You owe it to yourself to make fitness a priority. Physical fitness can help prevent more than 40 chronic diseases including potential killers such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, hypertension, and even cancer.
But how do you know whether you're fit? Your overall fitness is a measure of four physical abilities — endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility — and body composition or body mass index (BMI). BMI tracks height and weight only while a body composition test, which calculates your fat and lean muscle mass, is an excellent indicator of overall fitness. For a more hands-on approach, try these personal trainer-approved fitness tests to see how you stack up.
You probably have some idea of how fit you are. But knowing the specifics can help you set realistic fitness goals, monitor your progress and maintain your motivation. Once you know your starting point, you can plan where you want to go. Get started with the simple assessment below.
Gather your tools
Generally, fitness is assessed in four key areas: aerobic fitness; muscular strength and endurance; flexibility; and body composition. To do your assessment, you'll need:
- A stopwatch or a watch that can measure seconds
- A cloth measuring tape
- A yardstick
- Heavy-duty tape
- A scale
- Someone to help you record your scores and count repetitions
You'll also need a pencil or pen and paper to record your scores as you complete each part of the assessment. You can record your scores in a notebook or journal, or save them in a spreadsheet or another electronic format.
Aerobic fitness: Heart rate at rest
Your heart rate at rest is a measure of heart health and fitness. For most adults, a healthy heart rate is 60 to 100 beats a minute.
To check your pulse over your carotid artery, place your index and middle fingers on your neck to the side of your windpipe.
To check your pulse at your wrist, place two fingers between the bone and the tendon over your radial artery, located on the palm side of your wrist below the thumb.
When you feel your pulse, look at your watch and count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by 4 to get your heart rate per minute. Let's say you count 20 beats in 15 seconds. Multiply 20 by 4 for a total of 80 beats a minute.
Aerobic fitness: Target heart rate zone
The target heart rate zone is an increase in your heart rate — 50% to 85% of the maximum heart rate for your age — great enough to give your heart and lungs a good workout. Aim for 50% to 70% when you do moderately intense activities and 70% to 85% when you do vigorous activities.
You can use the target heart rate zone as a guide for making sure your exercise is intense enough. If you're not reaching your target zone, you may need to increase the intensity. If you're achieving a target rate in the lower end of the target rate zone, you can set goals for gradually increasing your target.
If you already exercise regularly, you can stop to check your heart rate sometimes during an aerobic workout. If you don't exercise regularly, you can do a simple test by checking your heart rate after a brisk 10-minute walk.
|Age||Target heart rate zone: Beats a minute||Maximum heart rate: Beats a minute|
Aerobic fitness: Running or jogging test
Another way to assess your aerobic fitness is to time yourself on a 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) run or jog. The following times are generally considered indicators of a good fitness level based on age and sex. A lower time generally indicates better aerobic fitness, and a higher time suggests a need for improvement.
|Age||Women: Time in minutes||Men: Time in minutes|
Muscular strength and endurance: Pushup test
Measuring muscular fitness
Pushups can help you measure muscular strength and endurance. If you're just starting a fitness program, do modified pushups on your knees. If you're generally fit and able to do them, do classic pushups. Follow these steps for both types:
- Lie facedown on the floor with your elbows bent and your palms next to your shoulders.
- Keeping your back straight, push up with your arms until your arms are extended.
- Lower your body until your chin touches the floor.
- Do as many pushups as you can until you need to stop for rest.
The following counts are generally considered indicators of a good fitness level based on age and sex. If your pushup count is below the target number, the target can serve as a goal to work toward. Counts above the targets indicate better fitness.
|Age||Women: Number of pushups||Men: Number of pushups|
Muscular strength and endurance: Situp test
The situp test measures the strength and endurance of your abdominal muscles. Here's how to do the test:
- Lie on the floor with knees bent at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor. A partner holds your feet firmly to the floor. Another option is to place your feet on the wall so your knees and hips are bent at a 90-degree angle. Cross your arms across your chest. This is the down position.
- To move into the up position, raise your head and shoulders off the floor. Don't lift your buttocks off the floor.
- Return to the down position.
- Each time you move to the up position is counted as one situp.
- Do as many situps as you can in one minute.
The following counts can generally be considered markers of a good fitness level based on age and sex. If your situp count is below the target number, the target can serve as a general goal to work toward. Counts above the targets can generally mean better fitness. However, pushup count may be a more accurate indicator of your fitness.
|Age||Women: Number of situps||Men: Number of situps|
Flexibility: Sit-and-reach test
The sit-and-reach test is a simple way to measure the flexibility of the back of your legs, your hips and your lower back. Here's how:
- Place a yardstick on the floor. Secure it by placing a piece of tape across the yardstick at the 15-inch (38-centimeter) mark.
- Place the soles of your feet even with the 15-inch (38-centimeter) mark on the yardstick.
- Slowly reach forward as far as you can, exhaling as you reach and holding the position for at least 1 second.
- Note the distance you reached.
- Repeat the test two more times.
- Record the best of the three reaches.
The following measurements can generally be considered indicators of good flexibility based on age and sex. If your result is below the target number, the target can indicate a goal to work toward. Measurements above the targets can mean better flexibility.
|Age||Women: Farthest reach||Men: Farthest reach|
|25||21.5 in. (55 cm)||19.5 in. (50 cm)|
|35||20.5 in. (52 cm)||18.5 in. (47 cm)|
|45||20 in. (51 cm)||17.5 in. (44 cm)|
|55||19 in. (48 cm)||16.5 in. (42 cm)|
|65||17.5 in. (44 cm)||15.5 in. (39 cm)|
Body composition: Waist circumference
If your waist circumference is greater than your hips — you carry more weight above the hips — you have an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The risk is even greater for women with waist circumferences of 35 inches (89 centimeters) or more and for men with waist circumferences of 40 inches (102 centimeters) or more.
With a cloth measuring tape, measure your waist circumference just above the hipbones.
Body composition: Body mass index
If you'd rather do the math yourself, divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared and multiply by 703. Or divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. (To determine your height in meters, divide your height in centimeters by 100.)
The following BMI results demonstrate whether you are at a healthy weight.
|30 and above||Obesity|
- Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
- Do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week.
Moderate aerobic activity includes:
- Walking fast
- Water aerobics
- Bicycling on mostly level ground
- Pushing a lawn mower
Vigorous aerobic activity includes:
- Swimming laps
- Fast bicycling or biking hills
- Playing basketball or soccer
- Playing singles tennis
Muscle-strengthening exercises include:
- Lifting weights or using resistance bands
- Calisthenics that use body weight for resistance
- Heavy gardening or yardwork
Monitor your progress
Each time you repeat your assessment, celebrate your progress and adjust your fitness goals accordingly. Share your results with your doctor or personal trainer for additional guidance.