I have been working in the personal training business I have seen patterns of behavior and lifestyles that are consistent with varying body fat levels in people.  I have identified five levels of health and fitness that most people can categorize themselves into.  The goal is to first be aware of your habits and what new behaviors you must gradually develop to move up to healthier stages of existence.

Stage One – Couch Potato

Individuals in this stage have a dislike or even slight fear of fruits and vegetables, mostly vegetables.  It would be similar to trying to get a healthy person to eat a worm.  In my experience a couch potato sees pan fried mushrooms, tomato sauce in pizza and french fries as vegetable servings.  They will typically eat at a fast food restaurant daily and order food delivery for dinner almost every night.  Men and women in this stage typically take less than 2,000 steps per day.  The only daily movement is walking to their car, the bathroom, the fridge and you guessed it the couch.  They have no awareness of what an elevated sustained heart rate feels like.  If they did start exercising the experience of a hard beating heart would feel like an alien is trying to burst through their chest.  The couch potato watches on average of six plus hours of TV/Computer at home.  Most people in this stage have accelerated disease and are morbidly obese (BMI 35+).

Stage Two – Sedentary

Individuals in this stage consume at least one piece of fresh fruit daily.  They may even venture and have lettuce and tomato on a sandwich.  Trips to fast food outlets and ordering in typically happen 4-5 times per week.  Packaged food and convenient frozen dinners typically make up the other meals in the week.  There is so no structured exercise, but some light movement occurs with housework and maybe walking the family dog a couple times per day for fifteen minutes at a time.  People in this stage walk up to 5,000 steps per day.  Television and computer time is at least four hours plus per day at home.  People in this stage are obese (BMI 30 +).

Stage Three – Lightly Active

Individuals in this stage consume 2-3 pieces of fruit daily and make a point of eating a salad with one of their meals 2-3 times per week.  Fast food and ordering in typically happens 2-3 times per week as well.  Leftovers from dinner prepared from scratch at home make up the other meals of the week.  In this stage structured exercise begins with three times per week consistency on alternating days and sixty minutes in duration.  Activities chosen are moderate in intensity such as group classes, yoga, pilates, walk/jog.  Television and computer time make up 2+ hours at home.  People in this stage walk up to 8,000+ steps daily.  Even with this amount of movement people are overweight in this stage with a BMI of 26-29.

Stage Four – Active

Lifestyle habits in this stage include having some form of fruit or vegetable at every meal.  Fast food is consumed on rare special occasions.  Dinners are made from scratch with weekends used to go out to restaurants.  Lunches are pre made the night before and brought to work so that poor eating choices are more difficult to make.  Structured exercise (5 times per week) with specific fitness goals exist to help with keeping focused and consistency.  The intensity of exercise varies from moderate to high.  Television and computer time is kept to only when a favorite show is on, usually 1-2 hours maximum per day.  People in this stage take over 10,000 steps per day and are of a normal health weight with a BMI 20-25.

Stage Five – Very Active, Very Fit, Very Lean

People in this stage consume 75% of their diet from plant based sources.  They view fast food and processed food as toxic to the body creating disease.  Individuals exercise daily and create active adventurous weekends and holidays.  Television is rarely watch and computer time is mostly just for work.  People take over 15,000 steps daily, seemingly always moving.  Engagement in some form of competitive sport is common in this stage.  People in this stage are muscular and lean and may even have a higher BMI due to the extra muscle they are carrying.

Most individuals can identify with one stage more than any other.  It is also very easy to share characteristics of two or even three stages.  The questions you need to ask yourself is “How much are you willing to change your lifestyle for a leaner, fitter and healthier body?”  At the beginning it seems like some of the sacrifices are too overwhelming.  However once enjoyable, healthy habits are formed and a leaner fit body is created it no longer feels like a sacrifice.