How Fit Are You?
Do you know if you’re physically fit? It’s not a trick question but one that a lot of people might not be too sure about. We’d probably all like to think we are fit and healthy but how can we be sure? For a full health screening be sure to see your doctor however for a test of general fitness there are a few measures that we can conduct ourselves to get an indication of our physical fitness level.
I’ve detailed 4 field tests in this blog that any individual can use (on their own) to check aspects of their physical fitness. There are plenty more tests out there but I’ve documented 4 here that are easy to complete and cover a slightly different aspect of fitness with each test.
You should conduct these tests (and document the results) before commencing an exercise programme to baseline the position you’re starting from. You can then re-test yourself every 6 to 12 weeks to compare your results against your previous scores to see what progress you are making.
Here are the tests:
Field Test 1 - The Pushup Test
This test is a great way to measure muscular strength and endurance. I think that this test better reflects a person’s fitness level than strength tests like the one rep max. Single rep max tests can be dangerous if especially if you are on your own plus you also require a lot of equipment like a bench press or squat rack. A timed push-up test on the other hand, can be done anywhere. Also, the only equipment required for this test is a stopwatch or timer that can measure a full minute. You can have somebody to time you however this is optional as it’s quite straightforward to time yourself.
The goal is to complete as many pushups as possible in one minute.
Men should assume a standard push up position and females can use the modified push up position which starts on the knees. Start the clock as soon as the press ups begin. Press yourself up with arms fully extended and lower yourself back until your chest is three inches from the floor (don't touch your body to the floor). Repeat as many times as you can in one minute. You can rest in the up position if necessary.
In order to measure where you are fitness wise, you can use the following tables from the American College of Sports Medicine:
This test and chart is a great way to see how you are progressing. If you don’t score as well as you like, just remember to focus on improving your score over time. As long as you are improving, your fitness plan is working. If you find you aren’t making the progress that you feel you should be seeing, it’s probably time to change your workout routine.
Field Test 2 - The Abdominal Plank Test
This test is to check core strength. If you can hold an abdominal plank position for at least 2 minutes, you're off to a good start. If you cannot, you're likely lacking in core strength, which is important for overall movement stability and strength. A strong core will also help prevent back pains. Being unable to hold a plank for two minutes may also indicate that you're carrying too much weight, and would benefit from shedding a few pounds. Planking is a great exercise in its own right and will help build deep inner core muscles that lay the groundwork for that six-pack look.
Here’s how to perform a plank correctly:
a) While in plank position, pull in your bellybutton. By pulling it in, you begin to contract that deep inner transverse abdominis muscle. If you want to work your six-pack rectus abdominis muscle, drive your chin down toward your toes while you're focused on squeezing your bellybutton in.
b) Next, do a Kegel squeeze. A Kegel squeeze is performed by drawing your lower pelvic muscles up and holding them up high and tight. This squeeze will allow you to feel and focus on your abdominal muscles.
If you can’t hold a plank for 2 minutes then you need to introduce core exercises into your weekly routine in order to build up strength in this area. If you can reach the 2 minutes then challenge yourself to beat your previous mark each time you’re completing this test.
Field Test 3 – Aerobic Fitness
To check your aerobic fitness, take a brisk walk for 1 mile (1600m). You can walk anywhere once there’s no obstacles in your path but don't use a treadmill. The objective here is to see how long it takes you and to check your pulse before and after the walk.
To take your pulse, place two fingers between the tendon and bone over the radial artery on your wrist. When you can feel your pulse, use a stopwatch and count the number of beats you feel in 10 seconds. You can then multiply this by 6 to get the beats per minute (a normal resting heart rate for adults is between 60 and 100 beats per minute).
Use the stopwatch to record the time it takes you to walk the 1 mile. Upon completion of the walk, take your pulse again. Repeat this test every 6 weeks and review your progress. You should also share this detail with your doctor and personal trainer for further guidance.
Field Test 4 – Height to Waist Ratio
This test is really simple, but the results are important. Here's how it works: Measure your waist circumference, and then determine if it's less than half your height in inches.
Studies have shown that keeping your height-to-waist ratio to at least 2:1 can increase your life expectancy. If you don't, you put yourself at risk for inflammation issues, diabetes, heart disease, or stroke. For anyone that fails the test, they should start concentrating on methods to reduce their waist and increasing the ratio by any means possible.
Use the results of these simple tests to set fitness goals and track your progress. Once you know where you’re starting from, it’s easier to plan where you want to go and to motivate yourself to do so. Being active is great but it’s not enough to make you physically fit. Challenge yourself by exercising 3 to 4 times a week and watch as your results to the above tests improve over time and you reap the benefits of being physically fitter and healthier.