Participation in a program of regular exercise delivers tremendous health benefits. Specifically, physical activity can reduce the risk of developing many chronic diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and some cancers. Despite its many benefits, there are risks inherent in physical activity. Identifying these risks is the first step in preventing them. Regular physical activity increases the risk of both musculoskeletal injury and cardiovascular problems, such as cardiac arrest. However, the overall risk in the general population is low, especially when weighed against the health benefits of regular exercise.

Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire(PAR-Q)

The Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) has been recommended as a minimal prerequisite for beginning a low- to moderate-intensity exercise program. The PAR-Q is a short questionnaire that asks you to answer "Yes" or "No" to seven questions related to health. If you answer "Yes" to one or more of the questions on the PAR-Q, you may be at increased risk for injury during exercise and may benefit from further screening from your physician before becoming more physically active.

Abdominal Circumference and Chronic Disease Risk

Another quick and easy way to assess your health-risk status is to measure your abdominal circumference. Where a person tends to store body fat is an important determinant of future health. Weight gain in the abdominal area (apple shape) doubles the risk for coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke, compared to individuals of the same overall body fat who tend to store fat in the hips, buttocks, and thighs (pear shape). The reason for this difference seems to be that fat in the abdomen is more easily mobilized and sent into the bloodstream, increasing the disease-related blood fat levels. In general, men tend to be more apple shaped, while women tend to be more pear shaped, although any person with abdominal obesity carries the increased health risks. Abdominal circumferences of greater than 40 inches (102 cm) in men and 35 inches (89 cm) in women are considered strong indicators of abdominal obesity.

How To Measure Abdominal Circumference:

1. Abdominal circumference is measured at the level of the navel.
2. A cloth or fiberglass measurement tape should be used.
3. Pull the tape tight enough to keep it in position without causing an indentation of the skin.