By Stephenie Karony

Wednesday, June 30, 1999

Test your level of fitness

Question. How can I tell how fit I really am?

Answer. Overall fitness - being "in shape" - is about maintaining good health and being strong enough to handle a wide variety of activities. Here's a series of tests you can do at home that will determine how fit you are.

1. How much endurance do you have? Time how long it takes for you to walk one continuous mile. Go as fast as you can, without running. If it took more than 20 minutes give yourself 1 point, 2 points for 15 to 20 minutes, and 3 points if you did it in under 15 minutes.

2. How strong are you? Count the number of push-ups you can do in a row, without stopping. For men, do standard push-ups, with your toes on the floor. Women, can place their knees on the floor. You get 1 point for 5 push-ups, 2 points for 10, and 3 points for 15.

3. How flexible are you? Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, toes pointed toward the ceiling. Bend forward at the waist and stretch your arms forward, trying to reach past your feet. You've earned 1 point if you can reach your calves, 2 points if you can touch your toes, and 3 points if you can reach past them.

4. How much energy do you have? Spring up a one story flight of stairs. Give yourself 1 point if you can barely catch your breath, 2 points if you're winded but able to talk, 3 points if you're able to tackle another flight easily.

5. What is your activity level? Total up how many minutes a day you spend getting your heart rate up to at least 60 percent of its maximum. Include not only exercise, but any activity in which your heart rate reaches 60 percent of its maximum. You get 1 point for less than 20 minutes, 2 points for up to 60 minutes, and 3 points for more than an hour a day.

If your total is less than 7 points, it's time you get up and start moving. Even moderate exercise reduces your risk of developing heart disease.

For 7 to 12 points, you're definitely on your way. Focus on the areas where your scoring was the lowest. All 5 categories are important to life-long fitness.

If you scored more than 12 points - congratulations! You're in great shape.

Q: What are the symptoms of a low thyroid?

A: Hypothyroidism (low thyroid) comes on so gradually and the symptoms are so diverse that the disease often goes undetected and undiagnosed.

As thyroid hormones fall, the pituitary sends a steady stream of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to the thyroid to trigger the release of more hormones. This constant stimulation may cause the thyroid to enlarge, and create a goiter.

As hormone levels decline, the basal metabolic rate also falls. As a result, the heart rate slows, and body temperature drops. This causes a person to feel sluggish and have cold feet. There is often a weight gain of 10 to 15 pounds with hypothyroidism, most of which is due to fluid accumulation in the body tissues. Other common symptoms include difficulty with problem solving, memory loss, and depression.

Constipation, muscle cramps, thinning hair and dry skin may also develop. Total cholesterol, especially LDL (bad) cholesterol levels can also rise.

If you suspect you have low-thyroid and experience any of these symptoms, especially an enlarged thyroid, it may be an indication of hypothyroidism. See your doctor and ask for a blood test to measure TSH levels. If the test proves positive, there are several treatment protocols available.

Stephenie Karony is a certified health
and fitness instructor, a personal trainer and the author of
"Body Shaping with Free Weights." Send questions to her at
P.O. Box 262, Wailuku Hi. Her column appears on Wednesdays.

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