Exactly how fit are you? It’s an intriguing question. Many people over and under estimate their own fitness. Often, the fitter people get, the more critical they are of their own fitness. The ways of measuring your fitness is almost as varied as the ways you can get fit. So how do we find out how fit we are?
Measuring your fitness is important for a few reasons. Knowing your current fitness level will enable you to make clear goals for your workout program. You’ll be able to measure your fitness after some time, and see how far you’ve progressed. This will help to maintain your motivation. Finally, it’s important to know your fitness level so that you can choose the most appropriate exercise and strength training for your body.
There are four primary components of fitness that you can measure. The first is aerobic fitness. This is your endurance level, and it is dependent upon your age, gender, and improves with proper training. Aerobic fitness is directly related to the proportion of your bodyweight that is free of fat. Your level of aerobic fitness implies a level of health, and thus is a very important measurement.
Aerobic movement requires the delivery of oxygen to the muscles. Oxygen is delivered to the muscles via your bloodstream. Therefore, each heartbeat you have is an indicator of the amount of blood traveling through your bloodstream. So one way to measure your aerobic fitness is to take your heart rate, or pulse. Record your resting pulse rate, and then go for a one-mile brisk walk. Take your pulse again once you’ve immediately finished the mile, and record how long it took you to walk. As you gain aerobic fitness, your heart rate should lower. So should the time it takes you to walk the mile! The average resting heart rate for an adult is 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). Truly fit individuals can have a resting heart rate of 40bpm!
The second measurement is muscular fitness. This relates to your strength, and the endurance of that strength. Your muscular fitness can show how susceptible you are to injury. It also relates to your bone mass. A very simple way of testing your muscular fitness is with push-ups. You can time yourself, and see how many you do in that timeframe. Or, you can just complete as many push-ups as possible before fatigue sets in.
The third measurement is flexibility. This is your body’s ability to move joints and muscles through a full range of motion. It can also relate to your balance and coordination levels. A tight muscle can prevent normal movement. The most common way to measure your flexibility is via the dreaded sit and reach test. With this test, you’ll need a measuring tape. Place the measuring tape along the floor. With your feet at zero, and the tape stretching away from you, sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Try to touch your feet or stretch as far past your feet as possible. Have a friend check how far you went on the measuring tape. If you can’t reach your toes, you’ll have a negative number. If you stretch past your feet, you’ll have a positive number. Obviously, the more flexible your legs, hips, and lower back are, the further you will be able to reach in this test. One problem, though, is that your flexibility in each joint is independent of your other joints. Therefore, you may have very flexible shoulder joints, but terribly tight hamstrings.
The fourth measurement is your body composition. This tends to relate to the amount of fat on your body, and where that fat is located. The location of fat at specific sites (in particular, the waist area) places you at higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. A simple way of measuring your body composition is via your body mass index (BMI). This is your body weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of your height (in meters). For example, if your weight is 61 kilograms, and your height is 1.69 meters, then your BMI calculation would be
(1.69 x 1.69)
That’s a BMI of 21.36. There are also charts that allow you to look up your BMI based on your height and weight. The range for a normal BMI is 18.5 – 25. You will fall into the overweight range if your BMI is anywhere between 25 – 30. Obese is anything greater than 30. Underweight is anything under 18.5.
Another important body composition test is to measure your waist. Anything larger than 40 inches for men, and 35 inches for women increases your health risks. This is particularly important to take notice of if your BMI is larger than 25.
So how fit are you? But more importantly, how fit do you intend to be? Set your goals, work your program, and watch as those numbers go down, down, down.
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