Top 10 Ways to Gauge Your Fitness

It may be difficult to measure your fitness level if you wish to understand how healthy you are, or if you are starting a new workout regimen. Everyone’s fitness level is different, and are personally based on factors in a few different categories including aerobic fitness, muscular fitness, flexibility and body composition. Fitness is more than how fast or long you can run, how much weight you can lift or what your body looks like in a bathing suit. If you want to know how healthy and fit your body is, try assessing your fitness level with these tests:

– Resting Heart Rate (RHR)- Your resting heart rate can be a good, simple indication of your overall fitness level. The number of times your heart beats each minute, asses your aerobic fitness capacity. When your body is at rest and relaxed, count the number of heart beats you feel in a 60 second time period. A lower RHR corresponds to a stronger cardiovascular system and higher aerobic fitness level.

– 1 Mile Run (or brisk walk)- This test indicates the level your cardiovascular fitness is at. Using a flat and measurable route, see how long it takes you to complete 1 mile running, or if you have to, walking quickly. If you don’t get winded or dizzy you are in a good fitness position; if you do, you need to work on improving your cardiovascular fitness. Ideally, you should be able to complete one mile in 9 minutes or less.

– Push Ups- Push ups are a great exercise for overall fitness, and can be a good indicator of upper body strength and endurance levels. There are many people that have trouble performing even one proper push-up. This exercise involves the shoulders, chest, triceps, abdominals and some legs, and are a great way to asses your upper body fitness. See how many you can do in row; women should aim for 12 and men should aim for 20.

– Wall Sit- This exercise is used to asses lower body and leg strength and endurance. “Sitting” in an invisible chair with your back up against a wall for as long as possible, is a good way to gauge your lower body fitness, as well as the endurance in your leg muscles. With your knees at a right angle, breathe freely while seeing how long you can hold the position.

– Flexibility- Fitness is also a measure of how flexible your body is. To asses flexibility, sit on the floor with your legs stretched out, and then try to reach and touch your toes. If you can’t touch your toes this does not mean you are not fit, many people can’t reach this far. However, you definitely need to work on this area of fitness if you can’t reach much further than your knees. Flexibility is important to overall health, so work on stretching each day to improve flexibility and fitness.

– Balance- Like flexibility, balance is also an important factor in good fitness. An overall healthy body relies heavily on being well balanced, and the risk or injury and broken bones from falls increases drastically with age. To asses your fitness level in this area, try standing on one foot with your arms at your sides for a period of one minute. If you feel as if you may fall, stand close to a wall, table or chair. Work on improving fitness levels in balance, try practicing exercises that focus on and promote good balance like yoga or Pilates.

– Plank- This is a great exercise to asses your core strength and stability. Your fitness level relies on those deep, stabilizing muscles that are in the trunk of your body. Your core strength and fitness can be assessed by practicing holding the plank position for as long as you can. Proper planks are held with the forearms on the floor, toes curled under, and your back straight and parallel to the floor. Doing this exercise each day will increase core muscles and overall fitness.

– Vertical Jump- As kids, this part of our fitness level was certainly up to par, and used often. However, when you get older it is a much looked over part of overall health that can indicate the power exertion your body possesses as well as the power in your muscle fibers. See how high you can jump with markings on a wall or a 2-foot tall box.

– Waist to Hip Ratio- This fitness test is used to asses body fat distribution. The waist to hip ratio indicates the proportion of fat stored around the waist compared to hip girth. Those who hold more weight in their midsection as belly fat, are more likely to experience health problems like heart disease and diabetes, as well as a lower fitness level. To calculate your waist to hip ratio, measure the circumference of the widest part of your hips, and smallest part of your waist. Then divide the waist measurement by the measurement of your hips. For women, a healthy ratio is less than .8, and for men it’s less than .9.

– Burpees- This full body exercise is a good way to indicate your fitness level if you can do even a few in a row. A burpee is an intense workout that challenges your muscular fitness, cardiovascular fitness, endurance and body power. Perform as many as possible in one minute to really test and push your fitness level.

Understanding the Definition of Health Related Fitness

Being a Health and Fitness Professional, it is my job to understand terms and definitions which are commonplace to this industry, as well to keep abreast of evolving trends. Through my experience, I have found that a number of terms deserve a little more clarification than that which they are granted.

