Whether you’re trying to lose weight or build muscle, the scale seems to be the go-to source to see if you’ve made progress. Sure, it’s helpful to have that number as a reference, but in reality, the scale can be unreliable, promoting a dependence on only one source of feedback. Let’s take a look at more reliable ways to measure fitness success.
One of the easiest ways to measure fitness success is by listening to what people are saying to you. If you’re receiving compliments regarding your weight or how you look, then take this to heart. You see your body every day so you may not realize changes in size and shape, but other people will notice it straight away because they only see you once in a while.
Before you begin any fitness goal, it’s imperative that you take progress pictures. It may not be the most flattering picture of you, but you must take a Day One picture in a bathing suit. The good news is that every picture you take after this one is going to highlight the positive changes you’re making. I recommend taking a progress picture every two weeks, preferably first thing in the morning after you’ve gone to the bathroom.
How Your Clothes Fit
Are you using a belt when you weren’t using one before? Do you notice that your shirts are baggy when they used to be tight-fitting? Loose clothes are a tell-tale sign that you’re making weight loss and lean muscle building progress.
If your goal is weight loss, you can’t always rely on the scale. There may be some weeks when you lose pounds on the scale and others when you lose inches. Invest in a body measuring tape and write down your numbers every two weeks, the same time you take your progress pictures.
Wrap a measuring tape around your thighs, hips, waist, chest, and upper arms. This will provide an accurate picture of the progress you’re making with your physical appearance.
Whether you’re completing a weightlifting routine or a cardiovascular exercise class, it’s important to make a log of your workouts. A workout tracker can reveal the progress you’ve made from week to week as you get stronger, build muscle, and lose weight. Be sure to write down the type of exercise you performed, the time it took, and any other important acute variables such as sets, repetitions, and weight used.
How You Feel
Think about how you feel upon waking up and throughout the day. How are your energy levels? If you notice that your energy levels are more stable, this is a good sign that you are improving in regards to total body health and wellness.
Consider how you feel overall. Before you began your fitness journey, did you feel run down, like you were always fighting off a stubborn cold? Are you happier now? Do you have more self-confidence? Were you experiencing brain fog? A healthy diet and exercise program has been shown to improve cognitive functioning, mood, and energy levels. If these factors have improved, that’s a great sign that your health is improving so keep at it.1
Studies show that one of the best natural treatments for insomnia is a regular exercise routine. If you’ve been sleeping better and waking up feeling rested, this could be proof that your health is improving.2
Which Ways to Measure Fitness Success Do You Use?
Have you been using any of the methods that I mentioned above? If so, which ones? Is there a way to measure success that I missed? Let us know in the comments below.
1. Warburton DE, Nicol CW, Bredin SS. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ. 2006;174(6):801–809. doi:10.1503/cmaj.051351.
2. Kline CE. The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: Implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2014;8(6):375–379. doi:10.1177/1559827614544437.
David Sautter is a NASM certified personal trainer and a NASM certified fitness nutrition specialist who has worked in the fitness industry for over 12 years.
During his time in the fitness industry, David Sautter has conducted many fitness workshops, trained hundreds of clients, and has written extensively for a variety of companies. He has been a featured fitness writer on many high-profile health and fitness websites. Aside from producing weekly articles, David has been the writer of several e-books and training guides.