Fitness Assessment – Introduction
What is a fitness assessment?
A fitness assessment is an excellent way to determine how healthy you are today.
This is important to know whether or not you want to begin an exercise program.
In either case, you need to know where you stand.
It is easy to take your health for granted, but there are simple and easy fitness assessment tests that you can do which will shed light as to how well your body is functioning.
5 Health and Fitness Assessment Tests
Here are the major fitness tests you can take to understand your current health and fitness baseline.
You have to start somewhere, and fitness assessment testing helps you establish a baseline.
- Blood pressure
- Bioelectrical Impedance
- Body composition testing
- Cardiovascular endurance testing
- Strength and endurance testing
Whether you are a fitness professional or not, performing fitness assessment testing for yourself will help you understand how good your health is, even before you go to your doctor for your yearly checkup!
This post will reveal 5 easy fitness assessment tests you can perform to jumpstart your health.
Subjective information means the information about yourself which cannot be observed, meaning only information that you know, for example, your health history and medical background.
Your occupation will give you a clue to your most common repetitive movements and subsequent limitations in your movement capacity, and range of motion limitations.
For example, if your job entails sitting most of the day behind a desk, there is a good chance that you will have tight hip flexors, underactive glute muscles, and tight calf muscles.
Tight hip flexors, weak glute muscles, and tight calf muscles will affect your athletic performance.
What Is Your Body Position Most Of The Day?
Think about your job, is there extended periods of sitting, repetitive movements, dress shoes, or mental stress?
For example, if you wear shoes with a raised heel, there is a good chance that you will have limited ankle mobility aka dorsiflexion.
The reason is that your ankle complex is in a sustained state of plantar flexion (toes pointing downward) for extended periods during the day and evening, and according to the SAID Principle of Specificity (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands), whatever you ask your body to do, it will keep doing it better (unless there is an injury).
And a lack of dorsiflexion will negatively impact your ability to squat properly.
Therefore it is in your best interest to assess your health and fitness, not only before you start a workout program, but even if you already have started.
You might discover as I did that you have less ankle mobility than you thought, and that will explain why your squat is not as good as it can be.
You do not need to want to be a personal trainer to take an interest in fitness assessments, because these evaluations will help guide you on a path of improving your flexibility and joint mobility.
Besides your job, think of your lifestyle outside of your work, for example, what do you for recreation, what type of hobbies do you have?
Objective information means measurable data about your physical state such as body composition, movement, and cardiovascular ability.
An objective assessment helps you create a baseline from which you can measure progress in your fitness program.
Physiological assessments such as blood pressure and your resting heart rate will give you a sense of your total overall health.
#1. Blood Pressure
What is blood pressure?
The pressure of circulating blood against the walls of the blood vessels after blood is ejected from your heart.
There are two numbers in a blood pressure reading, the top number, and the bottom number.
The top number refers to the pressure within the arterial system after your heart contracts and pushes blood throughout your body, and is called the systolic number.
Whereas the bottom number refers to the diastole phase of the cardiac cycle, which is when your heart relaxes and fills with blood.
The diastolic number will, therefore, be lower than the systolic.
Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury).
Any reading of 120 mm hg or above for the systolic result should be evaluated by a medical professional as it could indicate hypertension which is a silent and dangerous condition.
Acceptable diastolic blood pressure is less than 80 mm Hg.
Hypertension aka high blood pressure means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body because the arteries and veins of your body are narrowing.
High blood pressure is a silent killer because only a blood pressure test will reveal if you have hypertension or not.
Hypertension can increase your risk of:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Vision loss
- Memory loss and dementia
A simple blood pressure monitor is one device that is worth having and using.
They are available either with a wrist cuff or an upper arm cuff.
Don’t wait till your yearly checkup, find out now if your blood pressure is high, and if it is, take action to lower it.
Hopefully, you will be pleasantly surprised that your blood pressure is normal, awesome!
But, if you find that your blood pressure is elevated, it is time to take action!
High blood pressure?
Get a pair of walking shoes, and take a brisk walk for 30 minutes, at least 5 times a week.
Walking is a cardiovascular exercise and as such is a good beginning to getting your blood pressure under control.
Also, according to the national guidelines and recent research, losing weight can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure — and potentially eliminate high blood pressure. For every 20 pounds that you lose, you can drop systolic pressure 5-20 points! ¹
Obese people have an increased risk of developing hypertension. Losing weight, combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, can reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of developing any hypertension-related complications. ²
Obesity for the most part is a lifestyle disease, and just by beating obesity, you can make yourself immune to so many of the modern world’s biggest killers, especially of men.
Even if you hate exercise, walking only 30 to 45 minutes a day will help you lose weight and lower your blood pressure.
Body Composition Assessments
One of the five components of fitness is body composition, meaning your lean body mass vs your fat mass.
There are several ways to determine body composition.
The gold standard of body composition testing is underwater weighing aka hydrostatic weighing. In this test, you subtract your underwater weight from your dry body weight. You get an accurate reading of fat percentage because of the phenomenon that lean body mass sinks and fat mass floats.
However, underwater weighing is an expensive method and typically only available in Exercise Science Labs or University settings.
Another technique is to use skinfold measurements.
To do this, you use a skinfold caliper to measure subcutaneous fat on your biceps, triceps, subscapularis (under your shoulder blade), and the iliac crest, which is just above your hips approximately 2cm or one inch to the right side of your navel (umbilicus or belly button).
Once you have all the measurements (from the right side of the body only), use this Durnin and Womersley calculator to discover your body fat percentage.
#2. Circumference Measurements
Another simple approach is to measure the circumference of your waist, hips, chest, neck, calves, and biceps.