Aside from clarifying the definition of Health Related Fitness, this article intends to shed some light on a few of the associated terms, and to show their respective distinctions.

Is it simply all in a name?

The fitness world seems to use the concept Health Related Fitness like a generic fitness principle – interchangeable with others like “Physical Fitness”, “Health and Fitness” or simply “Fitness.”

While all of these terms can be included under the broad term Health and Physical Fitness, they individually refer to different aspects – both generic and specific. Unfortunately, references to these and other fitness-related terms are often vague, while consistency in their intended use is meager at best; there is a kind of “generally accepted” use for them, but individuals often rely on own interpretation, and this can lead to confusion.

With that said, does Health Related Fitness simply infer fitness by means of good health? Not quite. That is why we need to understand a little more behind these words before digesting the definition.

How did the term Health Related Physical Fitness come about?

That is a good question. One could probably ask what is this concept all about – can we not simply use the terms “Fitness” or “Physical Fitness” instead?” Why Health “Related”?

The main reason stems from the fact that most health and fitness terms are used inconsistently and often refer to different concepts or notions. Subsequent to the 1996 report from the US Surgeon General (Physical Activity and Health; a report of the Surgeon General), there was a move to try and address the alarming rise in obesity levels among the general American public. Studies and initiatives required standardization among clinicians, health practitioners and fitness trainers to grapple with the task at hand. Enter “Health Related Physical Fitness”, a working term to address the general state of health among the public.

The definition of Health Related Fitness

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the main authority in this field, ineffective definitions with unclear and subjective wordings, as well as definitions containing terms which themselves require defining, have contributed to confusing the term “Physical Fitness.”

There exists no reliable guide for Health and Fitness Professionals to measure “Physical Fitness”, because the term has been so loosely and inconsistently defined. It is therefore that one should consider the concept of Health Related Fitness. The definition therefore centers on the 5 Components of Physical Fitness which relate to “good health.” These Components are:

Cardiorespiratory Fitness
Body Composition
Flexibility
Muscular Strength
Muscular Endurance

On the other hand, Skill Related Fitness Components are:

Balance
Reaction Time
Coordination
Agility
Speed
Power

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the definition of Physical Fitness emphasizes the difference between Health Related Physical Fitness and Athletic Ability Physical Fitness. Its point-of-departure is the “health” of the US nation, which is often referred to as the “public health perspective.” In that respect, the 5 Health Related Fitness Components are more important than those related to Athletic Ability (or Skill Related Components).

Although the concept of Health Related Fitness has an integral association with “good health”, the 5 Components are addressed individually by health professionals to allow for their measurement.

Now that we have a deeper understanding of the term, what purpose does it serve?

Continuing from where the definition left off, the objective of measuring the 5 Components is to advise clients about their own particular Health Related Fitness, and to use data obtained from the tests to design appropriate exercise programs which can then be evaluated.

The 5 Components contribute evenly to make up a holistic Health Related Fitness, which is of direct interest to the health of the ordinary citizen, in that the concept is normative. In other words, it is a standard which allows for consistent application.

It is therefore important for those working in the health and fitness industry not to mistake “overall physical fitness” with “Health Related Physical fitness.”

To conclude, let us consider this distinction between Physical Fitness and Health Related Fitness

One needs to bear in mind that regular physical exercise can improve overall Physical Fitness, as well as Health Related Fitness. However, overall fitness is a generic term and is up to subjective interpretation, while Health Related Fitness can be assessed.

The distinction therefore, between these two terms, exists in that Health Related Physical Fitness can be measured according to a set of established comparative norms.

This is where the “rubber hits the road.” The guidelines set out by the ACSM enable health professionals to work with clients to assess and measure their response to exercise and prescribe appropriate exercise programs. A client’s progress can then be monitored and adjusted where necessary in order to obtain the desired fitness goals.

Cleto Tirabassi is a certified Fitness Trainer with the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).

His work centers on the “sensible approach” to Health Related Fitness, which entails the use of practical, flexible and sustainable methods to achieve optimal levels of health and physical fitness.

His clientele belongs mostly to the group he calls “average everyday people”, who in short want to be in excellent shape, yet still lead a conventional life.

Based in Rome, Italy – he is dedicated to guiding the individuals he works with to realize their health and fitness goals. He also understands that the health and fitness industry is constantly evolving and therefore maintains a close watch on trends in his field of expertise.