What is “Healthy” Anyway? 3 Health Goals to Shoot For

Everyone lives a different life, carries different genetic information, practices different habits, and meets different needs from day to day. It’s no wonder, then, that the concept of “health” can be a bit subjective!

People are often so radically distinct from one another that health advice usually differs depending on the person. With so many factors to consider, it can be especially difficult to figure out what is “healthy” for you personally, and thus what health goals you want to make. What is a healthy weight for yourself? How strong or fit should you be? How should you steer your diet? While many health experts can offer general advice to follow, the actual way it applies to your life is ultimately up to you to learn and decide.

If you’re looking to improve your health but aren’t even sure where to start, here are a few ways to figure out some goals that will lead to the best “you” in terms of life wellness.

1. Get Within a Good BMI Range

BMI, or body mass index, is a good way to gauge how much you should weigh to stay within a healthy range. BMI is an approximation of your body fat levels and is calculated by taking into account both your height and your weight. The ratio between the two (specifically, your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height) will produce a score that places you somewhere on the BMI scale. The taller you are, the higher body weight you’ll be expected to have; the shorter you are, the less you should weigh.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, any score beneath 18.5 is considered underweight, whereas a score above 25 is overweight. Any BMI above 30 is rated as obese. The sweet spot, or a proper healthy ratio between body fat and weight/height, falls between 18.5 and 25.

Check out this free tool, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to calculate your own BMI. If the result is above 25, you’ll want to lose weight. If it’s below 18.5, it’s time to healthily gain weight. The provided calculator should also demonstrate a healthy weight range you should shoot for. The closer to the middle of that range you can achieve, the better.

Note that BMI, despite being a good estimate, does have some shortcomings in determining a healthy user weight. BMI does not account for important biological variables such as race, ethnicity, body type, or sex—instead, everyone is lumped together. Additionally, a high BMI does not automatically mean you are unhealthy, but your chance of becoming unhealthy does increase drastically with higher (or lower) BMIs. Use your healthy BMI weight range more as a general indicator of how much you should weigh rather than a set-in-stone target!

2. Manage a Steady Heart Rate

Unlike your weight, narrowing down your current and ideal level of fitness is a bit more of a challenge. The broad term “fitness” already involves so many aspects of physical health: strength, cardiovascular performance, flexibility, agility, and many more. Pinning down a number on such a general concept can be nearly impossible. However, there are still some standards that will help set you on the right path.

Your heart rate serves as a great indicator for your body’s physical prowess and general fitness. The more in-shape you are, the more efficiently your heart will be able to utilize oxygen and pump blood throughout your body.

Smart watches and other fitness devices can keep track of your beats per minute (BPM), but you can also measure it by placing two fingers on the tendon of your radial artery below your palm’s thumb. Count the number of pulses you feel in 15 seconds, then multiply the number by four. The result is your heart rate in beats per minute. A healthy resting heart rate for adults is usually 100 BPM or lower, with anything below 60 being exceptionally good. Elevated resting heart rates have often been associated with lower physical fitness and higher blood pressure.

While exercising, there are a group of target BPM zones you can aim for that differ between age groups. Heart.org provides a great overview of these zones, as well as a comprehensive chart to give you an idea of your goals.

3. Feel Good!

At the end of the day, a big part of being healthy is measured simply by how you feel each day. Are you tired too often? Do your muscles ache or hurt? Are you not happy? Do you feel sluggish? While many problems could be at the root of these issues, good physical wellness can certainly act as a major improvement to all areas of your life, both physically and mentally.

To broadly address these issues, focus on the three staples of health: diet, exercise, and sleep. Make sure you eat plenty of colorful vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and lean protein to get the vitamins and minerals your body (and mind) need to function properly. Perform light-to-moderate exercise for at least 150 minutes per week, or perform intense exercise for at least 75 minutes per week. Lastly, adults should strive for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to stay on top of a healthy immune system and remain active during the day.

But when looking at your specific life, it’s important to realize that there are rarely one-size-fits-all health solutions that perfectly apply to you. Certain aspects of your health might not bother you as much as others, or perhaps you’re fighting one particular condition that demands your full attention. Everyone’s health journey is unique and largely up to personal interpretation. You know yourself better than anyone else—if you feel an area needs improvement, planning and taking the steps toward a better life is what health and wellness is all about!

Don’t forget you can also check in with a dietician, physical therapist, or your primary care physician to not only get a better understanding of what parts of your health need improving, but also set out on an effective path to address them.