Guidelines For Measuring Fitness Levels

For measuring fitness levels, these simple tests can help you assess how fit you are right now, before you start an exercising program. As you progress, you can repeat these tests to tell you just how far you have come. Record your scores each time, so you can compare them and see your improvement the next time you test yourself.

If you are not in condition for measuring fitness levels through these tests right now, keep working on your current exercises and activities until you are. Whether you are measuring fitness levels or actually exercising, your pace should never make you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseated, and you shouldn't feel pain. If you have a chronic medical condition, or are at risk of developing one, make sure you talk to your doctor before starting any kind of exercise program.

Some Tests For Measuring Fitness Levels

Measuring Fitness Levels - Endurance

See how far you can walk in exactly 6 minutes. Write down how far you walked (in feet, blocks, laps, miles, number of times you walked up and down a long hallway, or whatever is convenient for you). Do this test every month. As your endurance improves, you should find that you can walk farther in 6 minutes.

Measuring Fitness Levels - Balance

Time yourself as you stand on one foot, without support, for as long as possible (stand near something sturdy to hold onto, in case you lose your balance). Record your score. Repeat the test while standing on the other foot. Test yourself again in one month. The amount of time you can stand on one foot should increase.

Measuring Fitness Levels - Flexibility

The sit-and-reach test measures the flexibility of the backs of your legs, your hips and your lower back. This is usually considered as a good indicator of your general flexibility.

Secure a yardstick to the floor, placing a piece of tape across it at the 15-inch mark. Place the soles of your feet even with the 15-inch mark. The higher numbers should be going away from your body; the 1 inch mark will be near your thighs. Ask a friend or family member to place his or her hands on top of your knees to anchor them. Keep your toes pointed up toward the ceiling. Place one hand directly on top of the other so your middle fingers line up, and slowly stretch forward without bouncing or jerking. Slide your fingers along the yardstick as far as possible. Stop immediately if you feel any discomfort. Then reach forward as far as you can, holding the position for two seconds.

Write down the distance you reached. Rest. Repeat the test two more times. Record the best of three reaches.

Body Composition

To determine whether you're carrying too much weight around your abdomen, measure your waist circumference at its smallest point, usually at the level of your navel. Record your waist circumference with your other fitness scores.

A measurement of more than 40 inches (102 centimeters) in men and 35 inches (89 centimeters) in women signifies increased health risks, especially if you have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 35.

Your body mass index (BMI) is a measurement based on a formula that takes into account your height and weight in determining whether you have a healthy percentage of body fat. Be sure you record your BMI with the rest of your scores. A BMI of less than 25 is ideal, 25 to 29.9 means you are overweight, and 30 or more means you are obese.

BMI Calculator

Measuring Fitness Levels - Muscular Strength

The following push-up self-test is a good way of measuring fitness levels for your upper-body strength.

Position yourself on the floor, face down, with your arms extended at chest level and your hands flat on the floor. If you're a man, your legs should be straight behind you, with your weight balanced on your hands and toes. If you're a woman, bend your knees slightly until they touch the ground, so your weight is balanced on your hands and knees. If it has been a really long time since you have done any exercise or you know you aren’t in very good shape, you can do this test leaning against a sturdy table or kitchen counter (something that won’t move when you push against it).

Lower your chest until it touches the floor (or table/kitchen counter). Exhale while pushing back up. (Don't hold your breath.) Fully straighten your arms at the end of each push-up.

Do as many push-ups as you can, counting as you go, until you need to stop and rest. The more push-ups you can do without having to stop, the better your upper-body strength.

Measuring fitness levels to check your lower body strength you can use squats or modified squats.

Start by positioning yourself near a sturdy chair, table or kitchen counter top (something that you can hold on to while you perform this exercise). Stand with the chair/counter to your side and hold on to it with your hand. Keep your head up (looking straight ahead), your back straight, feet about hips width apart, and feet pointing forward.

Now bend at the knees like you’re going to sit down on a chair. If you can get down to where your bottom is even with your knees and your thighs are parallel with the floor, great. If you can’t comfortably get down that far, that’s alright too. Just go down as far as you can without letting your bottom get below your knees and don’t let your heels come up off the floor. When you’ve gotten down to your comfortable level, return to the standing position.

Do as many squats as you can (counting as you go) until you need to stop and rest. Make sure you record the number of times you were able to squat.

Measuring Fitness Levels - Changes In Resting Heart Rate

As you become fit, your heart begins to work more efficiently, pumping more blood through your body with fewer beats.

Another way for measuring fitness levels is to measure changes in your resting heart rate. Record your heart rate* first thing in the morning before you get out of bed, for three consecutive days. Average the three measurements. Periodically, repeat this three-day measurement, and see if your average resting heart rate decreases over time.

Eventually, you may also notice that your heart rate returns close to this baseline more quickly after exercise. This is another indication that your heart is working more efficiently.

*Checking Your Pulse

You can check your heart rate/pulse over your carotid or radial artery. Make sure you can see a watch or clock on which you can accurately measure one full minute. Find your pulse by placing your index and third finger on your neck to the side of your windpipe, over your carotid artery. When you feel your pulse, look at your watch and count the number of pulses for a full minute.

If your doctor has told you that you have a narrowed carotid artery, check your pulse at your wrist. Place two fingers between the bone and the tendon over your radial artery, which is located on the thumb side of your wrist. Even though you're checking your pulse over a different artery, you calculate your pulse rate in the same way.

If your resting heart rate begins to increase and you notice a decrease in performance, you may be overtraining. Reassess your fitness regimen and consider decreasing the intensity, frequency or duration of your workout. You may benefit from a few much-needed days off.

Keeping track of your progress is an excellent way to maintain your motivation. Keep measuring fitness levels every month. Celebrate your progress and set new goals. Your new goals may be to improve even further or to just maintain where you’re at. Either goal can be good, depending on what you want to accomplish. Measuring fitness levels is always a great way to know where you're at.


Recommended Resource Sites

Exerstrider - Walking poles from Tom Rutlin. A good site for poles and information about pole/nordic walking. As the name implies, this site specializes in equipment used for yoga. They have excellent prices, and sell some very good exercise mats, along with other helpful equipment, books and videos. This is another site similar to Perform Better. They have a great variety of exercise equipment that you may find difficult to get at regular stores. This site has equipment that is more medically based. It may be a good alternative if you're looking for physical therapy equipment or other things that a medical person may have recommended.

ActiveForever 88x31 banner This site really has little to do with fitness or nutrition, but it is one of my favorite sites. They carry everything from electronics to books. Their prices are some of the most competitive on the internet, and they often offer free shipping. If I am looking to buy almost anything, I check them out first. This link is only for US and Canadian buyers. I have a lot of trouble finding shoes that fit me right (weird foot problems), but this site often works for me. They not only have very competitive prices and a great variety of shoes, but they offer f.r.e.e shipping and f.r.e.e returns.


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