An easy measurement is to measure your hips and waist.
And then calculate your hips to waist ratio.
This is something you can do at home with a plain old tape measure.
You can determine your risk for disease from your waist and hip measurements. T0 do this, divide waist size by hip size. A waist to hip ratio over 0.80 for women or 0.95 for men indicates a greater danger of chronic disease.
While these girth measurements will help you measure change, nevertheless they are not the most precise indication of body composition.
#3. Bioelectrical Impedance
But, the easiest way to determine your body fat percentage is with bioelectrical impedance where a small electrical current runs through your body to determine body fat content.
A typical body composition scale like the Etekcity ESF24 will use bioelectrical impedance to determine your body fat percentage.
Also, a good body composition scale will also tell you your Body Mass Index or BMI.
#4. Body Mass Index
Body Mass Index compares your weight to your height. A BMI over 25 indicates a state of overweight and an increased risk of chronic disease, while a BMI over 30 indicates obesity.
If you carry 25 to 29.9 pounds excess weight for your height, then your BMI is 25 to 29.9, and you are overweight.
And if you carry 30 pounds or more excess weight for your height, your BMI is over 30 and you are obese.
For non-athletes, the BMI with the lowest risk for disease is between 22 and 24.9.
Note that BMI is a poor indicator of body fat versus lean body mass because it only takes weight and height into account. Therefore, BMI is not a good assessment tool for an athlete who typically has more muscle mass and whose BMI could be high, but in fact, their body fat percentage could be very low.
For an athlete, a bioimpedance scale or handheld device is a better tool to measure body composition, which will tell you your percentage of body fat versus fat-free tissue.
According to NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), a healthy body fat percentage for an active man is between 10 and 20 percent, whereas a normal body fat percentage for healthy, active women is 20 to 30 percent.
Many people are obese and are not even aware of it.
With a simple body composition scale that gives your BMI, you can quickly determine whether you are overweight or obese.
Knowing today what your status is could save you untold misery in the future from chronic diseases like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. Not to mention that you will look and feel better than ever once you lean out your body!
How to Use a BMI chart
Use the National Institute of Health’s Body Mass Index Table to Find Your Ideal Weight:
- Find your height in inches or centimeters in the left-hand column labeled ‘HEIGHT.’
- Now, move across the row to the right named ‘WEIGHT’ and find your current body weight in pounds or kilograms.
- The number at the intersection of the HEIGHT and WEIGHT columns is your Body Mass Index (BMI).
- Notice the color associated with your BMI to determine whether you are underweight:
- (blue), healthy
- overweight (yellow),
- obese (orange), or
- extremely obese (red).
This BMI table is courtesy of https://bmicalculator.mes.fm/bmi-chart
Note: This BMI chart will not be accurate for athletes with significant lean body mass, aka muscle.
This BMI chart is specifically for ordinary people. Not for athletes, Olympians, or bodybuilders who have more muscle mass than the average person.
Therefore, if you are an average person, please use this BMI chart below.
Discover whether your weight is healthy for your height or not.
An excellent habit for any weight loss diet is to weigh yourself daily with a body composition scale.
#5. Cardiovascular Endurance Testing
There are a couple of standard cardiovascular fitness assessment tests:
YMCA 3-minute step test – to do this test, you need a 12-inch step platform.
- Set up an online metronome for a pace of 96 steps per minute
- Step on to the platform with one foot, then your second, and then down with the first foot, and then the second, and repeat
- Perform 96 steps per minute on the 12-inch step platform for 3 minutes
- Within 5 seconds of stopping the step test, take your pulse for 60 seconds
- Find the results that best match your recovery pulse for 60 seconds in the charts below
YMCA 3-minute step test chart – Image Credit YMCA and gameofhealth.com
Here is how to score your 3-minute step test results according to NASM, the National Academy of Sports Medicine:
If you score in the very poor, poor, or below average, then start your cardiovascular training in Heart Rate Zone 1 which is 65 to 75 percent of your Heart Rate max (which will be explained below!)
But, if you score in the average, above average, or good, then begin your cardio training in Heart Rate Zone 2 which is 76 to 85 percent of your HR max.
Last, if you score excellent, then you start in Heart Rate Zone 3, which is 86 to 95 percent of your HR max. ³
YMCA 3 Minute Step Test
Rockport Walk Test
The Rockport walk test is the second type of submaximal fitness assessment – all you have to do is:
- record your weight,
- walk 1 mile outside on a track or on a treadmill,
- note the time it took you to walk,
- immediately take your heart rate,
- calculate the VO2 score (VO2 indicates your maximal oxygen uptake) using this ExRx.net online calculator.
Heart Rate Max
There are two basic methods to determine your HR max:
- the straight percentage method, and
- the regression formula
For the straight percentage method, your HR max = 220 minus your age.
However, the regression formula is more accurate, and it is HR max = 208 – (0.7 x your age).
Fitness Assessment – Final Thoughts
A fitness assessment test will point you in the right direction to improve your health and fitness.
Fortunately, you can do many of the most important fitness tests at home.
Of course, do not begin any cardiovascular fitness assessment before filling out a PAR-Q form and receiving medical clearance from your doctor to participate in physical activity.
If you are like 75 percent of other Americans who are overweight or obese, you likely have elevated blood pressure, BMI, and score in Heart Rate Zone 1 for your cardio assessments.
In this case, the easiest way for you to begin improving is to lose weight.
Don’t know how to lose the weight?
I’ve got you covered!
Use this free guide to lose 20 pounds in 3 months.
And in case you think 20 pounds is not a big deal, check out the top 15 benefits of losing 20 pounds.
To sum up, create your baseline fitness level with these simple fitness assessment tests discussed above that you can do at home.
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